It has been two months since Senator Barack Obama, the highly touted senator from Illinois, announced the first step in his bid for the United States Presidency. He did so, quite appropriately, as closely as he could to the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the dream he shared with the world.
Hopes and dreams are the kindling that fuels the fire of human striving. They form the springboard from which we spring into life, from birth through death. Whether or not they come to fruition in no way diminishes their import in our daily lives. We play the lottery scarcely believing that we will win, but we savor the sweet flavor of fantasy with each unredeemed dollar that escapes our grasp at the corner gas station. Despite the condition of our society, our planet, we continue to propagate little self-replicas whose futures extend our hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams have little to do with the tangibles that permeate our lives. They seem to survive almost blissfully free from the fetters of facts.
Corporate executives, advertisers, and politicians know this…the media thrive on it. And so it should be no surprise that Senator Obama’s presidential bid is all the rage, despite the fact that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW is less likely to become his address than is my winning the lottery (and I do play sporadically when jackpots jump high enough to fuel my fantasies). Senator Obama’s becoming the President of the United States may be the dream of a portion of the US population, but is more than likely the nightmare of the majority.
What makes me believe the above? Well, after reading about Senator Obama’s presidential bid on page three of the local newspaper this morning, I turned the page and read that a 24-year old mother of African descent who killed her three sons (ages 16-months to six years) by throwing them into the San Francisco Bay, in plain sight of witnesses, was convicted of second-degree murder. This tragedy reminded me of Andrea Yates case, who killed her five children and is now in a mental institution. It reminded me of Susan Smith, who killed her two sons and claimed an African American man had driven away with them. It also brought to mind Charles Stuart who shot his wife and claimed that an African American male had done it.
I don’t believe the two convicted killers who blamed a man of African descent for their crimes would have done so were they not aware of the culture of racism that exists in our society. Some may argue that racism is passé or certainly much less present than it was in the past. I contend (in accord with many who consider the issue) that a culture of racism persists in the United States, and that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, is still but a dream. It is that belief which raised immediately in my mind the question, “Would LaShaun Harris have been convicted of murder if she were not of African descent?”
The answer to that question isn’t of utmost relevance (Both Susan Smith and Andrea Yates were convicted, although Yates’s conviction was overturned). What is relevant is that the belief exits and is shared by most of the country’s population of African descent, and I suspect a sizeable portion of the country’s population of European descent as well. Relatedly, the article that pertained to Senator Obama’s potential candidacy also mentioned Hilary Clinton’s. In a society where biological and immutable human traits, such as skin color and gender, play such a major role in perceptions of worth and character, it is highly unlikely that either Obama or Clinton will ever call the White House home…much less as presently as 2008.
Despite 40 years of dreaming, in today’s world, many fail to heed MLK’s call to evaluate individuals by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. Those who are trumpeting the pending campaign of Senator Obama are either unaware of the millions who continue to ignore Dr. King’s message, or are pretending that the racist tide that has flooded all elements of life in this country has ebbed. The pretense is patently, disingenuously, and almost criminally condescending. Yet, they are peddling dreams and pushing hope, products we can’t help but buy. Even those of us who know in our core of cores that Senators Obama and Clinton have less than the proverbial snowball’s chance of being president will be sucked into the media whirlpool from time to time. After all, we’re no less than human, and our hopes and dreams, no matter how dormant, live as long as we do…and sometimes beyond.