I have already had a conversation this morning with someone who thinks that it is bordering on racism for me to be happy for African Americans. "Be careful," I was told, "you don't want to say 'them.' "
But there is a part of me that finds it insulting to only say this is a happy day for all Americans, no matter the color. Yes, that's how America should be, but it isn't. It isn't yet, not even today it isn't.
There was yesterday, and now there is today. And I think, after everything that African Americans have struggled for in this country, that there is a great validation for their struggle. For the love of Mike, the Voting Rights Act has been in effect for only 43 years! That the Voting Rights Act had to happen is the tip of the iceberg of the struggle. Discriminatory voting practices were waged primarily against African Americans--and we're talking about murder! Legal means were needed to stop it, of course, and this was long AFTER being recognized as having the right to vote. We are talking about PEOPLE, here! One group of people with a certain skin color wanted another group of people with a different skin color to be intimidated out of voting, so they decided to murder voting activists. And far worse than that was happening for years and years. It still is happening somewhere, I'm certain.
There are people in this country who voted yesterday, who were alive before automobiles were a standard household item. Before television. Before consumer air travel. Before women were empowered with an acknowledgment of their right to vote. Before someone walked on the moon. Before space shuttles, cable tv, and the Internet. Those people have seen this country change like nobody else.
It is about time that this country has a person as president who represents the diversity of America. But I think it is insulting to the struggle of African Americans to ignore the fact that this president is representative of their cultural community. He represents them. I said it. Them.
Having said that, I know it is also true that this represents a barrier broken for all people of color. But where do the barriers stop? When will the journey toward complete representation end? This is the other side of my sentimental coin: when will there be a woman? A Native American? A homosexual? An Asian American? That is not necessarily what we are about, is it? Is it? Are we about representation of all different groups one by one? Where does the grouping end?
It is a journey. America is a very young nation. I think now that America can finally start moving in a direction of equality for all people. I think that's what this represents, and why I am so overjoyed that I'm crying. I cried last night, watching the people in Chicago react to the news. I cried listening to the speeches. I cried on the way to work today, thinking how different things can be, now. I cried thinking that children of color in America can finally, truly believe it when they are told by their parents, "You can be anything you want to be."
There was a yesterday, and now there is a today.