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Social Studies


Emily Flake

By Vincent Williams | Posted 1/9/2008

Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus. I can't believe I just wrote that. And, yes, I know that in the big picture it might not necessarily mean anything, and, yes, I know three out of the four last presidents lost this caucus, but still . . . Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I never, not one moment, believed that any majority of white people would ever vote for a black person in any type of presidential race. Yet in one of the whitest states in the union, Obama defeated everyone that ran against him by a significant margin. Suddenly, the idea of a black president doesn't seem so abstract anymore. I'm starting to believe this thing could actually happen. It's possible.

And, I don't know, it just puts me in a weird space. It's a new space and it's a good space, but still, I had pretty much settled into a comfortable set of opinions and attitudes about race. I've maintained that racism, at least since the upheavals of the civil-rights movement, is much more class-/economics-based, and that the racist mind-set in general has evolved into something much more insidious, quiet, and subtle. I still believe that, but one of the cornerstones of my belief system was there was some stuff that was never going to change, even superficially, regardless of how well some African-American individuals might do, and one of those things was that there would never be a black president in my lifetime. I believed that the office of the president of the United States is too important as a symbol for people to overcome centuries of the racist ideology that is ingrained in the very fabric of our culture. Oh, I knew everyone would sell wolf tickets about it being possible because we're all so progressive, and Morgan Freeman and Dennis Haysbert could get cast as black presidents, but I always thought the anonymity of the voting booth would tell the tale. And Obama won in Iowa.

Yes, yes, I know this doesn't make him president, but I never thought it would get this far! I mean, after his big speech at the convention in '04, when people started floating it, I didn't pay attention to the hubbub. Hell, when Obama started talking about it last year, I didn't believe. You know what my only serious thought about Obama running for president was? In Common's video for "The People," he has a line about how his "raps ignite the people like Obama," and they show a shot of that obama '08 sticker, and all I thought from the moment that video premiered until right now was that I needed to get one of those T-shirts for posterity's sake, like those yellow and black run jesse run buttons that everyone in my parents' generation has. Because I thought that's what this whole thing was: a gesture, a symbol, something to be proud about, something to inspire the kids, etc. Y'know, I love Obama, and I had planned on voting for him in the primary just based on, again, gesture, because, well, it's not like it was going to be, y'know, real. But I'll be damned--Obama won in Iowa.

Like, I keep writing it, and I see it on the screen, but I still can't believe it's true. If I went back in time even 10 years ago and told Past Vince that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed me. Well, maybe I would have, but Past Vince probably would have been more interested in asking Future Vince how that jetpack technology was coming along . . . but we're not talking about that! We're talking about how this motherfu--you know, I want to cuss because, honestly, that's what I did when I saw the results, but some events are too pure to be sullied by cursing, and one of those events is, yes, Obama winning Iowa.

Maybe . . . maybe things are changing. Maybe I've been wrong about what can and can't happen in relation to race in America. I think it's amazingly significant that Obama got the most youth votes. Maybe all these years of hip-hop and integration and just living together have started to take root. Maybe we're finally living in a country where you can honestly, honestly, tell every child that she can truly be anything she wants to be when she grows up.

It might not last. Hell, I'm writing this Friday morning, right after the caucus, but by the time this sees print, the whole thing could have gone away. They could find photos of Obama with, I don't know, butt-naked Muppet prostitutes on his Facebook page. But just for the moment, I want to bask in the possibility of possibilities. H

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