Friday, November 7, 2008

A Night with my Daughter

Most election nights, I go out and watch the returns with my fellow campaigners.

This year was different. My daughter declared the first week of school, "I'm studying Barack Obama and John McCain." And so it was...the first Presidential election where she was engaged in the race -- big time. My child was much more certain than I was of an Obama victory; all of her polling told her so. There were only 2 kids in her class of sixteen supporting McCain. The 4th and 5th grades held a mock election at school and Obama won by an overwhelming majority. Finally, she argued, according to the Nick online poll, Obama won -- so duh, Mom... Obama was clearly going to be our next President.

My African American daughter heard me talk of the Bradley effect, but really, she doesn't get racism...yet. Not the way that I do, certainly not the way that her dad does, absolutely not the way her grandparents, who grew up "Negroes" in the segregated south do.

Priorities. I made a decision to stay home and watch the returns from the couch with the kid.

Early in the night, I was feeling hopeful. The news from Pennsylvania -- a good indicator of things to come. In addition to the Presidential race, we were interested in a number of local elections, as the 4 remaining lawn signs on the little patch of grass in front of our house indicated. At one point, there were 5 signs. Our Obama sign was stolen about 3 weeks before the election.

My kid was confident and tired. She fell asleep around 10 p.m. on the couch.

I was the lone awake one in the house, t.v. going in the living room, NPR in the kitchen. At 11:01, I was keeping busy in the kitchen when I heard the news of a declaration of our President-Elect. Followed by a burst of hoorahs from someplace outside. I smiled. The last time I heard hoorahs in the streets was for a Yankees victory in the World Series. I ran into the living room to tell my sleeping beauty the good news. She seemed to acknowledge me, but was more interested in continuing her dream.

And so, I waited for the great orator to give his speech. And watched. And sat at the computer, checking the TU site. And sent "Yes we can" texts to a few of my friends. And I was elated.

I thought about the conversation I'd had that afternoon with a woman who called me to discuss the school board race. I was supporting two candidates (one of them, the only African American candidate in the race), and she had questions. This is a very intelligent and very idealistic white woman. This is a woman who has trouble believing people are still judged by the color of their skin. She told me she hoped with this election, that would end. I told her I thought it would take more than this election, but that if Obama were elected, it would be another very good step in the right direction.

I thought about the conversation I'd had that day with an African American male friend whose young children moved to a rural Capital Region town with their white mother. As soon as the family moved in, confederate flags went up at certain houses.

I know there's still racism. It can be scarily subtle and it can be in-your-face-obvious.

The beautiful thing is that we outnumbered them at the polls on November 4th. Not that I believe every vote for McCain was cast out of racism, but I've heard enough to know, that (to tweak PE for a minute) Fear of a Black President brought many to vote against Obama because of race.

November 5th, I was walking on air. The first time ever in a Presidential election year, that every single vote I cast was a winning one-- from the school board, to a local proposition, right on up to the President! It was one of those days where nothing was going to get me down. I walked my daughter to the bus stop in the morning, newspaper in hand. I asked one of the kids with a great big smile on my face, "Who's going to be the next President?"

"Obama!" he responded.

One girl asked, "We know who the President is already??"

I showed her the front page of the newspaper, and I watched her young face light up as she looked at it.

That afternoon, I got on the Number 10 at the end of my workday, and I noticed a bright red seat directly behind the driver's seat. I'd seen the seat before, but had never paid attention.

Then I noticed there was more than a seat... there was a commemorative plaque.

The plaque noted the red seat was in honor of Rosa Parks.

A very good reminder that the Presidential victory of the previous day was only possible because of the courage of Ms. Parks and thousands of other Americans whose names I'll never know.

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