Not much visible support for BarakObama around Bed-Stuy, which surprises me. The places you expect – the African place on Grand, the coffee place on Franklin – but aside from the recently redeveloped building across the street, very few Obama posters in the windows, only the occasional bumper sticker. Only time I heard anyone talking about him in the neighborhood was two old guys in the courtyard of the projects on Lafayette:
“Who give a good goddam what some preacher man say? you don’t judge a man by what his supporters say.”
Once, coming home on the A train, I met two young guys handing out Obama stickers. They seemed mostly interested in approaching the most attractive women on the train but they gave me a sticker and seemed pleased when I told them I lived in London, that all the English media and a lot of English people were curious about Obama, that for a lot of people he was the most interesting politician to come out of the US in a generation.
I’d meant what I said: Obama’s election would do a lot to change how the rest of the world thinks of America. But he wouldn’t be good just for America’s position in the world – he would change black American’s opinion of itself. If Clinton, as the first ‘black’ president could do so much to make black people feel more a part of the US, then imagine what a black black president could (and I never quite understood Clinton’s appeal until a guy who ran a Bed-Stuy bar explained it to me one night. He’d been born in Nigeria but raised in America so he saw it both inside and outside. “Clinton was the first president to make black people feel like they had the same opportunities as any other group. That they weren’t just a problem to throw money at, or feel guilty about – but that they belonged.”)
Having this highly articulate, well-educated and gifted young black man as head of, even after the stagnation of the Bush years, what is still the most powerful nation in the world could only change how black America sees itself. After all they are the real Americans – how many groups can say they’ve been in this country as long as black people. Who knows if Obama will be able to follow through on expectations even if he’s elected, but as a symbol, he’s hard to beat.