Conventional Wisdom

DNC Wrap-Up: 'Breathe. Reflect. Remember.'

Conventional Wisdom

"Why must a vision of a post-racial America be devoid of ordinary black Americans? Why must the story of their struggle be silenced?" Author and Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin helps bring our coverage of the Democratic National Convention to a close.

Come back to News & Views for status updates on the Republican National Convention from Farai Chideya.

Farah Griffin

Beyond the speech and the spectacle, the celebration and the euphoria, let us stop. Breathe. Reflect upon the magnitude of the moment. Remember the history, the struggles and the lives that brought us to this time.

Barack Obama's glorious night at Invesco Field is not the culmination of our struggle. It is but a stop on the journey. Senator Obama ended his address with a reference to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech." In so doing, he placed his candidacy and presidency at the end of a continuum beginning with Dr. King and the Civil Rights struggle of the late fifties and early sixties.

It was a triumphant narrative, told by a man who aspires to lead the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Dr. King's speech was a jeremiad —- an indictment of America. He addressed the ways the United States strayed from her democratic ideals and focused on the nation's darker children, the descendants of enslaved Africans. He insisted that the dream would be fulfilled only when they and other disenfranchised people had full, unfettered access to the promises of American democracy and to the opportunities that would ensure them access to the American Dream. Only then would America inch closer to the fulfillment of its own promise.

The very image of Barack Obama, his statesman-like manner, his ownership of America and his confidence that he has a right to lead this nation certainly point to the fulfillment of one aspect of Dr. King's dream. And yet much about the night suggests that we still have a distance to travel. Senator Obama acknowledged some of the work that awaits us.

The touching and appropriate presence of Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized how far we have traveled since Dr. King's speech and reminded us that there is still much to be done. And yet, in spite of their presence, there were some glaring absences as well: In the extraordinary parade of ordinary Americans who provided testimony to the way the Bush administration has failed them and who asserted their support for Senator Obama, there was not one African American.

In the inspiring video that preceded his speech there were very, very few black people. And in his speech he made little if any mention of the very specific black freedom struggle that ushered him to this moment, nor did he name the man whose vision he was honoring.

I fully support the candidacy of Barack Obama. I was thrilled to have shared his triumphant acceptance of the Democratic nomination with almost 85,000 others. But I still have to ask, "Why must a vision of a post-racial America be devoid of ordinary black Americans? Why must the story of their struggle be silenced?" Of course, others have struggled and suffered in the United States, but Senator Obama occupies the national stage as the result of the very specific and particular struggle of black people.

I want to close the week of blog posts about this historic 2008 Democratic Convention by naming a small number of those whose legacies and lives brought us here: Phyliss Wheatley, David Walker, Maria Stewart, Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Martin Delaney, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, black Union Soldiers, Northern Yankee teachers, progressive Reconstruction politicians, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Marcus Garvey, the NAACP, the Urban League, the Pullman Car Porters, Langston Hughes, Adam Clayton Powell, Mary McCleod Bethune, A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, the Tuskegee Airmen, Ella Baker, Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, the Montgomery Improvement Association, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, Rosa Parks, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, James Baldwin, Diane Nash, Toni Cade Bambara, Shirley Chisolm ... and the Many Thousands Gone.

This triumph is as much theirs as it is our own.

Comments

 

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ANY LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, WITH THE LOVE FOR AMERICA, WOULD NOT EVER WANT TO RELIVE OLD HASH! BUILD A BRIDGE AND GET OVER THE UNWANTED MEMORIES YOU HAVE ABOUT THE PAST. THIS IS NOW. WE ARE MAKING HISTORY. WE LIVE AND BREATHE THE PRESENT. WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE. REMEMBER, THE LORD GOD TOLD LOT'S WIFE 'NOT TO LOOK BACK' SHE DID AND WAS TURNED INTO A PILLAR OF SALT. TAKE THE GOOD WITH THE BAD AND LIVE TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER, NO MATTER SKIN TYPE. SURELY NOT A SOUL OWES ANYTHING TO ANYONE FOR WHAT HAS GONE DOWN IN THE PAST. EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN BY FORGIVING OURSELVES FOR NOT FORGIVING OTHERS WHO DO NOT FORGIVE US. LETS PICK UP OUR MORALS AND HELP MAKE AMERICA A BETTER PLACE IN WHICH TO LIVE. LET EACH ONE OF US BE INDIVIDUAL LEADERS, SO WE CAN MAKE THE CHANGE WE NEED TO LIVE PEACEFULLY AMONG OUR-SELVES AS WELL AS AMONG OTHER NATIONALITIES. THE BLACK RACE ALONG WITH THE WHITE RACE ARE THE ONLY TWO RACES WHICH SPEAK THE SAME LANQUAGE, YET ARE HIGHLY OFFENSIVE TO THE OTHER. LETS TRY EXTRA HARD TO SMILE AND WALK ON WHEN WE PASS THE OPPOSITE RACE, SO WE CAN SHOW THE YOUNG WE CAN ALL FIT TOGETHER TO JOIN JESUS IN THE SKIE. ALWYS REMEMBERING IT IS JESUS'S DADDY WHO GETS REVENGE. NOT ANY OF US. WE MUST PULL OURSELVES UP, AS TO NOT TEAR DOWN CITIES, AND DESTROY OTHERS WHEN WE FELL PAIN AND NEGLECT. LET US NOT LOOK TO ANY ONE PERSON TO CARRY OUT OUR OWN DEMANDS, OR WANTS. WE NEED A LEADER, SO LET US BECOME OUR OWN LEADERS. DOING WHAT IS RIGHT ACORDING TO THE LAWS OF THE LAND ON WHICH WE LIVE. I PERSONALLY BELEIVE BARACK HUSSIEN OBAMA NEEDS TO GROW UP, AND GET DIRECTION, BEFORE INTERING INTO A HUGE TASK. HE CHANGES HIS NAME, IN ORDER TO BECOME A MAN ACCORDING TO HISTORY. AT THIS TIME IN HIS LIFE I BELEIVE HE IS LIVING IN A MANS SHELL. LETS GIVE HIM A CHANCE TO GROW UP, THEN BE OUR HERO. RIGHT NOW HE IS CONTINUEOUSLY HAVING TO GET CAUGHT, IN ORDER TO STOP DOING WRONG. THAT SHOWS HE STILL NEEDS SOME TIME TO LIVE OUT HIS DREAM.

Sent by honestrepublican | 1:00 AM | 9-1-2008

great blog post, sister!

Sent by eisa | 10:53 AM | 9-1-2008

Thank you, Dr. Griffin for your words! Thank you for acknowledging the work of Our Ancestors!!

One question though: Who let that nutbag post that crap up here?!

Sent by Lilly White | 3:39 PM | 9-1-2008

The question: "Why must a vision of a post-racial America be devoid of ordinary black Americans? Why must the story of their struggle be silenced?"

Is there ANYONE..ANYONE who has not heard the story & history of 'ordinary' Black Americans? What part of that story has not been heard and who is being silenced?

We've talk about it, over & over & over for the last 40yrs...stuck on pause, spinning in suspended animation, preaching to the choir for amens, acknowledgments of stuff one already believes just to get nods of approvals or for the sake of you tell'ms, then mistaking that for real action & political & economic evolution. Rarely does one get any new functional information, just historical who did what to whom. And after about 5 minutes of that, where do you go with it except round & round? And if there is any new functional information, ideas, etc. they are usually pooh poohed or held in suspicion if not completely over heads.

We honor our ancestors not by looking to the future through a mirror, but by having the emotional courage to do WHAT THEY DID! Be forward thinking, look to the future, visualize the future, speak of the future.

The world move right along, not stopping to stroke or assuage the emotions of those who speak for 'ordinary' Black Americans. The cold reality is that in the grand scheme of the world, ordinary Black Americans are but a grain of sand and like 'middle' Americans make the mistake of putting themselves at the center of everything.

The world isn't on idle waiting around...time for all to EMBRACE MODERNITY, bridge, extend & evolve the narrative.

Sent by Jon J | 11:10 AM | 9-3-2008

To HonestR and Jon J:
Though I understand your sentiments, they likely grow out of your extensive personal knowledge. It would be a mistake to take for granted that everyone shares your depth of knowledge and exposure to the history of Blacks in America. Many people do not know anything more than the Time-Life/Golden Books version of the Black Freedom struggle: Slavery, Jim Crow, Rosa Parks, MLK, Freedom. The well is much deeper. Furthermore, it is imperative that we understand the fragility of our relatively favorable present condition. The words of the Spanish born American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) at the turn of the last century bear consideration:
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemened to repeat it.'
Let's not go there again.

Great commentary FJG

Sent by James from Miami | 9:38 PM | 9-4-2008

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