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Wednesday

Where Were You When Obama Was Elected?


Just as our mothers, fathers and grandparents can recall where they were and what they were doing when great leaders such as Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy were slained, in our generation we will be able to remember when America gave life to one, President-elect Barack Obama.

A myriad of emotions ran through me like so many other African Americans. I thought of my grandmother who was alive to see a moment she thought she would never see. She told me, "We are blessed." She reflected on a time when blacks were disrespected by whites, "We weren't good enough to eat their tuna fish." She recalled those sad times when she couldn't enter through the front entryways of white-owned establishments. "We cleaned their floors on our hands and knees, but we couldn't walk through their front doors." Other family members told of stories where they couldn't look white people in their faces and had to address them as Mr. and Ms. (which some still do today.) They talked of water fountains that were for the coloreds, bathrooms for the coloreds, and other similar things that illustrated that black or any other color, for that matter, were not allowed to be in certain places, riding in certain cars, or walking in certain areas. "If you were white you were alright, but if you were black step back."

There was a deep heartfelt resentment, anger, and rage that permeated with many who lived in a time of segregation, for some they couldn't hold back their own racist remarks, "It's about time...the white house is now black!" I couldn't help but feel happy that Barack Obama is going to the White House, because I knew what this meant for many, another door would now be opened for anyone who wasn't traditionally white and male. But as my grandmother warned, "Don't get too happy, we must pray. There are still many who don't want him in there. Let's hope he doesn't get killed."

As I type this blog, I think of the joy I experienced on November 4th, 2008 when I read on the screen that "Obama is elected President." I thought of the black men who I had spoken to in the past who cried about their plights and how the white man had his foot on their necks, "No more excuses," I thought. "No more blaming the white man my bruthas. Obama just set a high learning curve and now it is up to you to follow suit or step aside!" I was excited to the point of tears, thinking about my four sons! They could see that a black man could do much more than make media headlines for acting, running, jumping, driving, singing, dancing, fighting, and playing. Those things were nothing new under the sun even back during times of segregation. Rather, he could make headlines for what was between his ears!

Education--that's what really matters. When you become too old to play ball, what does a black athlete have to do? Put what he has learned in college, business and trade schools, or independent study to good use in order to keep those dollars flowing. If Barack hadn't demonstrated "consistent" intelligence in his mannerisms and speech, he would have never won. If he hadn't been careful in what he said and did more listening than talking, he wouldn't have won. If he hadn't taken the time to look outside of his bubble and not only befriend those different from him, but study people of other races and creeds around him, he wouldn't have won. (Oprah is the master at that!) If he hadn't put God and his family first, rather than being a selfish, inconsiderate, Negro from around the way while profiling with women and bling, he wouldn't have won. He wasn't running for president to make people laugh, to entertain with catch phrases, to befriend the bruthas and muthas from the hood, or to glorify himself, it was all about selling people on change --a platform that McCain stole when he saw that it was working, and in the end it still didn't help him win.

Michelle Obama said it right, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback." Irregardless of what she really meant by this statement which she clarified by being proud of the states her husband won, those who participated in the political process, etc. Depending on your experience in this country, her statement is left up to open interpretation. As a voter in the political process, I was glad to see people went out and voted in record numbers. After the Hanging chad incidents back in 2000, it left a bad taste in many people's mouths. But as an African American born and raised in this country, what made me proud was that people of all races was giving a black man a chance. Minorities get tired of being micro-managed, second-guessed, told that what they are saying isn't making any sense, followed around in stores, stared at because their skin is a different shade, overlooked because their skin isn't the right shade --are any of these things one should be proud of in a country that boasts opportunity, justice, freedom for all?! For once, just once, we all want not just "a someone" to respect us and hear what we are saying, but a group of people, a powerful entity, to look at you for who you are and what you stand for, Barack Obama did just that! People not only said they would support him, but they put their money where their mouth was! On November 4th, thousands upon thousands of those who grew up in the segregated south and later moved North, silenced their own ignorant voices and those around them and did what was right, not what was white! We saw evidence of this with the voter turn out in Ohio and Pennsylvania which have historically been won by Republicans.

And when my tears were about dried up, I thought of the old saying that, "Behind every black man there is an even stronger black woman!" I had hoped that African American women everywhere would take notice that Michelle Obama loved her man. She knew how to carry herself with class not crass. If it wasn't for her being the "rock" in Barack, he wouldn't have made it this far! I had also hoped that black men everywhere would recognize that with a wise woman alongside of them "they could do all things through Christ who strengthens them." Maybe just maybe if enough images of the new first family are seen everywhere by black men that they will do the right thing by the mothers of their children.

I am not niave to think that racism is behind us, far from it, but just like President-elect Obama, I am hopeful. Change has to start somewhere and it is up to us to make things happen just as he has done. Had he not took the first step, we would have never heard of Barack Obama.

So when my four sons ask me when they become older, "Mommy where were you and what were you doing when the first black man of the United States became President?" I will tell them "sitting in front of the television shouting, crying, and hoping that one of you would make a significant impact on our society like Barack Obama has done."

Nicholl McGuire

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