the personal is political

– on the occasion of attending my first Donna Brazile talk and moments before composing tomorrow’s lecture on Sade

In 1988, at the tender age of 9, I campaigned for Jesse Jackson’s Democratic Nomination. My brothers and I, 11 and 7 themselves, went door-to-door in Perth Amboy, New Jersey registering people to vote, and chiefly, amusing the hell out of them. If pre-pubescent little black kids are not enough to convince you to fulfill your civic duty, I don’t know what will.

My son, twenty years later, voted for Barack Obama on I must admit that no matter how special I thought it was when Mekhi declared,  “Mom, don’t you think Barack Obama looks like me!”, in the ’08 season, I still have my reservations about our often conservative first gentleman.










Tonight, Donna Brazile stated that the reason she does not want to run for political office is like the reason why she doesn’t want to be married, because it requires staying in one place. And she likes to be, “on the go!” Though I traditionally do not believe in qualifying oppressions I can’t help but think if I had to choose between working in the white house or working as a house wife, WHICH I, OF COURSE, DO NOT!!!!, give me the suburban soccer mom, every day of the week.

It is so painfully obvious that I am from this country, not only because I am here, with my black family, simultaneously at war and in line with our nation’s political agenda. So many of us, even those not from this country, participate in this American narrative. My children however like to pretend they are from some other place. My oldest in particular has no clue he is “African-American.” I like to blame this on his educational environments and his penchant for White televisual media. In one of his four public schools there was a banner that read, “this is America; everyone reads!,” and in his most recent they celebrated “diversity,” with the book (and participating feast) “Everybody Cooks Rice.” For the latter he brought in rice pudding which I had to convince him was his great-great-grandmother’s dish.

Today, I am feeling particularly angry about not only the post-racial politics of today’s presidential aura, I am also frequently miffed at the government control over our bodies and families. The first time I almost wrote off Barack Obama was following his problematic “Father’s Day” speech in Chicago. Now, with the inability to promote national legislation legalizing gay marriage, the still-inadequate health insurance and the lack of access to safe abortions and contraception, etc., I am wondering where all my Cocoamamas stand. Granted we chose a right to have at least one child. However; I know that does not “safely” box us into right hetero-normative agendas?



6 thoughts on “the personal is political

  1. This reminds me that if we don’t stand for something, then either we 1) stand for everything in our silence and complicity or 2) we stand for nothing in our silence and complicity. Either choice is obviously unacceptable. Yet you are right – most of us do not want to be politicians, making policy in the manner in which our President must do today. Does that automatically make us complicit? I don’t think so. Change can occur through other routes, and I think working through those other, non-traditional-political routes are just as impactful (I made that word up) if not more than politics as usual.


  2. Are we sure that we are not complicit in our formal political participation? The hardest thing for me to stomach with regards to Obama sometimes is that I also voted for him. I could have voted for McKinney/Clemente; a team I am quite certain represents a more feminist politic . . . but I didn’t because I did not want to “waste” my vote. Sorry to be so cynical but I feel like we have been wasting votes for quite some time.


    1. I hear you about your frustration regarding Obama, although I’m not sure I’m quite as disgusted as you are. I think he has problematically spent too much time trying to “compromise,” and in doing so wasted the power Demos had in Congress. I don’t remember Dubya trying to be president to anybody other than 50% plus one (and not even that, as he lost the popular vote). That being said, I often wonder what it was that progressives thought was going to happen; no matter how right we are about the direction in which the country should head (and we ARE right! LOL), the reality is that it’s a democracy, and progress could only happen to the right of where we situate ourselves politically. I try and remember that when I blame him for not getting us as far as I would like.

      And to be honest, I would very much like a 2nd term for him. The alternatives are scary…and I want the first president my daughter remembers to be black!


      1. I agree that all the viable alternatives are “scary” and that is pretty much what led me to support Obama in the first place.


  3. Would that make you fee better now, because you could say, “well, I didn’t vote for him?” Would that end your responsibility? I don’t think so. We live in a democracy/republic – just cu the vote doesn’t go your way doesn’t mean your responsibility for our elected officials ends. We still are responsible to make them hear us, even when we didn’t vote for them. They are still accountable to us, even when we didn’t vote for them.


    1. Of course I agree with that in theory; however, i would also like to shift our focus. Why turn to a government when we could turn in towards ourselves. Hold our community accountable, hold our friends and family accountable. I am sick of the hype that government is representing “us” at all.


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