What I want to say to you, people, is this: Yes, we can–do more!
I voted for Barack Obama with great joy. But that does not mean that I think he will save us from ourselves. Or that he will disappoint me if he proves less than perfect.
Having heard many great speakers, I was not so impressed by The Speech. Having worked with many men and women of color and courage, I was not particularly amazed by another eloquent Black person. In fact, I thought it was at best naive to be so amazed by Barack. A lot of people need to get out more!
I have seen his imperfections up close. In fact, It was hard for me to get past what I knew of him from my past life as a political activist in Illinois. I did not like what he did to Alice Palmer. Ruthless. I did not appreciate that he demanded to be exempted from filling out the questionnaire for the PAC I headed at that time, and to appear when he wanted, brushing aside other candidates. Arrogant. And, yes, I prefer my presidential candidates to have some relevant experience, and to have shown the courage to go on record on controversial issues, rather than voting present. Ambitious to a fault.
Yet his conduct during this long campaign convinced me that he has grown since those days. Have we grown as much?
This year's presidential campaign also exposed fault lines among us. I was really annoyed by the comments of many that it is more important to combat racism than sexism. No, it isn't. it isn't! How can it be? It only proves that we understand sexism less, that we discount women more than men.
So here's my confession: I don't think Hillary Clinton was all that great a candidate. Flatfooted. Clueless to what was happening among the electorate, and what was happening in her own campaign. Wrong on the war, and too reluctant to say so. But she was also extremely qualified and knowledgable on the issues, and more than capable of serving us as President. And because of what happened to her during this campaign, I fear we won't see another Democratic woman of her quality running for President any time soon.
That fear drove me to vote for her during the Florida primary in order to send a message to the men who still control this party, and to Obama. Obama was willing to allow another person to be humiliated for his gain. That was small. I am ready to forgive him for not speaking out against the sexist garbage thrown at Clinton–when he gets around to asking for it. (Along with all the other Democratic men and women who participated in that pile-on.) The experience has only reminded me why we said during the battle for the ERA, "I wasn't born Democratic, Republican–or yesterday." We have to keep kicking till we open all the doors.
But past the primary, there was no question that it would be Obama for me. He seemed to expand in character as the stakes grew. He was note-perfect, as was his campaign. He brought us to a profound moment. He brought us to each other.
Now it is up to us. Will we take as big a step toward each other as he did toward us all? Will we look at each other as potential allies rather than as potential enemies? Will we now acknowedge that there is more to racism than the black-white divide? That sexism affects all our children?
As a woman of mixed race–I hope this is only the beginning.
I remember my teenage self, walking five miles to get downtown, during the Greenville County bus boycott. The pride I felt on the day when we first rode the bus sitting where we wanted. Because my skin was light, I walked to the back, while the darkest-skinned of us sat up front near the driver. It felt like re-balancing the Universe.
This, today, feels much like that, but with an expanded horizon.
What interests me now is that Barack Obama has made us look back at such moments and see that not only can we move farther, but we can dream bigger. Will he also look at his daughters and see that he needs to wage another battle, for their gender? Or will he tell them they have to wait?
Will we see that we don't have to choose between battling racism or sexism? That we can dare many things, all at once?