Tonight Barack Obama won the presidency. Come January 20, 2009 an African American will be the president of the United States of America. This is simply incredible.
My own origin story is not so remarkable or unique. And not to compare myself with our President-Elect but I, as much as he, do represent the American dream. Like millions of others.
My parents came to this country for a better life. They worked hard and put their children through school. They raised us to believe that we could be anything as long as we worked hard for it. And now here I am.
I grew up and, as is very likely the standard procedure, grew slightly more cynical. Despite being the realization of the American dream, despite believing that this country was at its base a meritocracy I never believed I’d see an African American president in my life (and I’m not that old). If you asked me a year ago I would’ve said the same thing. Even tonight, with the whole thing basically wrapped up before the polls even closed, I was nervous. Worried that underlying hate and prejudice would defeat Obama. But he won.
If you asked me a week ago I would’ve told you things looked good for the first black president. But I would’ve expressed my doubts about other types of presidents ever occurring during my lifetime: gay presidents, atheist presidents, physically handicapped presidents, even other minority presidents. Tonight I still have reservations, but now there is new hope.
This hope is just one of the things an Obama presidency represents. I still have doubts, buy now I also have hope.
You know, it’s funny because while I think I am highly cynical, I’ve always believed that a Black president in my lifetime was inevitable. Just as a woman president in my lifetime is inevitable. I still think a gay or non-Christian or atheist president won’t happen in my lifetime. I do think a Hispanic president and Asian president are inevitable in my lifetime. I look at governors like David Paterson and Bobby Jindal as a step towards that.
I think what Obama’s win for me means, more than anything, if this country can elect a Black president as one more step closer to healing the wound that race has carved into our society — which I feel is most sharply felt between the classic/cliche blacks vs whites — then other minorities would be easier to elect.
He’s not black. He’s mixed!!