Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Tears to Remember – A reflection on election night 2008
I gasped when CNN at 8 p.m., after closing off voting booths in California, on election night of 2008, announced Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Everything happened so quickly, I definitely was not expecting such an easy victory. I was numb and it took me some time to realize the magnitude of what had just happened. I will admit, that back in January and up until Hillary was beaten by Obama I was thinking that Obama should step aside and make the path easier for Hillary. For which my son refuted me and tried to educate me on the virtues of Obama, and his run for the presidency. Now I realize how wrong I was…
On Tuesday November 4th we gathered as a family to watch the results of the presidential election on TV. The atmosphere was very intense. My daughter’s phone was receiving ongoing text messages from her friends, first anticipating then congratulating Obama’s win in blue states. My son Erik, the youngest in the family, was hired in Ohio for the campaign efforts. His participation in electing Obama as President, made us feel that we were part of the process and the continuous buzz coming from my daughter’s cell phone summed up the excitement that consumed the family that night. Between the phone calls and making sense of watching the numbers appearing on the screen, my mind wandered to an incident that occurred 30 years ago.
It is the summer of 1978. We are visiting New York City. I am at a shoe store on 5th Ave trying shoes. There is a row of chairs, and my daughter – age four – is sitting on a chair, next to a black girl, same age, whose mother is trying shoes as well. The black girl has a Barbie doll in her hand and wants to make friends with my daughter; but my daughter not knowing how to speak English, cannot communicate with her and she's just staring at her without making an effort to respond to the little girl’s friendly approach. Finally, the girl turns back to me and earnestly asks me, “She don’t wanna play with me, because I am black?” My heart sinks…
I’m thinking how paramount must have the race tensions been with blacks and whites thirty years ago that a 4-year-old, in her little mind, would associate my daughter’s none responsiveness to the color of her skin. The little girl with Her minuscule braids, secured with colorful barrettes, that was in fashion in those days, didn’t know how fortunate she was to have been born in a different era than her mother. Although it was 15 years after the segregation, the little girl’s consciousness, at a young age was still tarnished with the harsh reality of racism in America. Today, 44 years passed the segregation we have chosen a black President.
Yes, Obama, as he mentioned in his post Iowa victory speech emerged from obscurity by standing on the shoulders of his ancestors, and was greeted at Chicago’s Grant Park by an estimated 200,000 followers who stood shoulder to shoulder to listen to his presidential victory speech. He had the audacity of planting the seeds of hope. Watching the sea of crowd waving their little flags and welcoming the new President elect was nothing short of awe inspiring. Of all the wonderful images from the victory rally, which will always stay with me, two moved me the most. One was when the camera caught Rev. Jesse Jackson with tears welling down his face and then seeing Oprah crying by leaning on a friend’s shoulder.
I'd like to finish this vignette by excerpts from a poem by Mattie Stepanek who in his young life learned that in any difficult situation, there is light and hope and if we integrate life’s lessons, we can build a good future for the whole world.