Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Frightening Possibility of the Future

There is SO much work we need to do in this world--to change it, to change people's attitudes, to bring people together. No, I'm not going to go on an adulatory tangent about Obama, but I do think a huge reason why people are so behind him in this country is because he represents a more hopeful and bright future. The alternative future, which is to me the more possible future ahead of us, is fraught with danger, violence, uncertainty and changes to the so-called 'American lifestyle' that may take us back to a more 'primitive' time of feudalism and tribalism.

I don't have time to get into a lot of the details of my analysis on the future, but suffice it to say that a conversation that I had at dinner last night with a friend of a friend, who asked me why, as an education advocate, I thought that Black male enrollment in college was going down, dismissed my answer about rising incarceration rates and institutionalized racism as 'a conspiracy' theory. It was a response I've come to expect from white men in particular. They ask you your opinion about something that you clearly know something about, and then when you bring race in you are dismissed as naive, ignorant, a 'victim' or conspiracy theorist.

The other thing that has triggered my fatalism today is this sympathetic article on vigilantism in crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oakland scares the shit out of me. It reminds me a lot of the late, great Octavia Butler's Parable series, for which she won the Macarthur Genius award. The future world that she created in those books scared the shit out of me and depressed me for days, because I could see that world--one of mayhem, uncontrollable violence, vigilantism, total privatization and therefore decimation of all social services, human slavery and intense suffering--becoming our reality in this country one day.

I'm working on a fiction story right now that ties in some of these themes--not in as brutal a world as Butler's, but in a world that is definitely more harsh than the one many Americans live in today.

And that's why I am voting for Obama, because I need hope for a better future than the one we're currently creating, and because many of the white people (and people of color who think racism is dead) who otherwise couldn't listen for five minutes to someone like me, will listen to an Obama and his more diluted, palatable and articulate analysis of race and what this country needs to do to 'transcend' it. We need that voice and vision of hope now more than ever.

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