Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This race

Last night, as the poll results were coming in, my friend Chad and I were talking about the election of Barack Obama as our president. We were discussing how awesome it is that Obama pulled in Ohio. How resoundingly he took Pennsylvania. How his campaign inspired young people to actually get out and VOTE this year. We were talking about the organization of his campaign, their ground game, the passion voters felt about Obama and this election.

Then, someone on TV brought up the historical significance of him being the first African American President of the United States.

Chad and I slapped our foreheads. That's right! He's black! Through all our conversations, we hadn't even touched on this historical moment.

"That is SO generational" said my dad, after I recounted to him this conversation. "You have no memory of white only restaurants and the segregation of this country. That's a good thing, but it changes your perspective." He recounted stories of white only restaurants, and the white people who left when their black friends were told to leave.

Stories like these are all too common in our culture. So common, in fact, that for someone like me - a privileged, white American who was born in 1979, a story is what it has been relegated to. I am ashamed that this fact didn't strike me sooner in the evening. Goodness, I consider myself to be progressive, to embrace diversity and instill that in my child!

My dad is right - it is great that so many of my generation did not see race in this election. It is wonderful that we have no memory of the segregation that was so prevalent in our society for so long.


In this moment of victory, as we wash off the last, awful, 8 years, let us not forget the work is not over yet, and the history that was made as we elected President Obama.


Strangeite said...

I actually think it is a step in the right direction when a candidates race "slips" the mind of a generation. We don't necessarily want to live in a world that is colorblind, but one where color is simply irrelevant.

On the youth vote. One of the remarkable things about Obama's election is that the youth vote (18 to 29) did NOT turn out in huge numbers. In fact it was right at 18% which is where it was in 2000 and 2004.

Claire said...

I know, Marc and I were talking about the same thing last night while watching the victory speech. The executive director at the school I taught at in DC is African American in her 60's and grew up in The South. She is still bitter about events that have happened to her in her earlier life, how could she not? I learned a lot from her in terms of getting to know HER perspective. Our generation hears stories of the awful injustice that has happened (and still IS happening, just not as much), and I feel as though it has tainted the significance of this election for people like us. I feel like people like my employer in DC have helped me gain that perspective, but I know I will never TRULY get it.

But I'm fine with that. I'm just proud of our country for electing this wonderful, wonderful man.

Rae said...

Once again, I think having children gives a whole new perspective on this, for me.
My kids watched this election for nearly 2 years; they lived it, they breathed it, right along with their political-junkie parents.
I hope they absorbed it, and realized the dream that can be accomplished by anyone.
I've said it before, but to them, the idea of segregation is ancient history, like the slaves, or the signing of the constitution, or the building of Rome. They have no concept of this past. But we remind them. We remind them of just how recently our country allowed (and yes, still does, to some extent) those atrocities.
And race was much LESS a part of this race than it could have been. It truly was the "content of his character" that won this election, not the color of his skin. And no matter how many more steps we MUST make to move forward in this nation (and world), we just took one big one. And it feels pretty damn good.

Modernicon said...

I was listening to the post election fodder on NPR and kept wondering why they were talking about the "historic" quality of the election.

"Wait" I thought, are they talking about his race? It seemed incredulous for me for a moment that someone would talk about it. I Called J. and told her and she gave me a bit of a reality check. "Um- it;s historic because he's..."

"Oh, right" I slapped my head. I too had completely forgotten that not only was the candidate an African American, but that he was the first African American president

(That is the first black president to acknowledge his black ancestry, unlike Coolidge and Harding)

My last thought is, is it because I am white and privileged that this falls under the radar or because I believe it truly shouldn't matter, even when it does?