Amina Luqman has a thought-provoking essay in the Post today on "Obama's Tightrope", whether he can be "black enough" for African Americans while still being "white enough" for everybody else. I'll admit that I get a certain kind of unease in my gut (my white gut, I should probably add, in the color-free zone of text) when these issues are brought up, but they're also extremely educational.
John Edwards is right when he says that there are two Americas, but he may have gotten the which wrong in his formulation. On Independence Day, I started a blog entry on the need to make June 19th a federal holiday ("Emancipation Day") on par with July 4. It is widely treated as African American Independence Day already. It seems like maybe every American might be interested in celebrating the end of the vile institution of slavery in our country.
I don't know what it is to be a black man walking the tightrope that Amina Luqman describes, but we all have our own personal versions. I'm a lesbian with little stomach for gay activism, though I strongly support legal equality in marriage, the military, and every other area of endeavor that a gay person might wish to undertake. Still, my interactions with the queer activist class have left me less than inspired, and queer academics leave a lot to be desired by espousing the rejection of all social norms in favor of something entirely new--that they can't quite define.
I describe myself as feminist, but reading feminist blogs usually leaves me believing there's more heat than light there. I'm ambivalent on abortion as a personal matter, but believe strongly (and advocate) that it should always remain a safe and legal option for women.
My views and my apparent reticence to dive into these issues with the vigor and fire of a college freshman put me at odds with many of the segments of what should be my community, and I suspect that's something that Barack Obama and I share. Maybe this is part of my instinctive respect for the man and his candidacy, a sense that like me, Obama lives with a level of derision from people just like him, because his passion lies below the surface and his convictions--arrived at through a long process of consideration, not mere instinct--run deeper still.
I'm gay. I'm a political blogger. It should be enough to win me entry into any circle of other politically-motivated gays, but it doesn't. I don't have quite the right politics. I don't support the passion of the moment. I would oppose, on clear constitutional grounds, a federal law legalizing gay marriage in the fifty states, even though such a law would achieve the ends I support.
It's complicated not being a college freshman. It's a complicated thing to build a vessel of reason in which to contain your passions and work daily to measure the value of the "good end" against the method of achieving it. My ultimate allegiance, and perhaps this is what separates me from so many of my do it now! activist peers, is to the constitution and the rule of law. I believe in the ideals that birthed our ever-changing nation. And I think Obama is similarly rooted and similarly contained. It isn't the sort of passion that Al Sharpton would easily recognize, but it is a fierce passion indeed that drives a person to live life on a tightrope.