Thursday, October 23, 2008

Can All the M&M's Remain Together?

Can All the M&M's Remain Together: Thinking About Obama's Multi-racial Coalition in Victory and in Defeat

On The yesterday, Wendi C. Thomas (metro columnist for Memphis, TN's The Commercial Appeal) wrote an article titled "Will White People Riot?"

Thomas hashed through the perpetual idea that Blacks act and behavior en mass, in response to a White man from Memphis asking her: "Would Black people riot if Sen. Barack Obama didn't win the election?"

Her article brought forth a thought-provoking analysis which posits that a more likely population to worry about rioting would be the loathing, race-baiting crowd seen at McCain GOP rallies (you know the one's that shout "TERRORIST!!!" and "KILL HIM!!!" at the mention of Obama's name).

For Thomas the question is not whether Black people can handle an Obama defeat, but can racist Whites handle an Obama victory.

When thinking about Obama, I always think about how he has this "multi-racial" thing going for him. We see it among supporters; we see it among campaign volunteers; we even saw it in Iowa.

We've seen it in good times, we have seen it in bad times, but will we see if it gets UGLY (or rather, uglier than it has already been)? Meaning IF (and I emphasize that it is an IF we really, really don't need), IF Obama loses the election on Nov. 4---what will happen then? What would a defeat do to the multi-racial Obama machine?

I know, I know. At this point we need to be putting all our positive energy and thoughts into an Obama victory. But we have to keep in the back of our mind the dark side too.

Would they rally together? Or splinter apart?

Historically in America, we have seen Blacks in rebellion (Watts '65, Detroit '68, Harlem '64, etc); we have seen Whites come together in resistance (the early 20th century race riots in places like Tulsa or East St. Louis; in racist and discriminatory legislation; hell in the formation of the Ku Klux Klan).

But we have also seen many coalitions of multi-racial, multi-issue, multi-community support. It is a progressive model that has been set forth throughout history: the abolitionist movement; radical organizers in the Communist party and others in the early 20th century U.S.; in CORE and other groups involved in the Civil Rights Movement. And such this has been the model called for, advocated for, and exercised by many organizers and activists.

But much in the way all these movements came to a head over divisive issues and events---particularly in the late 1960's---we are coming to a similar junction in these times.

This head has two parts though: first, what will happen in the event of an Obama defeat? Could all the M&M's mobilize together still? And if defeat did lead to rebellion and resistance, could all the M&M's rebel together?

But the second point is a bit more intriguing: what happens if Obama wins?

In so many ways, a Black man becoming President of the United States of America would be the fulfillment of the greater possibility so many Americans have worked, sweat, bled, and even died for. That we could surpass historic and living attitudes of racist, discrimination, and hate; and overcome injustice and inequality.

As Barack put it in early March: "that this nation is more than the sum of its parts-that out of our many, we are truly one."

But what happens next? How does the multi-racial, multi-issue, multi-community Obama movement deal with victory?

It is so crucial for all the interest-groups and all the supporters to continue to move united, progressively, and with forward-vision.

Ironically enough, victory would be the opportune time for division. And so, the bag of M&M's must begin planning for its united future.

Michael Partis

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