As I sat in front of my television last night and rejoiced in the Iowa caucus victory of Barack Obama, I had a sudden nightmare vision. I flashed back to October of 1995 when crowds of African Americans were shown celebrating the acquittal of OJ Simpson on murder charges. I then pictured white Americans watching African Americans rejoice in Obama’s victory and I wondered, will they draw a parallel, however ill conceived it might be?
The black community, at least partially, rejoiced in OJ’s acquittal because it symbolized that a black man could get away with murder if he had enough money, just as so many whites before him had done. Still, the image of cheering crowds of blacks (not to mention the verdict itself) must have created a real credibility problem for white folks. “Could black people really be that crazy to be happy that OJ got off?”
My fear is that these same white folks might see blacks rejoicing Barack’s victory and have their own flashback. On some unconscious level will whites eventually reject Obama because they can’t tell the difference between the positive enthusiasm Obama generates in the black community vs the crazy enthusiasm generated by the OJ debacle?
Perhaps the Iowa win is evidence that Barack truly has transcended race. Perhaps now, when white folks see black folks excited about Barack, they’ll say “yeah, I understand and I like him too.” Maybe Obama’s message of unity will win the day. We can only hope.