I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. Atlanta: the home of Coca-Cola, the best sweet tea in the world, and the middle of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. Folks tend to think of the south as racist and backward with poorly educated rednecks.
My mother had grown up in Atlanta too, went to a public school before desegregation and taught me not to judge someone by the color of their skin. She was staunchly anti-racist and slammed my father for his racism on a regular basis (my dad was from a tiny town in south Georgia and racism seemed to be a way of life in that little town.. things have greatly changed now).
I grew up and went to public elementary school in the seventies – not long after school desegregation, but long enough that I never knew what it was like to go to an all white school. My best friend was a girl named Bridget, a pretty black girl one month older than me. Bridget braided my waist length hair every day during PE and lamented that my hair was too soft to hold the braid.
I tell you this because I was moved to tears last night when Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States and the first black person to fill the office. My daughter will grow up in a world where race is no longer criteria for who gets to lead this country.
He won the presidency not because he’s black or because he’s a democrat. He won because he’s smart and because he has been able to connect with people – black, white, Hispanic, straight, gay, conservative and liberal in a way that made us all want to work hard to get this relatively unknown guy into office.
I never believed that Hillary Clinton would win. I have always thought that she was divisive and, at this time, we need unity, not division. Obama has been able to unite us in the same way that Bill Clinton was able to unite us.
I have ALWAYS believed that a black man would be president before a woman of any race. Why? Because of what happened to Hillary – the comments about her tone of voice or her fashion sense. We’re not quite ready to let go of the misogyny, but I really believed that we were ready to let go of the racism.
That’s what my mother taught me. That the colors of the rainbow had nothing to do with your intelligence or your potential in this world. She taught me that only I had the power to hold myself back.
Thank God that Barack Obama’s mother and grandparents taught him the same thing.