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Smiling in my sleep

Posted on November 6, 2008 - Filed Under self reflect

I have been working so much since Tuesday that I haven’t had a moment to write all that I have been thinking, and “I be thinkin’ a lot!” I couldn’t stay up late to watch the end of the election, and regrettably, missed the Obama speech that so many have been talking about. I got as far as the strong predictions that Obama had it, and with that, I took to trusting the USA to tuck me in, safe and sound. The next morning I awoke to such a feeling of joy that I could hardly contain myself. I smiled at everyone, and in each face, I saw the same content that I was feeling.

I spent weeks feeling stressed about this election, and decided early on to vote absentee this year. Partially because I could sense such a divide even within my own community. Every other house had a McCain or Obama sign out front – like checker boards it was almost a predictable pattern. But also, the last election was wrought with people in line criticizing anyone who would admit they were voting for one or the other candidate. I was appalled, and uncomfortable at the stinging confrontations. Frankly, I wanted to make my choice in peace this year. As this election neared I heard rumors about riots. My father, on election day (as I took him to the airport) asked me if I saw any signs out in his neighborhood. “No,” I replied, “what gives?” “People are voting for Obama out of fear. There will be riots if McCain wins…” and there was more to that, but I must have bleeped it out.

This country DID NOT vote for Obama out of fear. AND, let me add, that it wasn’t just the “Black” vote that got him into office. But I digress.

I had an appointment with Dr. McKinney on Wednesday (about some amazing job opportunities!) and as we greeted each other, the grin on my face was blaring. “I am so ecstatic about the results of this election and what it means for this country!” Dr. McKinney shared some of his experiences talking among black Americans. What he said affirmed for me something that I could feel with Obama’s success, something I hadn’t put my finger on quite right, but knew on a deep level.

First, however, I must briefly explain that I have carried, since my earliest lessons in elementary school, an awareness of slavery and the travesty of this nation with people of any color but white; I have carried a deep sense of shame. Shame that as a nation we continue to walk on the esteem and opportunity of the less privileged, and ignored the implications and deep wounds it has created. Within our words we have the power to create truths that without words, may never have existed. Although I don’t categorize myself as “white” (I once wrote an essay about being born into a bi-racial family- with some jarring response from family) I have understood that I clearly have more privilege than others, simply by the nature of the language used to describe others that were not “me”. But what I have hated, for so long, is that there was nothing I could foresee to make amends for the past, or ease the shame I felt, because despite the changes in rights over the years, there has always been the underlying knowledge that “they” could not get to the places that “we” are privileged to have. All this was wrapped up in a past that I had no control over, and a level of disgust that humanity could be so ignorant and cruel AND continue to make the same mistakes. AND THEN, there is the face of Obama, whose style and demeanor express empathy and strength, and the message that it isn’t about color, but about integrity and aspiring to be all that you can. A man whose words and warmth exude a level of healing for this nation like none other I have known.

Getting back to Dr. McKinney and what he shared with me. As my excitement spilled out over the table, Dr. McKinney stated that when he hears people of color bring up the abuses of the past, and those historic events that often become part of that “shame” I wrote of earlier, he reminds them that with every lynching, there has also been a white man lynched for supporting black Americans. For every slave murdered for running, there were white men and women who risked their lives to pave the road to their escape. For every man who fought for slavery there were white men who fought for freedom. At every rally with Martin Luther King, Jr, there were white men and women who stood in support AND cried over his death. AND this election, again, was the collaborative effort of every race who understood the deeper purpose in the words of Obama, including “white” Americans. Within that conversation, and the pulsating energy of knowing that only a few months from now we would start a new journey with a new president, the energy of shame turned to pride. I imagined all the faces of the children (image from news.yahoo.com) I have taught and imagined what it would mean to them NOW to know that you don’t need to come from some white upper-class multi-generational club to be PRESIDENT of the biggest melting pot in the world. Granted, there is still so much work to do, but I am so proud of America for the choice they have made. I let my college classes know, despite who they voted for, how proud I was to see students taking time to make a choice. UCF students stood in line for over 4 hours to cast their vote, and I don’t remember a time in all my voting days, that people have mobbed the polling booths to make their choice known. In fact, I don’t remember any time where the WORLD celebrated a choice for president as it has in the last 48 hours after this election. THAT says something profound about our place and what Obama represents outside of the USA.

I don’t think this election was based on color, but it inevitably becomes a big part of our history. I think this race was won because of the quality person we have seen over the last year, truly recognizing that quality and ability is not based in the color of your skin. I have so much faith in Obama, and am so eager to start a new year under his care! As my sister so wisely stated in her blog, ” Mr. Obama, you are the hero of my generation,” and I must tag on to that, the hero to future generations as well! Go Obama!
(I’ve taken to praying a bit more to ensure he rides out his presidency safely! Obama – I wish you a blessed, blessed presidency!)

Comments

2 Responses to “Smiling in my sleep”

  1. Mamita Ruby on November 7th, 2008 1:49 pm

    I know and share the same joy and blessings for our new President. Hurray! I am still riding the wave of hope he inspired in all of those who believe there is hope.
    Mr. Rush Limbough has already started his hateful and divisive jargon which is what his disappointed and naive listeners feed on. This is a man who calls himself “Conservative” What would Jesus say to his followers in these moments of hardship the whole world is going through?
    It sounds to me that when it comes to MONEY, it is so easy to forget the basic, moral principle of humanity, COMPASSION.
    It is time for union and healing.
    Politicians are never happy with what is, so let’s change it.
    Excellent writing.
    Mami

  2. Catherine on November 7th, 2008 11:35 pm

    It’s so reassuring to hear the words of hope, unity and the sound of people saying that they want to change in our country. I was especially proud and touched to hear Mr. Obama say that “even if you didn’t vote for me, I will be your president, too.”

    Being included in Mr. Obama’s message was thrilling to me. He mentioned every kind of citizen of this country, and that says a lot about the man. He was measured and calm, somber yet hopeful. “Yes We Can.” And I do think we will!

    I love your writing. I love your photography because it is so personally you. Your view is unique and the quality of your work speaks volumes.

    Thank you for sharing this blog. I’m eager to hear more about what happens in your life…and I’m so happy that you have such enriching opportunities before you!

    Catherine

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