I think Americans woke up.
White America viewed a candidate by the content of his character and not by the color of his skin. In so doing they made a choice that caused tears of healing, because fighting against the conditions imposed for hundreds of years suggesting that they think of themselves as superior and others inferior, was finally recognized as absurd. This breakthrough to simply judge someone for their personality and intellect is forgiveness for the absurdity of the past. Black America had to fight through their own neurosis as well. Being viewed as inferior for hundreds of years makes some feel inferior and causes them to do inferior things. Some fear too much joy, as it has been regularly and painfully stripped away. Other citizen minorities tried in the past to blend with the white majority and found their needs were given lip service in previous elections. They came to recognize, maybe to a lesser degree, that they were considered inferior also, just for the hue of their skin and the difference in their history.
So all facets of America had a breakthrough. OK, maybe the majority of America liked having their breakthrough, but those who did not vote for this change are having their moment too. This country must be inclusive to prosper and this evolutionary milestone supports their continued existence whether they like it or not.
To paraphrase Congressman John Lewis: ‘The Spirit of History seemed to track down and align with Barak Obama so that he could be used for the common good.”
We have seen that Spirit before in the speeches and manner of many from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King. I was raised to expect this day. My tears only come from missing my dearly departed parents hands on my shoulders saying, “See, I told you it would happen”.
What was it like to be in Grant Park on Election Night for me? In part, it felt like what the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004, meant to my Beloved Jim and his Red Sox Nation! It was Redemption for slavery stealing the lives of my Ancestors. It was the Glee of Christmas Morning and my Wedding Day. It was Pride for my Parents, in how they lived their lives and for assuring us we were smarter than the problems of racism in this country and that we only had to remember that we are Princes and Princesses in a land where our Birthright just had not been recognized, yet. Sounds grandiose to some, but when your race was considered sub-human, legally, oh not so long ago, many Black parents knew they had to provide their children with a heavy counter-balance to endure that weight of injustice.
When other members of my race say, ‘I never thought this day would come in my lifetime’, I recognize again how lucky I was to be raised by my parents. My perspective was cemented by a Father who was not born in this country and therefore never carried the burden of self-doubt that has been historically and painfully imposed as an invisible weight on the psyche of Black Americans. My Mother was fair-skinned and encountered less of that invisible weight, but remained painfully aware & appalled by its existence and its ghastly way of seeping in and out of her & her peoples lives.
My siblings and I were lucky. We know that our lives are our own and that we are ultimately citizens of the world and that we have every right to make ourselves comfortable in it. My Parents, David & Kris, taught us to keep our heads when those around us lost theirs and recognize that we were citizens in every way of this nation, even though we were regularly & randomly not welcomed. On November 4th 2008 my Family & my Race were recognized and we can now take a rest and put down the internal burden of responsibility to keep our minds protected against the external cancer of inferiority and invisibility. Barak Obama was judged by the content of his character first. That’s all every Black American has ever asked.
The great secret My Father told me was that we would elect a black person as president when the problems in our country were so great that race would not be the first thing voters looked at when considering a candidate. They would be forced to looked at the content of the candidate’s character.
In Jamaica there is no separate reference to White Jamaicans or Black Jamaicans, they are all referred to as Jamaicans. The country’s motto is, “Of Many One People”. Here in the US and in Jamaica there is a legacy of slavery, but clearly there is a distinct difference in how each country views its citizens. Jamaica has a host of other problems as a nation, but there is a lesson in how they relate to each other that America seems to now be gleaning. We forgot our own motto, “E Pluribus Unum”: Out of Many, One.
We are all related as friends, neighbors and cousins.
The election of Barak Obama, to the highest office in the world gave me the most exciting and freeing moment of my life for all the aforementioned reasons. I am humbled to bear witness to it and do so on behalf of all my Ancestors. I appreciate their contribution as Ambassadors of Goodwill toward making this country brave enough to do the right thing. We need one another. It is fantastic for that to be recognized!
Oona Jackson (daughter of JANC founder, David Jackson)