Wednesday, August 27, 2008
things that haunt
i'm watching Hillary Clinton's speech at the DNC in Denver on the web-- its the MSNBC version. (just as I watched Michelle Obama's and Ted Kennedy's speeches yesterday morning.) and i just can't help but feel haunted-- and i'm saying this _really_, not just because i'm supposed to write about the presence of the past in this blog--i just can't help feeling haunted by the past. i've been thinking about the uncanny way this whole contest between Hillary and Obama echos and parallels the kinds of debates that framed the 19th century contest between white women and African American men, who were both seeking suffrage. but the video of speeches from the convention is also notable because the camerapeople keep, when they pan to the audience, featuring black delegates. which, ok, its happened before, but its so striking how frequently they choose to focus in on an African American during these pauses. which could have a million reasons-- look! even the black delegates are supporting hillary's speech!, for instance-- but it also just makes so visible the fact that: there really hasn't been this much MAINSTREAM attention and energy around African American participation in US electoral politics since Reconstruction. the 1870s --that is, in those few years before the brutal hand of white supremacy clamped down very hard again on African Americans in this country. sure, there was the years when JFK invited MLK to the white house, but that was quite different, i'd argue. Fannie Lou Hamer didn't just want access to the DNC-- she wanted it on HER OWN pretty freaking radical terms.
i'm not a fan of electoral politics, but i am a fan of reading pageantry for political and historical and cultural information. and this is pretty much a bonanza for that sort of thing. and messed up: its been 135 years since there's really been any strong mainstream attention paid to African American participation in US electoral politics.
in other news from the political conventions, the Denver police --who are patrolling the protests around the Pepsi center in downtown Denver-- AREN'T WEARING ANY IDENTIFICATION. which is pretty much illegal. and certainly a dangerous sign. (anyone who thinks the dems are going to change the direction that policing and surveillance is going in this country is a bit deluded, i'd say.)
and meanwhile, in Minneapolis, some video activists had their gear confiscated in a 2 am raid this week. under the guise of homeland security. because laptops and cameras are dangerous weapons. well, ok, they are-- but they're legal. oy.