this is what i mean

This is what I mean when I say that the election of President Obama and the image of his family on television (both his wife and children, and his extended family) makes me feel like I’m no longer invisible. My whole life has been spent in a loving, nuclear family with a great extended family that loves and cares for one another. My father and mother have been married for 35 years. Both have advanced degrees and have always provided a loving, supportive home for my brother and me.

My cousins are managers, in fields most haven’t heard of, lol, teachers, lawyers and Ph.D.’s. 99.9% of us hold advanced degrees of some sort, and we are the third generation (at least) to do so. None of us have been to jail. None of us have children out of wedlock, but all of us feel the pressure of the past on us. Us girls can’t find husbands. The boys (now men, lol) are worn out by the way young women carry themselves. I don’t mean they don’t enjoy looking, lol, but my brother once told my Mother how glad he was that none of us had fallen into the stereotypes that plague our culture.

But those stereotypes are made truth when that’s all you see. Thankfully we had the foundation to protect us from them, but most kids don’t. Slavery technically ended in 1865. Jim Crow (especially for my family being from MS) laws were passed through about 1965. My grandmother was raised by a former slave. All of my family prior to my generation grew up during the Jim Crow era in the heart of its culture. Yet these are the people who in their own time and one generation later have managed to overcome all they have been taught about what they are capable of to raise the family that we have today.

I grew up one decade removed from being told I couldn’t eat at the same counter, drink from the same fountain…that I was not good enough, smart enough, or even human enough. Do you ever stop to think what that must be like? We have a way of believing that today is all that matters, that there is no cumulative effect from the past.

Even as supported as my life has been within my family, I have had times where I’ve had to mentally correct myself on thoughts that have crept into my mind about who I am, what I can achieve, or how I should live.

Seeing a new image of what my people can be and feeling exposed for what we are is an amazing thing. I’ve seen my co-workers looking at me a little too long these past few days and I wonder what are they thinking (I’m a black woman managing two teams that are majority white and older). My friend C. says she feels like white men speak to her and look her in the eye in ways that have never happened before. Our imagination? Maybe. Our psyche, probably. A reality? Perhaps. But even if it is just a little of either, it is a wonderful thing.

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2 Comments on “this is what i mean”

  1. House Says:

    “We have a way of believing that today is all that matters, that there is no cumulative effect from the past.”

    Although I do see what you’re saying in your post, I don’t agree with it. In the quote I chose, you say that we have a way of believing that today is all that matters. Well, that’s right. Today IS all that matters. Can we change yesterday? Do we have a time machine that will teleport us back in time to make life better 3 days ago? 200 years ago? No.

    There is a difference between remembering a bad past, and wallowing in a bad past. Barack Obama’s presidency should help Black people to see that their cumulative attitudes of “woe is me”, “feel sorry for us because our ancestors hundreds of years ago were slaves” is obsolete and never served any purpose anyway.

    As adults, no matter what our color, when we have a bad past we must get up and move on. The only people that don’t do that are those who are waiting on someone else to come and fix their lives for them. No one else is responsible for doing that.

  2. TwentyTwo Says:

    Thank you for your response. I don’t believe most black people have a woe as me attitude in acknowledging that the past has greatly impacted the present. Our many successes show that we don’t wallow in any past, however, there is a difference between an institutionally created challenge and one that is familial or situational.

    The election of Barack Obama creates a new paradigm for other people just as much as it does for black people. Stereotypes go both ways. That is what has to be fixed, not some handout or some acknowledgement of wrong doing.


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