So…I’ve had a few weeks to let it marinate (no pun intended). We’ve elected the 1st black man to serve as the leader of the free world. I’ve thought a lot about what this means in terms of racial and social progress in this country. I’ve thought a lot about what this may mean for the direction of the country.
First off, I want to tell those America homers to shush. Honestly. Enough with the “only in America” remarks. I will admit that America is one of the most progressive and open-minded nations, but it isn’t as though we’ve somehow treaded new ground just because we elected a black man to serve as president. India elected a female Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) over 40 years ago (and she served four terms). In 2006, Evo Morales was the first person of indigenous descent in Bolivia to be elected president. And what about Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia? She is the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa. I’m sure there are many other stories of people who’ve conquered longstanding oppression to ascent to heights once thought unreachable, but the ones I mentioned are ones that stick out in my mind.
So…my point is, while it is a magnanimous and historical feat that we achieved two weeks ago, it is by no means unprecedented. With that being said, none of the luster or historical perspective should be diminished from what occurred a fortnight ago. America banded together and decided that it was time to free themselves from the shackles of ignorance that our minds have so long been enslaved in.
This has be to an extremely bittersweet and emotional moment for black people all over this country. It especially has to feel surreal to those who lived and were raised in the civil rights era; for those that were belittled and neglected solely based on the color of their skin. There is absolutely no way that I can empathize with those that suffered through the racially motivated societal atrocities of the 50’s and 60’s. But…I can sympathize with them.
I’m not taking anything away from the black youth, but they can’t possibly know how bad it was. They have an idea, but they haven’t lived through it like their parents and grandparents have. In some ways, it is a testament to our progress as a society. Many of the black youth have grown up in a more progressive and accepting society, so they cannot completely identify with the struggles their predecessors faced. But, when I saw images of the elder members of the black community break down after the election, it touched me. I cannot even begin to imagine the despicable hatred they faced on a daily basis. For them, November 4th had to be an emotionally overwhelming day. Imagine the emotional (and physical) scars they carry with them. Many of their demons were exorcised on November 4.
Will the results of this past election accelerate understanding and eradicate ignorance in our country? I don’t think so. True progress takes time – and can only be achieved gradually. Are we getting closer? Yes. Will we ever get there? I don’t know…and…it may not matter. Eradicating hatred and ignorance is a nearly impossible task, but if we can get to a point where we can minimize the amount of people who are prevented from optimizing their capabilities because of their ethnicity and/or background, then that would prove sufficient. Are we there yet? No. Are we getting closer? Definitely.
I will say with though, that even with all the racial progress we’ve made in this country, there seemed to be a slight chasm between some white folks and black folks. Some black voters looked at this as an opportunity to “stick it to the man” – as a form of reparation for all that had been done wrong to them. I’m sure there were more than a few white voters who viewed this election as an opportunity to vote forgiveness for their “white guilt”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all voters were motivated in this way, just a discernible amount. We do not live in a perfect world where everyone does everything the right way. Everyone has their own bias, motivations, and personal preferences – even if they aren’t always rational.
As a minority, I am proud to see another member of a minority reach the pinnacle of their career. It has further jarred the door open for the rest of us minorities.
I don’t think anyone can really put this into perspective just yet. In time, we will be able to better understand how far we’ve come in such a short time.