I knew I couldn’t totally drop politics; they’ve become too much a part of my life these days as I suspect they have for many others, black and white. It is so exciting being on the brink of a brand new day in our country and I have to write about it, to acknowledge, to celebrate, the huge step forward that we have finally taken. I have been so moved by the comments I have read in numerous articles regarding the feelings of black Americans about Barack Obama, his candidacy and the new hope for their future – the future for all of us really because this is a change that has finally come after well over a hundred years; even longer if you go back to the beginning of slavery in this country. And it is a change for the rest of us as well, a change we, too, can be proud of, excited about because we, too, have had a part in making this happen. I’m ready to celebrate that fact!
Bob Herbert of the New York Times spoke to a number of black people in Detroit, Michigan and as he says, it was finally time to pop the cork of that bottle of champagne that has been on ice for so long. It’s hard for many of them to talk about it without tears, an emotional rush. He says that again and again he heard from people the sense of joy and triumph that has helped to redeem at least some of the disappointments and grief of so many years of racial humiliation and oppression. The horrors of lynching and the fear blacks have felt with good cause for so many, many years. And what relief there has to be for those who are old enough to remember all too vividly the horror of those times. As one elderly woman told Mr. Herbert when he mentioned that the weather had cleared up, she told him, “God wouldn’t let it rain on a moment like this.”
These are the people that are beginning, at last, to talk about what this really means to those who for so long, couldn’t eat in the same restaurants as whites, work at the same jobs, had separate restrooms, sat at the back of the bus, were abused mentally, emotionally, physically; those who have memories of friends and families who were lynched or tortured for no other reason that the color of their skin.
These things affect me deeply because, as most of you who have read my posts recently know, I married a black man – not because I was trying to make a statement about anything, but because I loved him and I couldn’t then or now even imagine color as a reason to see anyone as different from myself. I will remember as long as I live the day a little boy on the playground whose father had pointed to my daughter as her Dad walked her to school one day and told him she was a “nigger”. Later that day he approached her on the playground and he asked if she knew that she was a “nigger”. She told me about it later, patting my hand and assuring me that, “It’s okay, he’s just ignorant, Mom”. She was seven years old.
I do have to say that was one of the very few such incidents, most people never thought about what color my kids were, primarily because we raised them in Montana – it was okay to be Black in Montana, just not Native American. Prejudice can happen to people anywhere and for many different reasons – all of which are invalid because we are first and foremost and only, human beings regardless of color, gender, nationality. We walk on two legs and put our pants on the same way.
Maybe, just maybe Obama’s being elected in this country is one giant step for all of us in recognizing, accepting, rejoicing and celebrating our differences instead of pointing to them as something undesirable or to be feared. I do so hope that is the message Obama’s success is sending to the people of this country and around the world.