Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Me in the American Prospect

How do we keep Obama's youth mobilized? 
The young people mobilized by Obama's campaign were politicized in a strongly personal way long before the election contest even began. Their politicization grew from the cost of their own and their friends' involvement in the seemingly endless Iraq War. It grew from their
 increased college and credit-card debt. It grew with the realization that the air they breathe gets dirtier every day. It came from a very simple but meaningful desire to make their lives better. What the campaign did, along with the longstanding work of many progressive youth organizations, was channel that energy and passion into the electoral process.

It is now the responsibility of those same organizers to show youth the next step in that process. Civic education -- educating these new voters on the policy-making process and how their voice, art, technology, and activism can influence it -- is the way to transform into tangible results the decidedly progressive principles and values for which they voted.

At Campus Progress, we have spent the last four years working with youth to spread the word about what it means to be a progressive and how values like equality and justice can be affected through the political process. As representatives of the most diverse generation that our nation has ever seen, we are prepared to arm youth with the information and tools they need to move beyond engagement and onto results -- making our nation's laws and policies reflect the ideals that
define our movement.

--Erica L. Williams, director of policy and advocacy for Campus Progress at the Center for American Progress.
For full article featuring Mattie Weiss, Ivan Firshburg, Sally Kohn, and others click here

Youth Policy Summit Rundown

The youth policy summit of the Generational Alliance has drawn to a close here in beautiful Oakland, CA. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring together some of the youth movement’s most power leaders.  We discussed building organizational capacity, looking back at the successes (and failures) of election ’08,  strategies for keeping new voters from non-traditional communities engaged, and, most importantly, determining our policy focus for President Obama’s first 100 days in office – i.e. What policy victories can we legitimately expect and how soon? Which campaigns are worth our effort? We determined that health care, college affordability (which is mainly an issue about budget and appropriations) and green jobs were the top three areas in which we can get traction. But you know me. I can never stay focused only on the issue at hand. I’m constantly stepping back and critically observing. Here are a few thoughts :
  • I still hate the idea of a “youth movement”. To be a movement defined by identity and not goals is, in my view, shortsighted, self defeating, and unfocused. Shortsighted because unlike race and gender, people don’t claim this identity for life. This movement is based on a level of identification that numerically lasts at best between 7  and 10 years. And for many, that time line is actually not just determined by chronological age but by life circumstances. So the minute that “young people” get married or become parents themselves, they often stop identifying with carefree 19 year olds. Not a terribly well defined or dependable idendity to build a movement upon.  Self defeating because we are creating our own kiddie table of politics instead of working to include “kiddies” at the big table.  Unfocused because the name of the movement doesn’t define our values or goals. We should not be a movement of something (young, 30 and under, diverse, progressive people) but instead a movement for something (civil rights, human rights, economic equality, progressive polidy and values).  The fact that I opened my post by characterizing the event as a gathering of “progressive leaders of the youth movement” rather than “young leaders of the progressive movement” says something. Reveling in our youth and our power actually does very little to develop and hone that power in a way that creates concrete policy goals and victories. The way to change the perception of  young people as they relate to political power and change isn’t to state over and over again who you are (young) but instead to do what needs to be done (change policy, create new structures, enter and innovate the system) while you are who you are.  While the subtext of much of the work that we do is that our generational identity actually is grounded in our principles, we must take the critical next step of articulating that in our language. I didn’t move into this segment of my life work to be a youth activist. I am a young activist that works to engage a new generation of leadership for civil rights, human rights, equality, etc. and I am so frustrated by being labled in such an unproductive way.  Nevertheless…
  • This “movement” has some incredibly smart, passionate people in it. Seriously. Sitting daily in an office of white, buttoned up liberal men that have phd’s in nuclear proliferation and have been lobbying since a965,  it was so refreshing to sit in a room of people that aren’t desperately in need of wrinkle cream, wear jeans, and reference the lyrics to T.I.’s “Live Your Life” right before explaining a sociological theory of self interest and self preservation. Smart, smart people. I was completely humbled. And unlike the people with whom I work – upper crust Washington – these people are not just book smart, they are people smart.  And honest. And caring. And funny. And soulful. And passionate. And excellent communicators. And technologically savvy. And creative. Our leaders have the unique ability to be what so many of our elders in the movement have stuggled to become - a whole, complete person. We mix the political with the spiritual with the emotional with the philosophical and the FUN in ways that encourage full personhood and a bringing of ones entire self to this work. It also allows us to find the intersectionality of every issue that we work on and engage audiences on many different levels. It's impressive. I genuinely believe that my generation is in great, capable hands. If we can overcome the fact that…
  • Policy is the Achilles heel of the youth movement.  Yes, that's right. Basic policy work. And that’s a big, big, big, unfortunate heel. We were a room full of smart, passionate, incredibly talented organizers – 80% of whom didn’t know the process of a bill becoming a law. 90% of whom had no idea what a committee is, let alone who resides in which committee. I was shocked - these were some of the basics that I was introduced to at LCCR and were the foundation upon which all of my work is built, whether my job title includes the words field organizer (as it formerly did) or policy and advocacy (as it currently does), these are the basics of our nation's system that are fundamental to this work.  I worry that this lack of sophistication and focus is the core of our marginalization not just as a movement but as a demographic of people. Why is this the case? While many organizers want to remind policy folks  that there is no change in policy without “the people”, the grassroots often forgets that there is no tangible, visible change without policy...and people don't stay involved without tangible, visible change.  And while the movement is ready to acknowledge this point, as evidenced by the convening of this summit, there is a steep, steep learning curve. This is the core of the youth movement – an activist community that is adept at integrating the art, technology, and general voices of a young population into an energy that demands change and questions the status quo. But that energy will go no where without leaders that understand the inner workings of the game. (I wonder if this is because most of my peers have never worked anywhere except for the youth empowerment organization that they work in now…this also says something about the lack of professional mentorship in startup organizations) Now, to be fair, the purpose of this conference was to learn how to now integrate policy into the work that galvanized the youth vote and I think that there are some groups that have been doing it all along (USSA for example, who’s legislative director Angela is a fierce sister fresh out of college) and others like Hip Hop Caucus who has the right idea of turning their attention now to civics education. But we better get it in gear fast. Because empowering a generation to use their voice and demand change without teaching them the process by which change will actually come, is buildling a house on the sand. Especially when you acknowledge the truth that…
  • Who are we kidding? Many people voted because of Obama. Deal with it. I think one of the main failures of youth vote advocates this election season was in the shallowness and transparency of our messaging. The message that “young people voted on the issues” never broke through to mainstream media because it frankly wasn’t true. It was a message set up to support our organizational missions and demand legitimacy and credibility not just for our constituency, but mostly for our own work. And I understand that. But there is a difference between saying that young people care about the issues – that is true – and that young people voted because they care about the issues – not true. You can care about issues and stay your butt home on the first Tuesday in November, particularly in our communities (young, black, latino, disenfranchised). Because guess what? Young people have always cared about not having clean air to breathe, or money in their pockets, or their loved ones at war. And while yes, the past 8 years have brought us to a boiling point, logic would not tell our communities that voting is the solution. Obama is what made them channel their frustration about the issues onto the ballot. And denying that reality is going to make tomorrow a cold blast of water when we go back to our newly registered voters and find out that they  actually know very little about “the issues” or how those issues will really be changed. 

Just my thoughts.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Prop 8 & Black blame: Are we done yet?

(crossposted over at Pushback)

We get it. It was ironic and problematic that African-Americans in Califonia voted largely in favor of Proposition 8. But much of the analysis surrounding the demographic breakdown of the loss has been completely superficial, divisive, and counterproductive. As a whole, we live in a homophobic society. Period. If attitudes around marriage equality and same-sex relationships have slowly and/or steadily shifted in a progressive direction over the course of the past decade (particularly among young people), let’s look at why.

It hasn’t been by accident or by some cosmic shifting of the civil rights stars. It has been in large part due to the tireless work of activists and the increased representation of gays and lesbians in the mainstream media. So what went wrong with African-Americans?

While I’m not discrediting the blood, sweat, and tears of LGBT activists that have worked hard for this movement, I do question the diversity of the work. Have you seen many ads about gay marriage geared towards non-whites? Seen many representations of gay people of color in the mainstream media? When was the last time you saw a gay black man on TV who wasn’t a side character in a hair salon? Anti-racist training is all good and well but, frankly, how many people of color actually work at the largest, most prominent, best funded LGBT organizations in the country? So is it any wonder that many African-Americans reside firmly in the socially conservative box in which most Americans have always lived with regards to sexuality?

People criticizing the black vote in Prop 8 have forgotten a fundamental organizing principle: on any issue, people respond when they are spoken to. As an organizer, when a large block of people that I expected to vote my way based solely on principle don’t, I blame myself and my assumptions, which, no matter how logical-seeming, were clearly incorrect.

For example, logic would have said that all white women would have supported the African-American voting rights movement because of their own fight for suffrage decades earlier, but that wasn’t always the case. Why? Because white women were still white. They clung to the racial identity with which they were most familiar and which society told them to prioritize. They still had to go home to their white husbands, and white churches, and white children and claim a whiteness that ignorance said was threatened by the black vote.

See the parallel? Straight black people are still straight. That is the sexual identity that we, like most other straight Americans, have been told to prioritize and that is supposedly threatened by gay marriage. While assuming that black people should automatically support marriage equality may be right on the merits (gay rights = civil rights), it is actually illogical considering:

  • the historic marginalization of people of color within the LGBT movement
  • the lack of inclusion and diversity in many of the larger organizations that were channeling money into California
  • the minimal and limited representation of gay people of color in the media
  • the more extreme and at times convoluted views on marriage and gender roles passed down as a legacy from slavery
  • and the large historical role of “the African-American church,” a stereotyped religious entity that is, at its core, theologically evangelical and conservative

Taking the African American vote for granted in this instance (and in any for that matter), presupposes that we live on a civil rights island, pray to Rosa Parks every morning, and are not influenced by the attitudes of the larger society around us. Don’t forget–some of our greatest civil rights icons of the 1960s were notoriously homophobic. That is the nature of American bigotry: it is selfish and separatist, causing many of our movements for freedom to be the same.

Do I understand the hypocrisy inherent in this vote? Absolutely. And and as a straight, pro-marriage equality African-American it frustrates me that the conflict is not readily apparent to many of my peers. But the correct response to this loss isn’t to blame a segment of people, but to realize the chasms in the movement and work to bridge the divide. The rhetoric of “white gays gave YOU guys Obama but black straights couldn’t give US a win on Prop 8″ is ridiculous, and insulting to everyone involved. We ALL won with Obama and we ALL lost with Prop 8. Now let’s all find a solution.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Insightful commentary coming soon. For now, just breathe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Own Your Politics: Obama's 30 Minutes of Fame

Long day. Long night. 30 good minutes from Obama. Was it worth it? And what does T.I. have to do with it? 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For Some Young People, It IS All About Obama

(reposted from May 12, 2008 at YoungVoterMag)

As if the Democrats need more constituencies in an uproar over the presidential contest, here’s one more: Youth activists. Recently, youth organizations have been angered by the media’s portrayal of young people as voting in droves simply because of Barack Obama. Youth leaders point to four intensive years of extensive field organizing, creative online outreach tools, issue education, and an impressive increase in political engagement through nonpartisan youth organizations, like the one for which I work.

But the honest truth is that many young people are voting this election simply because of Mr. Obama. And a second truth is even more important: If Mr. Obama is denied the nomination due to superdelegates and back room politics, many young voters will be alienated from the process and less inclined to vote again.

Many of my professional colleagues hope that every single young person who votes this year is doing so because of the great work that we have done. And some indeed are. A wide range of organizations committed to youth training and advocacy have launched or been revitalized since 2004, and have made a tremendous impact. But my community ties assure me that there are a chunk of 18-25 year olds voting simply because they are inspired by Barack Obama.

These young people are not the traditional student activists, the students who rally against sweatshops and volunteered for Howard Dean. These are not the young adults who intern at high profile progressive organizations in Washington D.C. or vote because of a cool online registration tool, an MTV ad, or a Facebook group.

Instead, these are the students who were like me in college – working 40 hours a week, going to school full time, with barely enough time to foster important relationships with my loved ones and community, let alone become a full time or even part time “activist.”

These are the students who, like me, commuted to campus. While my classmates were in protests and door-knocking for Kerry in ‘04, I was stuck in rush hour traffic on I-95. They are the ones that, like me (warning: confession of a liberal sin ahead) didn’t want to lose the wages to take off work and vote in the 2004 primary.

I know these young people, as well as the many who didn’t go to college at all. While I now work every day in downtown Washington , in a sea of politics and CNN, rubbing shoulders on the Hill, and flagging emails from politically savvy youth, I return home to friends who have never heard of the alphabet soup of organizations committed to youth organizing.

They aren’t interested in NAFTA, and chuckled when they heard Rev. Wright’s comments because their grandmother said something just as incendiary last week. They are smart and aware of the issues, but lack the time, money, or inclination to support a cause. They slap me five, are proud of the work that I’m doing, and go back to their everyday lives, far removed from the arcane debates over which of the candidates has a better health plan, because right now they’re not covered at all. They’re uninterested in how the troops will be brought home because their brother is already dead . They are only interested in a candidate who will ensure that they don’t have to take so much precious time away to address said problems. And they now believe that this time, if they vote, they won’t be disappointed.

It is these voters who will be especially turned off from our political process if Mrs. Clinton wins based on superdelegates. And what, pray tell, is wrong with telling that truth? Just as some honest African Americans have dared to say that they are voting for Mr. Obama because he is African American and some women have been courageous enough to admit that they are voting for Mrs. Clinton because of their long battle with sexism, there is nothing wrong with admitting that a candidate has garnered a percentage of votes simply on the merits of what he represents to marginalized, disenfranchised, and disillusioned young people.

One man collected all of the blood, sweat and tears that the youth movement has invested and, in the process of making history, became our most effective advocate.

Of course, the old guard response is that these new young voters should have been engaged long before Mr. Obama and that, if they can be lost simply because of party politics, they are stupid and naive and the youth movement is a failure. Not so. The fact that there is a non-partisan youth infrastructure able to arm these new voters with the tools needed to foster long term engagement is a huge victory. It is a privilege to have a candidate who appreciates, supports, and broadens the impact of this work.

The challenge now will be to keep these new voters engaged for the long haul. I am hopeful that we will. But if Mr. Obama loses the nomination because of superdelegates, my job will get a lot harder.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On Affirmative Action

Spent a lot of time writing an affirmative update for our activist newsletter today, tracking all of the dramatic ups and downs in Colorado and Nebraska this week - lawsuits, signature fraud, shady data...it all had me contemplating the amount of time, energy and resources that affirmative action opponents put into their opposition, yet cling to their adamant profession that affirmative action is responsible for every successful African American outside of sports and entertainment. Condoleeza Rice? Affirmative action. Oprah Winfrey? Affirmative Action. Colin Powell? Affirmative action. Barack Obama - you know the drill. It made me wonder: If they eliminate affirmative action, who/what are they going to blame for black achievement?

I ran across a relevant post today by my boy Ta'Nehisi over at the Atlantic that argues why Obama's rise to the top canNOT be explained away by affirmative action:

"Electoral politics are about showing and proving--no amount of
Affirmative Action can get you to the presidency. You have to
compete and win. If you're the sort of voter who shows up at one
of these dead-end rallies, who likely believes that Obama never
deserved the hype he got, that he was only a big deal because he
was the "black guy," then, yeah, you are liable to be stunned when
he Buster Douglasses that ass. When you're on the canvas searching
for you mouthpiece wondering, How the f***, did I lose to a nigger..."

Well said.

Michelle Obama's Bust: Your Call

Interesting post over at pushback.

Entertainment Wise reports that sculptor Daniel Edwards has debuted an African-inspired bust of Michelle Obama. The sculpture is adorned with Barack Obama-logo earrings and an American flag emblazoned across her breasts (yes, people, there are boobs):

The controversial topless bust of Barack Obama’s wife Michelle Obama was unveiled to the public in New York yesterday.

“The goal is to create a look for Michelle Obama that eliminates excessive comparisons to Jackie Kennedy.”

As with anything else, there are two sides to this. On one hand, I can see how someone would think that this rendering of Obama is endearing and celebratory. I have to say that her face in this sculpture does look proud and regal… and I say that as someone who is semi-obsessed with the famed bust of Queen Nefertiti.

But on the other hand, I worry that this is just another situation where the black female body is being sexualized and made to be overly exotic.

My comments are, at first, in support of the piece:
Good post Loryn. African American women - and all women of African descent in the diaspora - have a particularly long and complicated history of dealing with the hyper-sexualization, commoditization, caricature, and objectification of our bodies. In particular, this piece and the exaggeration of Michelle’s chest reminds me of Sara Baartman. But the artist’s intent makes me give him the benefit of the doubt. It is an extreme depiction -breasts, head adornment, earrings and all - of her blackness. Frankly, I appreciate the resistance to depicting her as the black Jackie O. I know that the comparisons are intended as compliments. But somewhere in there is also the need for America to quickly label a beautiful, classy, clearly African American woman with distinctly African features as a black someone else – validating her unique beauty only by equating it with the icon of European aesthetics…As if the highest honor for her to attain is to look like the mainstream, white cultural ideal. She is black, and while the colorless rhetoric of that campaign would have us ignore that and pat ourselves on the back for not overtly acknowledging that, this piece does a wonderful job of claiming the black identity of this women that is so well respected. The black community has always had a particular investment in “claiming” any celebrity who’s ethnicity or race is in question (i.e. Lena Horne, Halle Berry, Tiger Woods, etc.) Now, I don’t at all think that the breasts are necessary to convey that point, but looking at the craftsmanship and the noble intent of the sculptor, this bust is at its core just a beautiful piece of art. Still, I understand how the society in which we live has made it difficult for it to be seen as that and only that.

But upon googling the artist, seeing his work and the fact that, frankly, he wasn't African American sang a slightly different tune:

Totally forgot who Daniel Edwards is! He’s the guy that did the Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug and Paris Hilton dead and naked holding a dog and a cell phone and Sen. Hillary Clinton in a bra…. hmm…considering a large part of my argument was based on artist intent, let me just give the caveat that IF his intent was other than what I stated above, than he’s an annoying little sensationalistic, fame hungry artist that feeds off of objectifying the bodies of celebrities…and he could be preying off of the idealistic, earnest, desire of suckers like me to justify his work with my above argument.

That's the thing about art - its always open for interpretation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: A Slap in the Face from Wall Street

Seriously? Less than one week after taxpayers like you and me bailed out AIG insurance company, executives from the wall street giant headed to a week-long retreat at a luxury resort and spa in California. And spent nearly $440,000 on rooms, massages, pedicures and other luxuries. Funds are so tight that I had to cancel my next hair appointment and fat cats are rolling like this?

"This unbridled greed," said Cong. Mark Souder (R-IN), "it's an insensitivity to how people are spending our dollars."

I have a few stronger words for them than that. This sort of arrogance and economic disparity says something about the shaky foundation on which this entire country was built: Debt, prosperity, oppression and elitism. Our government sings fairness, justice, and equality on the notes of the national anthem and turns around and spits a quick sixteen of "I Get Money" right on the backs of everyday low income and working class Americans.

Anybody else ready for a change?

Read It: The Green Collar Economy

Definitely worth a read. It comes out today and is written by Van Jones, a groundbreaking environmental justice activist and comrade. Seriously. Get it to understand how this energy crisis can actually be turned around to benefit low-income communities and create a better world for our children.

Josh Howard & the Election

I'm reposting on a friend's request, an old post I wrote over at pushback.org:

The recent story about Josh Howard, forward for the Dallas Mavericks, being caught on video
making an inflammatory remark about black people not singing the national anthem, definitely gave me pause. Not just because I hate the Mavs for firing Avery Johnson. Not just because it’s another example of our TMZ-obsessed culture. The story actually terrified the mess out of me. And that fear deserved some contemplation.

Is it sad that as an African American and a progressive, I am terrified that every time a prominent black person does anything even slightly controversial in public during the next two months, Armageddon is coming to progressives and that as a race we’re going to be set back 50–if not 200–years? Hence my fervent bedtime prayers that the idiot that is O.J. Simpson doesn’t do anything stupid during his
trial this week. Or that Al Sharpton stays hidden in a salon and doesn’t hold any rallies in October (valid and respectable as most of them are). Or that my favorite rappers stop calling themselves “the hood’s Barack,” no matter how hot the track is… even if they are Obama’s favorite rappers. Why are we, in 2008, in such a tenuous racial situation that I live in constant fear that the progress we have made can slip away with one cell-phone video?

The impulse that secretly made me relieved to find out that the Unabomber wasn’t black and horrified to find out that the 2002
snipers were, is the same one that made me a little peeved at the late Bernie Mac and irate at Jesse Jackson, despite being enormously humored by both incidents earlier this year.

This equal parts rational and irrational reaction is exacerbated in a political climate that daily scratches the surface of race like a chicken pox sore–-incessantly, compulsively, and superficially, not realizing that all of the scratching (the
empty questions, the sound bites, the special reports) only make the thing more raw and irritated.

With all of America’s attention now focused on race, when something sticky happens, I not only have to prepare for strangers on the bus looking at me the way they did after Janet Jackson bared her breast next to the obviously innocent and corn-fed Justin Timberlake–I now have to worry about the political implications on a presidential candidate that has become the poster child for black achievement.

Admittedly, the problem isn’t just society. My well-rehearsed bravado and rather healthy ego makes me publicly say, “I couldn’t care less what racist people think of me or Star Jones (slightly embarrassing) or Young Berg (downright insulting). They are who they are and have a right to do or say whatever they want. I am my own person, with my own identity, living my own life. So suck it.” But at the same time, perhaps I should do some soul searching and figure out why I still identify with my race in a way that makes me secretly beholden to the opinions that a racist, mainstream media hold of my fellow African Americans.

In the meantime, please forgive Josh Howard. I’m sure with a little media training he would never have done this… so close to the election.

Donna Brazile Unplugged

Not “over” Jim Crow and the civil rights movement yet? Can’t seem to “get past” segregation? You’re not alone. This a piece of what Donna Brazile had to say when she revealed her thoughts about race and election 2008 in a refreshingly candid, stream-of-consciousness statement during a forum at the New Yorker Festival.

“As a child who grew up in the segregated Deep South, we've come so far in this country....But I remember when I used to get on the bus: my mother would tell me, "Donna, when you get on the bus, you and your brothers go all the way to the back, and don't look at anybody." We have changed. This is a more tolerant, open, progressive society…What is wrong with us?...You can vote against him, but don't ever put me in the back of the bus. I'm not going to the back of the bus! I'm not going to be afraid! My black skin does not make me inferior! And may I add: being a female does not make me dumb!"

Watch the entire video
here. (Donna begins her statement in full at 1:12:10)

The McCain Campaign

Running out of time perhaps?

The Persistance of Memory, Salvador Dali

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Funny....funny....not funny

Daily Show clip of old Jewish people watching last week's debate. Really funny right up until the offensive bomshell at the end. Remind me never to hang out it an old Jewish nursing home during a presidential election. They probably wouldn't like my body.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If at first you don't succeed...

Useful motto that Congress has apparently taken to heart in the second attempt at passing the $700 billion bailout plan. Dems and the mainstream media say its necessary. The majority of Republicans say their constituency won't go for it. Umm..excuse me, but where am I in this process? In a country that can log millions of text messages and calls to crown a new pop princess every three months, can't Congress figure out a way to solicit the opinions of the people they represent - or maybe, God forbid, take some actual time talking to me? And why is does the House financial services website keep freezing when I try to download the bill to read it word for word? Is it possible that Ryan Seacrest has figured out a way to manage public opinion in a way that the House of Representatives can't handle? Call me crazy, call me naive, but can I get a townhall meeting or a forum? Or at least a robo-call from my Senator or Reps telling me why on earth I should support a plan that's going to raise my taxes as I sit here eating a turkey sandwich for dinner? Or an "I'm sorry note" from the Fed Reserve? Or a "thank you note" from my Reps for not rioting as millions of people begin losing their jobs? Kudos to you Congress for your persistence tonight in working on this plan. Now how about a little customer service?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back to the Future

So I'm back from my historic trip to the historic campus of University of Mississippi and the historic first presidential debate (Am I the only one that thinks the word historic has lost a little bit of meaning with its overuse this election season? Doesn't anyone own a thesaurus?). It felt like a trip down my grandmother's memory lane - fried food dripping with trans fat, confederate flags waving, and racism. And you know what? I loved it. It was kitschy, and comical, and slightly amusing. I was safe in my car filled with white liberals and wore my northern intellectualism and elitism with pride - because wisdom is the end of all fear, right? So knowing that left is right and the south is wrong made me feel confident as we sat outside watching the debate surrounded..and I mean surrounded...by hundreds of southern white folks applauding McCain with fervor and booing Obama. This just isn't real life I chuckled to myself.

But as I packed up my bag this morning and hopped on a plane back to the safe liberal world of progressive Washington D.C. I paused for a moment and remembered that wait...it actually is real life for the people that live there and that the black student groups I met with last week told me stories of reality so frightening that they closed their eyes and dreamed of an imaginary land, far far away, where there could be a black homecoming queen, and Obama signs didn't get torn down, and professors didn't treat them like they were stupid. Their fairytale land was my reality - and their reality was my nightmare. So I said a quick but heartfelt prayer for that land of the past, good old Mississippi, closed my eyes, and flew back to the future.