I was born after Rosa Parks’ famous stand on a bus in Alabama. I was born after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Washington D.C. and “I Have a Dream” speech. I was born after my father worked hard to graduate from college with an engineering physics degree and to prove his own worth across racial barriers. I was born after “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. I was was born after Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura shared the first inter-racial kiss on television. I was born after Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and after Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a salute to black power at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. I was born in a world built for me from the blood, sweat, and tears of generations.
My great-grandfather told me that his grandfather remembered being set free from slavery. My mother showed me pictures of her childhood and noted that at the time, it was common for commercial photographers to overdevelop images of light-skinned black people so that the photos would appear more obviously black and could not be used to confuse anyone.
My parents fought for their rights and for mine before I was even born. I have never had to deal with most of the problems that they had as children. The limits placed upon me have been minuscule compared to those that were already overcome.
I have never doubted that I could be whatever I desired. I could do whatever my skills allowed me to do. The chances were there; all I needed was to work at it. I have done my best to instill that same belief in my daughters, but nothing seems to have jazzed them to it like Barrack Obama’s win last night.
I voted for him as MLK, Jr. might have said, not because of the color of his skin, but the content of his character, but to tell the truth, his race means more to me than I thought it would. In the recent past (after I had already made my decision), I have read of Obama’s childhood and it resonates with my own. For the first time, I have voted for a candidate who actually understands where I am coming from; our shared history in the American experience combined with his obvious intelligence and diplomatic ability brought forth feelings in me that I struggle to describe. But upon further reflection, he has already done it for me.
I have hope. Hope for the future. Hope that we can and will work together to bring about a world that our children will find a little better than the one in which we currently live.
Time to get to work.