I love you soooo much! You sacrificed so much for me and my brothers and sisters so that we could become proud and strong men and women, prepared to go out into this world confidently, and excel. From your example we came to understand that with nothing you can create something, and that something you can build a life around. That no matter how many setbacks you have you can always rise again. And I thank you with all of my heart!
But you know what, Ma? You never told me that when I grew up I could be president.
I’m not mad at you. I don’t blame you. A black presidency wasn’t even real to you, was it? So, you couldn’t have possibly imagined it was a possibility for your 4th son…not in your fondest dreams, could you? And even if you could you probably wouldn’t have wanted me walking through this life harboring such a delusion, such a harbinger of disappointment and danger, would you? I mean, you lived through MLK, Malcolm, JFK, RFK, etc… You witnessed the impact of the perils of leadership. And, moreover, you’re not a liar. Not like that. I mean, that’s on the level of telling us there really is a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. And that, to your credit, you never did.
I understand. I really do.
After all, in your youth, you picked cotton in Georgia. What does a under-educated young woman, picking cotton on a Georgian plantation, unexposed to much of what the world had to offer, the opportunities that existed, what does she know about such lofty ambitions? it was inconceivable. Presidents didn’t look like you or like anybody that looked like you. Presidents were old white men, until Kennedy. But, always white and always from a reality so far removed from yours that I would be amazed if amid your daily toil in the cotton fields you’d have stopped and said to yourself: “When I have children someday, I will tell them they are entitled to the same things that white people have.”
And so I grew up without this sense of entitlement. And to add insult to injury, I grew up with a disdain for black people who possessed this sense of entitlement. After all, subconsciously, I thought this entitlement was a white privilege and any black person who saw themselves as entitled to white privileges was either delusional or insane. After all, they were trying to be something they could never be: white. Furthermore, In order to achieve these privileges you had to think as they do, live as they do, and I thought that would inevitably lead to such a person treating me as my mother was treated.
Yes, Ma, in your efforts to instill in us a pride of who we are and the stock we come from, you immersed us in a Pan African cultural institution that taught us, in no uncertain terms, that the only way for black people to rise in power is to create a separate world within the white world, and by working together and pooling our intellectual, economical and cultural resources, we could build a power vacuum that the white world will be force to reckon with.You know, power concedes nothing, and all that. Not to hate them so much as to emulate them. It was a flawed plan concocted by minds and souls damaged by decades of hate and discrimination. I love them for what they tried to do, but the flaw is self-evident now, is it not? This grassroots effort was blind to the major ingredient of any mass American movement: Americans.
Even throughout my youth, deep, DEEP, down, I felt America might get to a point someday where these white privileges would be extended to include other groups. So when it began to happen, I wasn’t overwhelmingly surprised. Throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s, barrier after barrier fell. glass ceiling after glass ceiling shattered. In entertainment, sports, business, etc… For example, nowadays, one can see black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, black coaches, managers and even part owners of teams, and in the music world black artist with ownership of companies and their own masters is not unheard of. These are all marked advances not to be thought of as at all inevitable. To belittle them in anyway would be sacrilegious.
But the thought of a black person attaining the ultimate white privilege- the US presidency- was virtually unthinkable. For, in my mind, I had built up the presidency as the most powerful position not only in this country but in the entire world, and how could a country, still predominantly white, ever elect a black face as its face, a black leader as its leader…
I mean, I knew we were capable, and in many cases, better suited for the job. I mean, some of the people we’ve sent to Washington have been just this side of imbecile. And the people that voted for this person…I couldn’t reconcile with the fact that we had anything in common whatsoever. And I simply couldn’t believe that white people were capable of recognizing this abundantly conspicuous fact, blinded by race and ignorance. Yes, I formed a low opinion of white people, and a fear and despise of their ignorance. And, these thoughts and feelings, however incorrect, solidified in my mind and soul into almost a sort of common sense, an inalienable truth. Even the white people I have befriended over the years, or the ones I’ve come to admire, people I’ve been able to connect with beyond the racial context, couldn’t break through this belief system. I simply put them into a category of exceptions to the rule.
But, everything has changed, Ma. EVERYTHING!
Little did you and I know, I was entitled to the presidency, and everything else this country has to offer its citizens. Little did we know, Ma, that we were citizens of the greatest country on earth! Perhaps, the greatest civilization in the history of the world! Little did you know that that which you couldn’t bring yourself to do, I will be able to do. Over the years, as you know, I have been very critical of our country. After all, you saw fit to enroll me in a school that openly criticized Her history and policies, while at the same time introduced me to our precious African history and heritage. I thank you for your foresight for without a clear understanding of where we have come from how could I fully appreciate where we have arrived as of today?
And, we have arrived haven’t we? It’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it?
I watched the news today. My ears hear the words that my brain and heart struggle to embrace: President-Elect Obama, an Obama Administration, A dream fulfilled, 364 electoral votes…and I realize that he was speaking directly to You and I when he said: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
You never told me I could be president but you gave me a strong sense of my capacity to make an impact. A sense that I used to embolden myself enough to march into a lily white suburb of North Philadelphia and knock on doors on behalf of a leader I believed would be in the best interest of all Americans. I’m grateful to President Obama for helping me with my entitlement issues. He didn’t do it a black way, nor a white way. He did it the American way.
And was it not beautiful to behold?
But it was you, Ma, who blessed me with a value of education and knowledge with which I carefully followed his ascension, listening carefully to his speeches (and those of others), reading and researching his policies (and those of others), and taking such an active role in the political process. I have to give you as much credit as i give Barack. You weren’t able to instill in me the ambition to be president or even the vision of such a day occurring, but you did prepare me to be able to embrace a Black man in the White House and to be able to fully appreciate what a life-altering turn of events this is.
So, I thank you, Ma.
PS: How much longer will I stay in Japan? Well, until the economy improves a bit, I still need a job and I’m doing pretty well over here, financially anyway. Maybe next year!
PPS: President Barack Hussein Obama… Can you believe it???? How long will my shock last?