If you would have told me in 2004 that an African American male was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, there would have been no question as to whether or not that candidate could count on my support. I was naive. I was raw. I was experiencing backlash as a Black man in a non-Black institution.
In 2004, I would not have equated race with worthiness. However, I would have certainly held that it to be my duty as an African American male to support an African American candidate. There would have been no need for me to review his resume. There would have been no need for me to have a sound command over the tenets of his platform. Personally vetting the candidate would have simply been a roadblock between me and an inevitable outcome. Forget the party line, in 2004 I would have voted the Color Line.
Keep in mind that it was in 2004 that the world gained its first real introduction to Barack Obama. Via his mesmerizing speak at the Democratic National Convention, he effortlessly imprinted his name in the minds and hearts of Black Americans. There was no need to know his background. The writing was on the wall. This young man had the sort of aura about him that would guarantee viability on the national scale. Black America began to ask itself: Could he be The One?
Yet, I was not sold with one speech. I smiled complacently upon learning of his election to the Senate. However, I did not anticipate hearing back from him so soon. I suspected that he would get sucked into the Washington Politics and become just another one of the politicians that Stanford had taught me to hate - or at the very least distrust. I feared that after his election, the magic would be lost. It was my calculation that Mr. Obama would become a staple in Washington, sitting stagnantly in the Senate until falling victim to the lusts and temptations that prey upon those individuals in whose hands the fate of our nation lies.
Luckily for me - and maybe for America - I was wrong.
Seeing Obama speak after his stunning victory in Iowa tugged at my soul. His words spoke to my very being. He showed me that it was okay to believe in him, for he was Change. He promised to me and my fellow Americans that the status quo wasn't something that we should fear. It wasn't something that we should passively accept. Instead, he painted the status quo as a fluid reality waiting, and maybe even begging, to be changed.
In the weeks to come, I would sit back and marvel at the first rock star politician that I had ever seen. I would watch opponents sling mud at his slender frame as he gracefully dodged each attack encompassed in the onslaught. I stood, and continue to stand, proud as he guides a campaign that has been free from the pettiness injected into the race by everyone's 2nd favorite Clinton. Through the fire, he has stood tall and continued to inspire a civically engaged nation unlike any other that I have seen in my lifetime.
Four years ago, this would not have mattered. Four years ago, the politics of race would have infuriated me and I would have stooped to the levels of non-Black attackers that desired a reckless pissing match. I would have done everything differently. I would have down everything that Mr. Obama has not done. I would have continued to advance the notion that America's racist underpinnings served as an insurmountable barrier to Black success. I would have done and said these things - and I would have been wrong.
Today, his mere success serves as hope. His words inspire. His smile is electric and his potential is immeasurable. My support for him is right because race is not enough and will not be enough. Instead, in 2008, hope is. Hope is the driving force moving me to partake during the election season. Hope is what has lead me to guardedly believe that Barack Obama will weather Clinton's perfect storm and emerge as the presidential candidate in the next few months. I am bracing myself in advance for the mistakes that will surely come. However, I am also preparing myself to grow under his leadership and to see change in America that I have not seen at any other point in my lifetime. They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But I would aruge that even as mature as she is, there is still much more that America and her Americans can learn. We just need the right teacher. We need the right person to lead us into this new day.
In my eyes, Barack Obama is exactly what America needs.