When I look at Barack Obama, I not only wonder why every Black person in America isn’t supporting him, but why they aren’t jumping up and down with glee at the opportunity. I’ve had many people tell me—both Black and White—that I’m just supporting Obama because he’s Black. True, I am supporting Obama because he’s Black, but not ONLY because he’s Black. I’m supporting Barack Obama because in spite of being blessed with Black skin, and all the disadvantages that entails, this brother has managed to rise head and shoulders above the very best this society has to offer. That not only empowers him, but it also allows Black youth to embrace their Blackness with a lot more genuine pride. It allows them say, and more importantly, think, “Yes, I’m Black, and you’re damn right I am somebody! I’m the product of a great and resilient people. That’s very important for young people, because as the Bible points out, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
So, no, I don’t support Obama just because he’s Black—I support him because he’s Black, on top of all his other fine qualities. Both Jesse and Sharpton are also Black, and I didn’t support either of them. But this is different. When Barack Obama stepped upon the world stage, I could feel a change in the air, like something important had just happened, or a significant presence had just entered the room. I felt like, for the briefest moment the world stood still, then I looked up to see a lone figure standing on the horizon.
And I wasn’t alone—White folks across this land also felt it. When the change started to take hold, I noticed that in places that would have met Martin with attack dogs and fire hoses, White people were jumping up and down, smiling and singing—some of them with tears in their eyes—straining just to touch this young Black man. That’s when I knew it was happening—I knew a change was coming eventually, but not like this.
He came fast, and out of nowhere like a thief in the night-far from the Messiah, but like a man who knew his time had come. Then, like in that Phil Collins song, I could feel it comin’ in the air, oh Lord! It was clear there was something different going on here—something that’s been in the cards every since that first slave looked to the sky and said, “Please help us, dear Lord.”
Now, I not a religious fanatic, so I’m not about to sit here and preach you a sermon. But I am spiritual, and I’m telling you, Obama’s arrival is not an accident. I don’t know why, but some things are just meant to be—and if you look at them in hindsight, you can see it! When you look back on Martin and Malcolm, it’s clear they were meant to be. I don’t know why, but some men are just put on Earth to fulfil a plan. You can laugh at me if you want to, but I’m telling you, Obama is one of those people.
Think about it. This brother is the complete opposite of everything nasty that racists have ever said about Black people. They said that we were ignorant, nasty, lazy, and didn’t have any class—then this brother pops up out of nowhere. If God had handpicked somebody to show that everything racists said about Black people was a lie, we couldn’t have done any better than Barack Obama. He’s such a clean-cut brother that Senator Joe Biden got himself in trouble for commenting on it. His intellect and academic credentials are beyond dispute—Hillary went to Yale Law School and then got out and couldn’t pass the bar; but Obama was the very first Black president and editor of the Harvard Law Review. When he becomes president, he’ll easily be one of the smartest presidents in the history of this country. Think about what that’s going to do to the argument of those who want to say that Black people are intellectually inferior-and more importantly, think about what it’s going to do for the self-esteem of Black children all over this country, all over the world.
So looking at Obama is like looking into a crystal ball—he’s a perfect reflection of everything the future holds for us as a people. Even his personal heritage is a perfect metaphor for the African American people as a whole—he’s the product of a marriage between Africa and America. That’s what we are.
Barack Obama is the walking, breathing, personification of who we are as a people. He represents the future of Black people as a whole. Many brothers like to refer back to antiquity to cite the past greatness of our people as something for us to hold on to, but while I recognize and appreciate our great contribution to the past, I’m convinced that it is the future that will define our true greatness.
As African Americans, we are a brand new culture that’s in the infancy of our development as a people. We’re a people who were conceived in pain, born into struggle, and baptized in adversity. But adversity is experience, and experience is the source of knowledge, so we are uniquely suited to create a new, better, and more compassionate world. Thus, our history lies before us, and I’m convinced, that history will someday reflect that Barack Obama was the first step in our emergence as a people.
All of us who are sitting here today, are blessed to be living at this moment in time. We are a witness to history. We’re living in a time that history will someday record as the defining moment of our legacy as a people. And someday, maybe hundreds of years from now, young Black people will be able to look back on our contribution to that history and say, I now stand firm:
I Now stand firm. My dedication to the power of knowledge is the platform upon which my podium rests. I stand firm, strong, and now free—free of anger, free of self-delusion, free of the folly of empty vanity, and free of the pernicious bane of meaningless pride without substance.
I now stand free to look upon the eyes of other men, reflecting dignity over sorrow, and accomplishment over pain; I stand with a burning passion, fueled by the very flame that forged ancestral shackles, with a deep sense of pride, and a pride that flows deep.
I now stand erect! The steel that once degraded my father, that chained him in bondage to this bitter Earth, now reinforce my character, making me more, rather than less; and the blood and sweat that once drenched his brow, and oozed from the yoke around his neck, now rage with resolve and a sense of purpose, and trembles with passion, within my burning breast.
I now stand as a new being—neither simply African, nor simply American, but a hybrid forced to transcend the sum of my parts; no longer simply African, since being torn away from the African motherland to suffer and toil in the fields of America, and more than simply American, after being forced to be more than simply American, Just to survive within the bowels of this prosperous land.
Thus, I stand now armed—armed with the wisdom of deprivation, the courage of my conviction, and a deep conviction of my courage; and fortified-with the confidence of a survivor, the empowerment of knowledge, and a ravishing hunger for greatness.
I now stand the product of love, struggle, and sacrifice; a witness to man’s inhumanity to man, and a monument to the hopes and dreams of a million slaves. I stand embraced by my creator, as God now smiles upon my people.
Yes, I Now Stand Firm—Firm, Black, and Free. That’s why I support Obama.
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at email@example.com.