The way he struggled to navigate both the opportunities that were now open to black folks, as well as the continued burden of race and racial stereotypes.
Knowing that yes, we could now be anything we wanted to be… if we put our minds to it. But that we might have to work harder than some whites to get there. Knowing that in our workplace, we would have to “prove” ourselves, and be on the frontlines of a fight for freedom that was brand-new in its victory.
Barack struggled with his identity as a black person, and as a person who didn’t live in an all-black world, who had white family and friends. I grew up in multiracial 1970s Los Angeles as a light-skinned black woman who went to predominantly a white elite private school. So I knew exactly what he was talking about: Where do I fit in? Who am I?
This question goes beyond racial identity. It’s a question we all ask of ourselves when we’re young and struggling to define who and what we are.
I also identify with Barack because he is of the same generation as me. Too young to have been part of the 1960s, but having the juggernaut of older baby boomers continually shaping and defining the culture and politics of our lives.
When I read his book, The Audacity of Hope, this quote jumped out at me:
Despite a forty-year remove, the tumult of the sixties and the subsequent backlash continues to drive our political discourse. Partly it underscores how deeply felt the conflicts of the sixties must have been for the men and women who came of age of that time, and the degree to which the arguments of the era were understood not simply as political disputes but as individual choices that defined personal identity and moral standing.
I suppose it also highlights the fact that the flash-point issues of the sixties were never fully resolved…. And maybe it just has to do with the sheer size of the Baby Boom generation, a demographic force that exerts the same gravitational pull in politics that it exerts on everything else, from the market for Viagra to the number of cup holders automakers put in their cars.
Yes. In all my voting life, the Baby Boomers and their perspective have defined politics. And Barack put the nail on the head for me when he wrote:
In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage.And this is why I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Her moment, the political moment of the Baby Boomers, is over. Hillary, we’ve seen you and your husband for so many years. But it’s time to release your generation’s tight grip on the reins of power. I suggest you do as Al Gore has and devote your life to public service or philanthropy.
Because the playing field has changed, and you can’t keep up.
Hillary’s recycled ideas, her demonizing of the Republicans, her “us vs. them” bunker mentality, the lack of candor, the waffling on Iran and Iraq, the pandering—it all just feels like some stale television re-run that we’ve been watching over and over and over again. Can we please change the channel?
The new channel now includes the Internet. And Hillary’s Clintonian tactics of locking down all media with über press control is not going to work.
Americans have too many opinions to try to control them. And Americans are smart enough to see through the Old-School methods of media spin. Americans can now leave their comments in Internet news stories, and those comments are going to call her on blatant B.S. (Kindergate, anyone?) Americans are tired of being manipulated by politicians.
This need of Hillary to try to continue to be on the national stage is like the overbearing parent who can’t stop controlling the family, even when the family members are more than capable of dealing with their own affairs.
Hillary, relax. Let go. Do good work.
And pass the torch.