Wednesday, November 5, 2008

True Colors ...

So ...
I wrote this on my FaceBook page last night:

Okay ... I KNOW it's not all about race. I also understand that it is not all like "pie-in-the-sky, racism is dead, the dream has been completely realized." There is still a LOT of work to do ... a lot of inequality ... a lot of hatred and misunderstanding ... but just a little perspective ...

By the time I was 13 years old I had been called the "n-word" more times than I could count. It was written on the walls of every bus ... on the benches of every subway station ...

"N's Suck" ... "N's Go Home" ... "Kill all N's"

We had stones thrown at our school bus because we were black. We were chased out of Hyde Park by a mob of baseball bat weilding kids because we were black ... and we had it ten times easier than the generation that came before us ...

And now my son, who is 13 years old tells me he has NEVER heard that ugly epithet hurled NOT ONCE.

My 6 year old doesn't have black friends or white friends or hispanic or asian friends ... just friends. And now we have elected the first African-American President ... a Good Man, a Strong Man who happens to be a Black Man ... My hope for a better day has never been more VIBRANT!

"Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?"

Most of my friends responded well to it -- they shared or at least acknowledged the utter elation I was feeling when I heard that Barack Obama had won. But a couple of friends railed at me ... impugned my faith and my patriotism. It was ugly beyond belief. And these were not mere "virtual" friends ... these are people I really knew (or thought I did) and spent time with ... their kids and my kids were friends. We attended the same church and called each other brother and sister.

What I said had nothing to do with politics and religion and they made it completely about that. It saddened me ... very nearly disheartened me ... I love thes people and they completely misunderstood what I said. They really "kicked me to the curb" as we used to say back in the day. A man of color was elected and "true colors" were shown.

I guess for a brighter day to ensue a sad sunset has to come to pass ... and this was a bitterly sad one.

3 comments:

VallyP said...

A very powerful post, Van. I lived in South Africa for 20 years, and well remember the elation and true camraderie between all races on the day we held hands and elected Nelson Mandela as president.

But after the elation came the sour notes, much like those you experienced.

What shines through your post is that you say Barack Obama is s good man and a strong man who happens to be black. It is a landmark event in US history that a country that fought a war over the enslavement of people of colour, should now be electing one as president. I think it is fantastic and incredibly inspiring, just as I found Mandela's election inspiring all those years ago. Don't listen to the railings of those sceptics who kicked you to the curb.

If Obama has only a fraction of Mandela's stature, he will be a president to value and follow. I think he has. I hope he has!

He will need all his strength and dignity in the coming months as it will not be easy for him.

~VanO~ said...

Thank you, Val, for the encouragement and the perspective. Small-minded, mean-spirited people are hard enough to take ... but when they are (or you thought they were) your friends ... it's just disappointing.

President Obama has an almost impossibly tough row to hoe ... but I believe in him and in the spirit of America that was crushed but not destroyed by the last eight years of -- well, you know what.

VallyP said...

Oh yes, Van, I think the whole world was crushed by those eight years! I share your hopes...and also your sadness over your friends. They will see......