Wednesday, November 5, 2008

There was dancing in the streets!

Well, I'm still trying to take it all in... last night was tense, stomach wrenching, nerve fraying, then cautious optimism, then afraid-to-say-it-out-loud possibility, then we've-won-this-for-sure giddiness, then out-and-out rock the house HE WON!!! OBAMA IS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!!!!!
We were in the lobby of the W hotel downtown, amidst hundreds of revelers. We watched and listened as Obama gave his acceptance speech. I cried... sobbed more like it. You see, I was born and raised in Georgia. My family consisted of your stereotypical racist bigots you find in that area. However, my mother's folks, in Alabama, were kind and just, even though they were prejudiced, I would not call then racist. I guess it's a finesse of degrees, but in the South, that counts for a lot. My mother's mother never said the "n" word, unlike my father's family... I can't even tell you how bad they were. But my father did not want us to grow up like that, and for all the faults I can list for him, he did believe in civil rights and he was not at all racist. Neither was my mom.

My father marched in the civil rights marches in Alabama in the 50's. He gave sermons condemning the white Citizen's Council and the KKK. Both my parents had black friends, and encouraged us to make friends of all colors. all these things did not win them popularity contests amng other white southerners. My dad was marched out of his church and out of town at gun point for those sermons. He lost another church job for teaching a Sunday School class on world religions. Apparently my own life was threatened for befriending the lone back girl in my class, because her parents and mine decided that we could not spend time over at each other's homes any more. When I protested through tears and tantrums, my dad said I would understand the seriousness of what was happening when I got older. Her parents and mind understood that we were in danger because of the KKK in the area. They did what they had to do to protect us. Other things I remember is that we had a brick thrown through our window with some kind of note (they never let us kids know what it said) after my mom and dad helped a black family who had a car accident in front of our house by bringing them inside and taking care of the kids while taking the dad to the hospital. Later, we moved from a Florida town suddenly when I was 14 because my dad have something to do with exposing the Sheriff as a leader in the KKK. To his death he would not tell me what exactly happened.
My mother was a public school teacher. She did not protest or cause big waves. Her work was much more personal and quiet. She spent her own money to buy glasses, shoes, clothes, even medicine for the very poor kids who were in her classes, the majority of them happened to be African American, as the black communities sometimes are very, very marginalized in the South. She attended funerals, weddings and baptisms of her black students, former students and fellow teachers. In the South, this can be looked down upon, because church congregations tend to be very separate, and also it involves venturing into the "black side of town" which most whites wouldn't do.
So, my parents, while not "liberals" as we tend to think of it, were not racist and proudly struggled to make sure my brother and I, despite growing up in the midst of it all, would not turn out to be racist either.
So last night I cried for them. They died 5 years ago, and did not get to see Obama elected as the 44th President of the USA. They would have worked for him, would have voted for him, and would have been thrilled that after all they did for their whole lives, that we as a nation have finally come to this point in history. And what's more, my cousins, brother and sister-in-law all worked for Obama. We are not proud about who our ancestors are, and the bad things they may have done in the past, but today we can be proud to say that our family has come a long way in two generations.
I wish so much that they could be here to witness and be a part of this. I cried because I miss them and I thank them for making me who I am today... working for hope, justice and progress. For this moment when I can truly say I am proud of my countrymen and women. So, Mom and Dad, I raise a glass in your honor!

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