What I'm about to write was inspired, in many ways, by the fine work of Kossack johnmav and his gorgeous and inspiring cover for The Nation magazine. By now, many of you have seen this work and felt something similar to what I'm feeling -- immense pride, swelling gratitude and a tearful recognition of the real meaning of all this.
If what I'm about to write could be considered a kind of companion piece to johnmav's talented visual summary of everything that lead up to where we now stand in history's hallways, I'd be honored. But in the end, these thoughts are my own, and I worry they will not submit easily to be brought forward in a way that can be easily understood. It has less to do with history itself than our reaction to its arrival.
With all the talk of a "post-racial" society (a problematic term, I think, and ill-defined, but I won't get into it here), I think we're doing ourselves and history itself an enormous disservice by not taking a moment to recognize that this is, in many ways, the culmination of centuries of struggle, of protest, and of pain and even death.
When we talk about being post-racial, I think it would be a shame for this to mean that we ignore what makes one another special, instead choosing to view each person as indistinguishable from the next. We are all the same, and yet we aren't. The struggles I may face in life may be vastly different from the ones I would have had I been born into a different body.
In the discussions we're having around this country on TV and in homes and at schools, the fact that we're inaugurating our first black president seems almost to have been lost in the shuffle.
Even the president-elect himself seems somehow reluctant to acknowledge the momentousness of the history he has made, and is making. I can understand why, out of a sense of humility and personal reserve, he would do this. But I think it would be a mistake for us, out of a kind of misplaced notion of "colorblindness," to follow his lead and shut our eyes and close our ears to what is ultimately and at long last happening.
In some respects, when you claim to be totally "colorblind," you are willfully or otherwise ignoring part of a person -- and it may be an important part of them that has helped make them the person that they are. The entirety of every man and woman must be considered and appreciated, or we do them an unkindness.
Again, what I'm about to say may not make perfect sense, but I feel as though the gravitas of this moment is being overshadowed in some ways by politics. The political accomplishment of getting a man like Barack Obama -- or even a man named Barack Obama, for that matter -- elected president is an amazing political accomplishment indeed.
A lot of people have been saying for the past two years that race doesn't matter because we elected the right person for the job. This is, of course, true on many levels. But I think dwelling on this for too long takes something away somehow from the historical enormity of what is happening.
It's possible that shame, too, is playing a role. Why should this be such an accomplishment to elect a man of a different skin color? It's just pigment. It's a testament to our racist past that we're making such a large to-do of this. And besides, he's half-white. Not technically African-American as most of us understand the term.
There's a lot of trees in this forest to look at. Take a step back, see the full view and realize that these are trivialities.
I know this shouldn't be such a significant historical milestone, but it is a huge historical milestone!
I know not all Americans voted for him, but Americans are supporting him!
I know it doesn't matter that he's black -- but it matters that he's black!
I think there's some temptation to overlook a lot of pain and struggle and history and pretend not to notice what a singular thing is about to happen here in our country. But I will not.
We are inaugurating a great man. We are inaugurating the right man. We are inaugurating a man of admirable ideals and character. We are also inaugurating a black man.
Unified, together, we can accomplish the things that our new leader wants for this country. He inspires our hearts and minds, not just with his deeds and his words, but also by simply being who he is.
This is something I think we should not choose to ignore. I, for one, do not dare overlook it. History demands that we all take notice. This history is as plain as the faces in johnmav's art.
Thank you for reading.
(Special thanks to Kossack publicv who helped me come up with the title for this diary)