I worked for Illinois' first Black senator, Carol Moseley Braun, back in the '90s.
I was a young (not so idealistic) legislative aide who handled constituent correspondence on select issues -- legislative and otherwise. Part of the "otherwise" included endless hate mail that I quickly learned I was not to destroy. I was instructed by the office manager to weed out anything remotely resembling threats on Sen. Moseley-Braun's life or well-being. That mail was set aside for the FBI's due diligence.
While reveling in Obama's impressive victory in Iowa, I listened intently to a number of pundits reflect on his victory speech and making comparisons to Bobby Kennedy, and I was brought back to my days on Capitol Hill working for Carol Moseley-Braun and the dread I felt knowing that many people wanted her dead irrespective of her intelligence, eloquence, charisma, advocacy for women and children, her Christian faith or moderate legislative agenda.
To far too many fellow Americans, she was seen as little more than an uppity nigger. It would seem that Obama's that much more of a threat to these hateful hordes among us in blue and red states alike, as evinced in a recent racist blog post by anonymous coward hiding safely behind a computer somewhere between sea to shining sea. (Hat tip to über-blogger Pam Spaulding.)
I fear Obama's fate as a front-runner. I think about murdered politico Bobby Kennedy -- an ultra-wealthy White public servant, and the fear he instilled in an unknown mass of the White citizenry in 1968. And my concern heightens that much more for Senator Obama and his family amidst of his auspicious win this evening.
All the incisive jokes that Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, D.L. Hughley have made over the years regarding the inherent dangers of being a Black president lose all humor to me in this current political environment where Barack Obama may soon assume undisputed front-runner status for the Democratic presidential nomination.
I covered Obama's historic convention speech in '04 that put him on the national political radar, and wondered aloud back then if he would one day be our first Black president.
Perhaps he will be more viable than I have thought in recent months as someone who, like millions of other cynical (but reasonable) Americans of all races, has believed American voters would not elect a Black man for president. And more cynically have quipped that I don't ever want to see a Black president to avoid any unduly heightened expectations of the Commander in Chief. But then I'm reminded by a fact lost on (read: ignored by) many mainstream journalists and pundits: that 20 years ago another long-shot candidate, Jesse Jackson Sr., shocked America and the pundit class by winning 5 primaries by Super Tuesday and trailing the ultimate presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, by a mere 2% delegate margin.
Did I mention that was twenty years ago?!
So when we talk about Obama's new ascendancy and Dean's short-lived "revolutionary" campaign back in '03-'04, let's give credit where credit is due with regards to ground-breaking, insurgent Democratic campaigns.
Anyway, I congratulate the Obama campaign on its victory in Iowa, and I hope against hope that any continued success does not bare any higher cost than it is worth, and that the wave of young and first-time voters who the Obama and Edwards campaigns engaged and energized will see tonight's victory not only as a victory for one candidate, but for the power of civic participation that (should) transcend electoral politics and charismatic leadership.