PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Politics

Hope and Change Still Matters

Call it “hope and change”, call it pride, call it any number of things, but the feeling boils down to this: I’m rooting for President Obama.

Today I attended the inauguration of the first African-American president. The atmosphere in the theater was dignified yet anticipatory. Deval Patrick, the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, received a hero’s welcome and spoke with warmth and humor. Henry Louis Gates, well-known Harvard professor (and drinker of beer with President Obama and Sgt. James Crowley) was in the audience, smiling broadly. The president spoke inspiringly of a "new beginning".

No, I’m not referring here to President Obama. I’m describing the inauguration of Dr. M. Lee Pelton, the first African-American president of Emerson College, where I teach. While the significance of the event may pale in comparison to the election and inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States, it inspired the same feeling in me and, I believe, in the rest of the audience, that that historic presidential occasion did.

And still does. Call it “hope and change”, call it pride, call it any number of things, but the feeling boils down to this: I’m rooting for President Obama. And, yes, I’m rooting for him in part because he’s (part) black.

Don’t get me wrong—there are a myriad of reasons other than race why I am in favor of President Obama and opposed to Mitt Romney (among them, as Joe Biden would say, “Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive!”). And I would never support him if I didn’t agree with his policies and have faith in his judgment. But this column is not about policy, it’s about the importance of race and ethnicity and gender and image in American politics and pop culture.

I’m rooting for President Obama because it matters that this country has an African-American president, especially considering our repugnant history of slavery and racism. And it matters that the first black president be re-elected.

I’m rooting for President Obama because it matters that people stop saying things like “Mitt Romney looks presidential” because he is a tall white man with a touch of gray at the temples. When we elected Obama in 2008, didn’t we change the template for what looks presidential? Didn’t we decide that a president could be a non-white and hopefully, someday soon, a non-man? Besides, think of the way Obama carries himself: with dignity and calm and grace. To me, that looks presidential.

I’m rooting for President Obama because I still think about the young African-American boy who wanted to touch Obama’s head because their hair was so similar. Presumably, the boy hadn’t seen many people in power who look like him. If a picture says a thousand words, that one shouted a million. It shouted, “Yes, you can.”

I’m rooting for President Obama because I can’t recall too many romantic comedies or dramas or television shows about an African-American couple. There have been a few, for sure, but not many. Not even with megastars like Will Smith or Denzell Washington. And the Cosby Show ended 20 years ago! It matters that people see Barack and Michelle Obama as a couple they can relate to. It’s important that the image of a black couple is reinforced more often in our pop culture.

I’m rooting for President Obama because I’m alarmed by the ridiculous and racially motivated allegations against him: he’s a Muslim, he wasn’t born in the United States, he’s a Communist, he’s the “Food Stamps President”, etc., etc. Such things would be laughable if so many people didn't believing them. And if there weren’t so many politicians and business people who are all too willing to incite hatred by playing on people’s ignorance and fear and prejudice.

I’m rooting for President Obama because the lack of people of color on the floor at the 2012 Republican National Convention was an embarrassment. But not as embarrassing as the incident there where two people allegedly threw nuts at a black CNN camera operator while saying, “This is how we feed animals.”

I’m rooting for President Obama because it matters. It all matters.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.