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Post Obama's March on Washington Speech
By Paisley Hibou
As I prepare to hit Interstate 95 for Labor Day weekend festivities, the best I can hope for is a '90s alternative rock marathon playing on the radio. No matter what driving strategy I employ—leaving in the middle of the night or taking a local route for part of the journey—I will inevitably face some amount of time in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The road to Washington is a long one. If I don't have grunge rock stars bobbing in my head like sugarplum fairies, I'll pull a Kurt Cobaine.
I don't mean that literally, of course. I just get so angry when the roads are congested and only the likes of No Doubt can save me from tumbling into the throes of insanity. Maybe because I have this fantasy that I'm actually caught in a '90s teen drama like “My So-Called Life” or “Freaks and Geeks.” I would undoubtedly be a struggling goody-goody like Angela Chase. I'm so frustrated! I want to be bad so badly! Why can't I do something truly horrific to all the other cars on the road! I want to make the 6 o'clock news for the world's worst road rage!
That is the kind of perverse, narcissistic internal dialogue that takes over after a long week at the office (#firstworldproblems). There are other drivers who have a much more valid reason to feel angry when they hit the road this weekend. They are the ones leaving D.C. They are the ones who came for the March on Washington and heard President Obama's speech, mainly for the chance to be disappointed.
I don't think any reasonable person expected that having a black U.S. president would bring us racial and socio-economic Utopia on a silver platter and money raining from the sky (plus unicorns, always unicorns.) Of course Obama has faced too many challenges for any president to fully address in one or even two terms. You can't just erase the ugly effects of slavery and Jim Crow because you really, really want to. Otherwise the unemployment rate would be zero and college would be free for everyone. Plus, yeah, unicorns—we'd all have them because who doesn't want one of those?
A lot of progress has been made in the past fifty years because of MLK, Jr. and crew, but that men's club I wrote about on Monday still employs an all-black waitstaff. I had another company breakfast there this very morning. My server was a black woman who mumbled when she spoke and did not make eye contact. She was probably embarrassed to be serving an elaborate breakfast to a huge table of overly educated, rich-as-far-as-she-was-concerned group of white/white-passing people.
Obama's speech fell flat and, in the words of a Government Executive article, “missed opportunities.” One such opportunity was going into more depth about minorities such as the one who cleared my plate this morning. The GE article summed up the speech and the event perfectly:
The formulaic “we've-come-so-far-but-have-so-far-to-go”structure of Obama's speech is evident from this excerpt alone:
I wanted Obama to go into more specifics about how far we have to go and what America needs to do to go that distance. I wanted Trayvon Martin to get at least the tiniest mention. I wanted to feel inspired with a call to action. I wanted something like this list from Baltimore Racial Justice Action, though said more eloquently. Hell, LadylikeinDC's “Top Ten Tips for Surviving a Road Trip” inspired me more this week than Obama's speech did. Now I feel like driving to Nashville or Austin to feel the wind in my hair and the weight of gas station food in my gut.
Instead I have to go face all those disillusioned March on Washington pilgrims on the road. Wish me luck.