During the primaries, I was disappointed that Hillary did so poorly among African-Americans, but I understood the desire among African-Americans to see a member of their own community in the White House. African-Americans are basically invisible in the media and in politics. To finally have a public figure of this stature is an important achievement, not just for African-Americans, but the entire world.
The reaction in the African-America community has been a beautiful thing to witness. This picture of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. while watching Senator Obama’s speech speaks a thousand words.
Eugene Robinson, a columnist for the Washington Post, penned a beautiful column called Morning in America.
I almost lost it Tuesday night when television cameras found the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the crowd at Chicago’s Grant Park and I saw the tears streaming down his face. His brio and bluster were gone, replaced by what looked like awestruck humility and unrestrained joy. I remembered how young he was in 1968 when he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., moments before King was assassinated and hours before America’s cities were set on fire.
I almost lost it again when I spoke with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the bravest leaders of the civil rights crusade, and asked whether he had ever dreamed he would live to see this day. As Lewis looked for words beyond “unimaginable,” I thought of the beating he received on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the scars his body still bears.
I did lose it, minutes before the television networks projected that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States, when I called my parents in Orangeburg, S.C. I thought of the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured so that my generation could climb higher. I felt so happy that they were here to savor this incredible moment.
I was also brought to tears by the ladies of The View.
As a supporter of president-elect Obama, I am grateful that African-Americans turned out in record numbers and I hope that they continue voting for Democrats. But something very ugly happened on Tuesday, as well. In Florida, African-Americans made up 11% of voters. They voted 96%-4% for Obama. And they voted 71%-29% for Amendment 2, a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
To be fair, fully 35% of Obama’s supporters here in Florida voted for the measure, but no other racial/ethnic/religious group gave Amendment 2 such support. There is something very disturbing about these numbers. On the same day that African-Americans in Florida went to the polls to cast a vote against the hundreds of years of racial oppression in America, a vote of symbolic and historic importance, they overwhelming support a measure to codify hate and discrimination into the constitution. That isn’t just disappointing. It’s disgusting and it reeks of hypocrisy.
Given the history of racial oppression in this country, we should all celebrate Barack Obama’s victory and the African-American community has earned the right to be proud. But the African-American community should also be ashamed at what transpired at the polls on Tuesday. If our civil rights leaders are truly interested in equality and justice for all, they will speak out about the homophobia in the African-American community.