Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day

matt + i are definitely in the minority in our neighborhood. we are white, and many of the people who live on our street and in our zip code, are not. so when little m and i went down to vote at our polling place a few blocks away today, it felt like a powerful day in my life, and in the life of my daughter. i say this because whether you are for or against barack obama, this is an amazing moment in history: a non-white male is going to be president. (at first as i wrote that sentence i wrote "may become president" but while writing this obama has gotten enough electoral votes.) and as m and i entered the polling place, every single person - voters and volunteers- was another ethnicity besides white.

i have always been a relatively privileged person. 
i live in the u.s.
i am white. 
i've had a good education. 
i've lived in safe neighborhoods.
i was brought up in a loving, two parent family.
i've graduated from a 4 year university and from graduate school. 
i've traveled to almost every state, all over europe and to west africa multiple times. 
i am privileged, and i have grown up with leaders in power who look, if not like me, like my male relatives.

if you are white, it is much easier to say that race doesn't matter, or that racism is no longer an issue in our country.  i remember a few months ago when i was telling a friend of mine that it was really hard for me when other new moms + dads made off handed remarks about how sensitive their baby was to noise, or how shhh we needed to be quiet or how they loved being sung to, etc. my friend said, "i'm sorry if i ever do that, it's just that it doesn't even register that i'm being insensitive. i never even think of little m as being deaf. i just think of her as little m." it was funny to me what different perspectives we had: yes, little m is just little m, but since she is deaf i am also very aware of every sound or noise related comment that people make. suddenly i have a heightened awareness of that issue and it is very personal to me, when if m wasn't deaf it probably would never cross my mind. that conversation made me think about how when you are white, or in some other way privileged (class, etc), that it is easy to not even think about issues of ethnicity, racism, classism and so forth, because it is not on your radar. you don't think it's a big deal because you don't have to contend with it.

anyway, this might not even be making much sense, but what i am getting at is this: no matter where you are on the political spectrum, i think it is amazing that we will have a black president in office. i'm not saying that a black president will solve deeply ingrained issues of race in this country. obama is not some magic pill. and honestly, i don't believe that any political party or politician can provide lasting change and hope for our country.

but, i have to believe that in this there is great power: for the first time, countless african-american children will get to see a president that looks a lot like them, millions of older americans who fought and struggled for civil rights will see a sliver of their dream realized, and this country, our history littered with racial injustices, broke with the past and voted for a black man. 

i am excited that my daughter got to go to the polls with me today on this incredibly historic moment.


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