As time marches on and we get closer to President-elect Trump becoming President Trump (never thought I’d be saying that), I’ve been reflecting on the past 8 years since Obama’s election.
You know, I was full of hope. Hope that racism was dying in this country. Hope that the first black president would bring our country together and do good for ALL Americans.
But I was let down. Maybe a little by Obama — although I still love him. But more by Congress and my fellow Americans.
So many of us thought that with the election of a black man (technically a bi-racial man since his mom was white) that we would see peace. That we would see progress in race relations.
But I think we all know what happened.
First Mitch McConnell said he wasn’t going to work with Obama, saying it was his job to make him a one term president. Excuse me Mr McConnell, but I’m pretty sure the nice people of the beautiful state of Kentucky elected you to represent them and their interests. Not to keep the new president from doing his job. I personally smelled racism.
Then Treyvon Martin happened. And Michael Brown. And Eric Garner. And so on.
Racism, it seems, is alive and well in America.
Here’s my theory.
Racism, many of us began to think with the election of Obama, might not be alive and well. Maybe it’s actually on the way out here in America.
But it wasn’t. It was bubbling below the surface. A warm simmer, just waiting to boil over.
Obama’s election brought racism back to the surface. It boiled over, burning us as it touched so many lives. It was back in our face — every day.
And you know what?
We have Obama to thank for this.
Now I’m not being sarcastic here. I think we need this. That simmering has needed to come to a boil. It’s the only way we, as a country, are going to deal with it. We kept ignoring it. Poo-pooing it. Denying it. Putting a lid on it. But now, I don’t think we can.
I hear so many stories from folks I know, on NPR, even a Facebook post (which I hope was true) about how black parents fear for their young black sons’ lives.
How one kid’s dad wouldn’t let him be out in the street, on a warm summer night, playing with his friends with their super soaker water guns — for fear that someone would mistake those toys as real guns. Would you, as a white parent, even consider this? Yeah, I thought so.
Then the story of a white mom with 2 white kids who adopted 2 black boys. As those black boys became black teenagers she noticed that the grocery store personnel, who never paid them any mind as 5 year olds, now followed them around the store, but not her white children. How fucked up is that?
A man who I know, a black man, who would tell me that he got pulled over, yet again, for nothing. “That’s the 3rd time this month,” he’d say to me, telling me he hadn’t done anything. I had no doubt he was being targeted.
Obama’s election was groundbreaking. I cried. It made my heart leap for joy that we had come so far in electing a black man as the leader of our country.
But then the walls caved in and we saw that maybe we haven’t come so far. We have seen the ugliness of racism, bigotry, prejudice. That shit that makes us mean and hateful. That crap that divides us.
I ask you…
Why can’t you focus on what unites us? Why can’t you see those things that make us all the same? Why can’t you see another human in front of you instead of a black man? I mean, if you were blind, wouldn’t you focus on whether that person in front of you was kind to you? If that person was a good human being?
Children don’t see those things that divide us the way adults do. They simply see someone they like — that is their friend. Someone who plays with them, is kind and makes them laugh. They are not jaded by the world the way we, as adults, are.
So here’s my challenge to you:
Learn to see people through the eyes of child. Or to see others as a blind person would. See a person for who they really are. Be color blind. Be religion blind. Be economic status blind. Be sexual orientation blind. Just see a human being in front of you. Someone who needs air to breathe. Someone who needs food to eat and water to drink. Someone who is a son or daughter, sister or brother. See a fellow human being who loves and wants to be loved. Because in the end, it really is that simple. Our children tell us this. And we can learn a lot from those wise little humans.