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I even wrote about it. I wrote about how even though he doesn't share the history of the Oliver Browns and Homer Plessys and Rosa Parkses, he nonetheless inherited their burdens.  I wrote about how even though his forebears didn't endure the whips, the slashes, the examples made out ofs, or the hangings, he nonetheless inherited the complicated world left in their wake.  I got upset again; I shed another tear as I thought of the serious black men throughout the country right now with ephemerally clenched jaws and stiffened fists upon seeing the Tagg Romney headline.  

But then I closed my eyes and thought about how the big man himself would respond. With that catalytic grin of his, perhaps; or an understated quip.  Or a presidential "I've dealt with worse than that", sans acrimony.  Perhaps he would just smile, knowing he's already triumphed—because for one of the first times in history, Tagg Romney can't. And that thought alone was enough to make me feel fine again. A wave of calm immediately washed over me.  

You know, he suffers the indignities. The calls for birth certificates. The effigies outside his field offices. The jokes about his father's birthplace. The proclamations that he is not smart, or "doesn't think like us". And he just takes it.  Because he has to.  Because there is no precedent for him. He is the standard bearer. He sets the example. He is the mountaintop. The one with whom the buck stops.

When Barack Obama took this office, he accepted a burden greater than that of any other man on Earth, black or otherwise. And for that, history will someday jump out of its seat and judge him not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. He fights for that each day, just by being him. My jaw now softened, my fists unclenched, I set my eyes upon the dream, knowing it will someday come.

At first, I got upset. And then I started pacing. And then I started crying. But now, I just feel fine.  


Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most brilliant journalistic writers of our time.  He works for the Atlantic and has posted some absolutely riveting and intellectually challenging stuff in this election season.  For the context of my line, "serious black men throughout the country right now with ephemerally clenched jaws and stiffened fists", I'm adding his just-published post on this matter, without further comment:

It's Funny Because We're White

Mitt Romney's son jokes about assaulting the president:

Mitt Romney's eldest son joked in a radio interview that he wanted to "take a swing" at President Barack Obama after Obama called his father a liar. "Jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the stage and take a swing at him," Tagg said, laughing.

"But you know you can't do that because, well, first because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because that's the nature of the process."
Yes because a good whippin' would teach that Obama boy to mind his place.

It's worth trying to imagine any black man associated with a credible black candidate for the presidency, joking about beating down the incumbent president of the United States. Racism isn't just in what you do and don't say, but in the terrain you walk. It is baked in the cake -- a fact which is hard to understand when you are the party of white people.

Originally posted to therehastobeaway on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 07:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and White Privilege Working Group.

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