Newsflash: Obama is poised to be the first (half) African-American president of the United States of America. He’s Black! Yay! (Are we allowed to celebrate that fact yet?)
I recently attended Essence Magazine’s Woman Who Are Shaping the World Leadership Summit—an event attended nearly exclusively by African-Americans. And in this company, we as a group enjoyed what I like to call “first Black president glee”... and we enjoyed it with pride and vigor.
But conversely, I’ve found that in mixed race or predominantly White company (where I usually dwell), I feel an urgency to either dampen or gloss over said excitement. To subtly sneak it in between praise of Obama’s healthcare and tax plans. Perhaps I assume that mentioning my joy, as a single-standing issue, will prompt eye-rolls. Anger. Or worse, fear. And, judging from comments made by McCain supporter Leah Moreland on NPR’s October 24th episode of All Things Considered, perhaps I’m right.
But maybe not. Because just this weekend, I’ve read numerous stories from major news outlets discussing the historic nature of Obama’s presidential bid as it pertains to race. One piece in particular really got me: the Washington Post profiled 3 African-American voters, all of whom are over 90 years old. Here’s a clip from the article:
About a month ago, when Meals on Wheels brought Greene his meal, they also dropped off an absentee ballot. Greene remembers growing up in Jim Crow Virginia, looking for restaurants that didn't display "white only" signs in Rosslyn or Baileys Crossroads, or being forced to ride in the back of the trolleys between Arlington and the District.
"I never thought it would happen in my lifetime," he said of Obama's campaign. "I think if I can see this and if it happens, I'll thank my lucky stars and my God for letting me live so long to be able to see the advancements of my people."
Greene spent most of his life working as an exterminator, traveling to large houses in the white, affluent Virginia suburbs such as Vienna and Falls Church. At times, some of the homeowners wouldn't allow him inside.
"I was trying to make a living the best I knew how," he recalled.
(P.S. That's not Arthur Greene pictured above. That's Ruth Worthy, 91, who has been canvassing for Obama once or twice a week in Washington, D.C.)
I know I support Obama for the whole package and not just the packaging. But, for better or worse, the packaging still makes a difference in this country. And these testimonies… wow. They hit me on such a deep level. A level no economic policy speech can reach.
And I know I’m not alone in this. Black people feel the pride, but I’m guessing people of other races do too. So let’s all try just being OPEN with our “first Black president glee”. We can all embrace it, because we all made it happen (or, will soon make it happen). Together.