Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama

On Tuesday January 20, 2009. I will join millions of Americans to watch the first black man become President of the United States.

I grew up in a small southern town where race was, and probably continues to be, an issue. Many of the African American kids I went to school with had it tough. Some of them were angry. Rightfully so. At the time, it was hard for me to understand why everyone didn't get along. Racial segregation seemed like an old song to me, like something from the 60's played on the oldies station. I knew what it was, but it happened then, in the past. Wasn't it over? But still I witnessed the scorn on the faces of the older folks, heard the slurs mumbled at the grocery store. The overt displays of racism might have been gone by then, but the practice was still there. Whether I wanted to believe it or not.

Later, in my early twenties, my husband and I traveled to South Africa. As we rode along the highways taking in the beautiful countryside, shanty villages would peek through the rolling hills. We were shocked at the contrast between the first and third world and how clearly it was divided between the races. We spent some time in Johannesburg and visited the outskirts of Soweto. We read the words of Mandela, listened to songs about Biko, talked to people of both races about the experience. The end of Apartheid was still so new. The trip had a profound influence on me and I think that was the first time I began to understand the American racial situation more clearly. Witnessing South African history unfold, I was able to finally make a connection to our not so distant past.

Now, as I watch Obama take stage I feel such a sense of optimism about how far we have come in what is truly such a short period of time. I am proud of my country and excited about the historic presidency that my children can claim as their own, of their lifetime. Maybe racism will finally become the antiquated concept that I had imagined it to be as a young girl.

Let's get on with it.

2 comments:

Stacy said...

Great post.

I think my first time realizing racism wasn't just a fringe thing limited to the KKK and rednecks was when my mostly white high school had a riot that was caused by some racial tension.

Laura said...

Well written. Time for unselfish love to be the topic of the day. Its way past time...