Photo Dawn Henry
As Barack Obama prepared to relinquish the Presidency to the man who received the second-most votes in the November election, he warned in his January 10 farewell address, “We’re the losers now, so it behooves us to break out of that bubble more.”
“For too many of us,” he said, “it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles.” He cautioned against sequestering ourselves with those “who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”
This advice from a man, who had he not run up against Republican revenge against the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, would be sitting in the White House today beginning his third term. However, let’s look deeper at his advice.
Who is really in a bubble?
Those of us who live in the Woodward Corridor communities and ones to the east and west of the Motor City’s main street, exhibit the characteristics of a diverse, multi-cultural America.
Sorry for presenting a laundry list of all of us, but it needs to be said because the “we” in We the People are a group with many definitions. Women and men, white, black, brown, yellow, and red. Straight, and LGBT with more appended initials to encompass the whole range of sexuality. A vibrant youth culture alongside seniors. All co-existing in our cities which feature a surfeit of music of many styles, clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals, and theatres for all tastes in entertainment and food.
We live in communities where you can fly the American flag or a rainbow flag on your porch, or both, without ear. On Nine Mile Road, Affirmations, the community center for the LGBT community, feels safe enough there to provide a safe space for those who elsewhere would be under threat. And, those who aren’t, often are allies and are proud of having such a center in our area.
Is this a bubble we need to step out of or away from? Are we the ones who should be challenging our assumptions?
Hillary Clinton did not lose the election because we were too insular. She lost because of voter suppression, Russian interference, FBI malfeasance, decades-long demonization of her, and an Electoral College which performed the function it was established for—to assure the domination of the Southern states. And, I say this without being a supporter of Clinton. As it is, she garnered more votes than any candidate in the history of the nation.
Also, Democratic candidates received five million more votes for the U.S. House of Representatives than their opponents, but because of redistricting, the Republicans have a huge majority. This is not what democracy looks like.
Obama’s bubble admonition also doesn’t take into account that all of the myriad groups mentioned above (and I know I left some out) all vote for each other—whites vote for blacks in our bubble; blacks vote for whites; gays for straights, and the reverse. The only rock solid identity politics, with no variation, being practiced in America is that of white identify politics, which is the bedrock of the Republican Party. White people have voted in the majority for Republican presidential candidates since 1968. They viewed Barack Obama as the final triumph of who they consider The Other.
We do not have a concept of The Other. Everyone sits at our table together, each bringing something unique and delicious to our communal meal which is our lives and the communities in which we live.
The 2016 election was little about ObamaCare or even jobs. It essentially was a referendum on what would be the dominant social narrative, mostly, do black lives matter? The majority of whites voted, no. It’s like they’re living in late 1970’s Rhodesia, a white colonial nation based on dreams of an imagined greatness that never was.
But the majority of us by at least three million (which doesn’t count the millions purposely excluded from voting) understand that rather than our communities being a bubble, they are a reflection of this country and a model of the way it should be. The way to support our communities of diversity, solidarity, tolerance, and love is by example.
We saw that with the November 20, 1200-person, originally named Ferndale Trumps Hate march, in reaction to the Trump electoral victory. The event was renamed Ferndale Love and despite charges of that being too touchy-feely, it most accurately defined what our communities are all about.
And, the unbelievable January 21 Women’s March that saw almost four million women and men marching to defending the equality and rights that have been won over the last two generations.
We are not in a bubble; We Are The World as it should be!
Publishers Note: We are proud to welcome Peter Werbe to the Ferndale Friends editorial team. Werbe, a Detroit-area activist, has influenced many tens of thousands of people in our area as host, until recently, of WRIF’s long-running phone-in talk show, “Nightcall.” He is also an editor of the legendary publication, Fifth Estate (www.FifthEstate.org). Werbe represents a left/liberal view and so, for balance, we seek a columnist of a similar stature to represent the conservative viewpoint.