Monday, October 27, 2008

Our world today: Progress and Resistance

As I sat grading Reflective Personal Development papers for the Multicultural Education course I teach, one of my friends called. The first words out of her mouth were, "My mom and I just voted! Outside of having my children, I have never felt something so liberating!!"

She went on to tell me how she had originally planned to vote tomorrow (her day off), but her dad called and said, "You need to come now! The lines aren't long and it's an amazing feeling!"

Yes, my friend is Black...and yes, her overwhelming excitement was because, for the first time in her life, she was able to walk into the voting booth and choose a Black man for the highest office in our land. But, just for the record, she is not voting for Obama solely because he is Black. We talked about how she likes Obama's healthcare plan...and desperately needs affordable healthcare for her children. She also believes that the Earned Income Tax Credit that Obama supports can help her and her family.

My neighbor, an older Black gentleman, also explained to me yesterday that he could now go to his grave because of this monumental moment. He talked about the segregated entrances and water fountains he used to experience and explained how he never thought he'd see this day. He went on to say that he had hopes that this would open up the field for Native American, Asian, and Hispanic candidates in the near future.

And just for the record...for those who still may be thinking that Black people are only voting for Obama because he's black...the majority of Black people have traditionally voted for the democratic platform...which has meant voting for White men. Obama being a democrat probably has more to do with them voting for him than because he is Black. Otherwise, Alan Keyes (R) or Jesse Jackson (D) would have won.

As my friend talked, I got chills. This moment obviously meant a LOT to her.

I hung up the phone and went back to grading the reflective development papers, which challenge the students to think about ethnic and racial experiences and how those experiences have impacted them. Ironically, the paper I was grading was a very open and honest account of negative past experiences related to race and negative present feelings about mixing cultural groups. The hurt and anger from those past experiences were apparent and had led this particular student to be content with admitted closed-mindedness.

After the phone call, I was excited about the possibilities of our future. But grading the paper, I was sad knowing that we still have much very challenging and difficult work to do to dispel stereotypes and create trust amongst people.

Our country is changing. We are moving toward acknowledging the diversity of our great nation. We are hopefully moving toward inclusivity in a way that Brown v. Board didn't accomplish. At the same time, though, we still have people who believe people of different cultures and ethnicities are too different and that assimilation and conforming should be the solution.

Some of the most hardened segregationists have admitted they were wrong for their actions in the 60s. I have hopes that the remnants of people who have fears about a Black man becoming president and people who believe that multiculturalism should be equal to assimilation will one day in the near future recognize the value that each person has to offer our great nation.
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