My Family Will Still Be Baracking the Vote in 2012

Making the "O" at inauguration
It was a monumental event to vote back in 2008. Girl Child and I made the two-hour trek from D.C. to the Philly area on a weeknight just so we could share the historic experience with my mom. At the poll, I hoisted her up — “her” as in my daughter, not my mama, just to be clear — and let her pull the lever to cast our ballot for the Obama/Biden ticket. It was a symbolic gesture that I hoped she’d remember for the rest of her life. So much for that. Three years later, she gave me a long, blank stare when I relived the moment.

Our neighborhood was electrified as it waited for official word to come down. We were in the car, driving home after staying in Pennsylvania as late as possible so we could watch the results there. But as time wore on, we had to peel ourselves away and head back to D.C. We were about three blocks away from our apartment when the radio cut to the breaking news: Barack Obama won the election.


Just like that, car horns started blowing, people on the sidewalks started cheering, and folks ran out into the street, hugging one another and jumping up and down, their shouts coming out in visible puffs against the bitter cold. It was a beautiful, victorious moment in the southeast part of the city that had been previously so ostracized from and disinterested in the goings-on in the White House, even though it’s barely 15 minutes away.

Even after three years, sometimes I have to stop and really let it sink in all over again: we have a black president. Sometimes I think about my grandfather and especially my grandmother, who passed away just a few months before Obama became the official Democratic candidate, and can only imagine her excitement. Her legs were crippled by osteoarthritis, but I know for a fact she would’ve fired up her little walker and hobbled to the polls to put in her vote. It was emotional for a lot of our elders who never thought they’d see the day a black man would do anything in the Oval Office except maybe clean or repair it.

But my support of President Obama isn’t based on nostalgia. I was determined from the giddy-up not to vote for him based solely on the strength that he’s a back man. I checked his voting record. I listened to his comments — that is the first time I ever, ever sat through a political debate of any kind and, sure enough, the first time I didn’t break out a DVD to escape the State of the Union address.

And I certainly never even thought about participating in anybody’s campaign. Ever. But there I was, making calls and handing out information and availing myself for the cause with Girl Child as my companion at every turn. My hope: that my Johnny-come-lately involvement in the political process would spark her interest early, make her want to galvanize behind issues she cares about as she gets older, and support candidates who represent them.

It was no surprise that Obama was going to have a hard way to go. If expectations are high on black quarterbacks, the ones on the first black president were going to be off the charts. Fault-finding has been in full swing, and his failures and missteps are part of the active reasoning not to re-elect him, according to everyone from snarky white analysts to black intellectuals. The Jobs Act. The end of the war. The foreign policy. Everything under scrutiny; nothing making anyone completely happy. And that’s the way that politics go.

As we gear up for another election year and more ensuing melodrama because of it, I’ll be doing the same attentive listening. But barring an earth-shaking scandal or an ass-backwards mistake, Barack Obama will have the Harris girls’ full support in 2012. And The Girl will be right out there with me, learning how to get involved in causes she believes in, no matter how seemingly small that involvement is.

What do you teach your children about politics? 

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