by Colette Davidson • 11/5/08 • OBAAAMMMMAAAA!!! I woke up magically at 5 am here in France and turned on the TV to see “Breaking News” on the screen. My eyes rapidly scrolled down – Obama had won the presidency.
Kolet ink is the blog of Colette Davidson, a freelance writer for the TC Daily Planet and a former assistant editor of the Uptown Neighborhood News. She recently moved to Perigueux, France to work as an assistant editor for the monthly English newspaper French News.
Ever since I started blogging, I have had trouble placing race in this election. A black man as president? The Americans hoped it would happen, the French couldn’t believe it…. but I never thought it was really that big of a deal. Yes, Obama was black. But he was also white. I’ve grown up around people of all races, all my life. This was normal, right? How could race be the main issue?
But now as I sit watching all these faces in Chicago’s Grant Park crowd, I am moved by the sheer diversity of the people. Compared to McCain’s mostly white crowd during his concession speech, the Chicago park was filled with faces of all skin colors, ages and backgrounds. These are real people who have been inspired by one man. And to imagine that race doesn’t mean anything in this victory is naive.
Just some forty years ago, we watched as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted to change the nation. We watched their struggle with bittersweet hope. And forty plus years later, we still face racism everyday in this country. So as much as I want to focus solely on the issues Obama stands for, I can’t help but be completely overcome by the magnitude of his election as president. To see the racial shift, visually, of Biden as the older white man, standing one step behind Obama, the younger black male is a major moment in U.S. history. We can’t even make Hollywood movies where the main character is black and surrounded by white people. Everything is either black or white, or if the main character is black, there has to be some funny, condescending twist. Now, not only is Obama a main character, he’s THE main character. To see reality beat fantasy is almost surreal.
A few years ago Halle Berry won the Best Actress award, becoming the first black female to receive such an honor. At the time, we thought that was huge. Now, we have a black man leading the nation, something just a few years ago even the political pundits couldn’t imagine. “Which do you think will happen first – a black president or a woman president?” has been a common question thrown around at parties and nights out with friends for the past several years – but I don’t think anyone suspected either situation could actually happen. I certainly had my doubts, not based on my own beliefs but on my withering hope for the American people, where the conservative Evangelical Christian seems to have reigned.
But here we are. America is changing. We’re no longer a country of white, European, Christian citizens. We’re also a people of Ghanian, Philippino, Cuban, Guatemalen, Korean, Somalian, and Chinese descent. And millions more. The faces of Americans are changing so why shouldn’t that of the president also change?
And it has. And even though I have tried to ignore race since I started writing about this election, it finally hit me tonight as I watched the crowds in Chicago, as I listened to the screaming through the cell phone of my brother and friends in Minnesota a million miles away from me here in France…. it has happened. A black man is president.
Maybe it was the intense fatigue of pulling my first all-nighter probably since college. But the culmination of so many months, of so many years and centuries of suffering…. I dare anyone not to cry. Even Republicans should be able to cast their beliefs aside and acknowledge and appreciate this moment. Because while the media has perhaps gone over the top, they’re mostly right – this is a momentus occasion, too big for any of us to comprehend. America is moving in an epically positive direction and I don’t think any of us have the power to stop it.