Sunday, January 25, 2009

The shift of January 20, 2009

Now that I've gotten back from the Inauguration and recovered from spending 74 (nearly consecutive) hours on a bus, I have recovered enough to reflect on my experience...and I realize the profundity of this moment in time.

On Inauguration Day, as we got off of the shuttle to head toward the Mall, we had no orientation of where we were or where we were going. It didn't matter. We had no choice but to move with the throng of people as we all shuffled toward what we could only assume was the right direction.

As we walked, the National Guard were posted every few feet, ensuring that we remained orderly and in the right direction. I couldn't help but think of the irony of that moment: Huge crowds of people were walking toward the inauguration of our first Black president. More government forces were on hand than ever before. The same forces that were inappropriately used by government officials to prevent the integration of our public institutions 52 years ago were now being used to protect. It was simultaneously a disturbing, yet comforting and joyous feeling for me.

On that day, I felt we had a new and hopeful beginning.

This beginning does not mean we are a "post-racial America," as some have suggested, nor does it mean that as of January 20, 2009 at 12:00 p.m. EST every Black child and every Black parent has "no more excuses" and will (or should) immediately be ideal parents and students as others have commented. It is not possible for change to happen with a snap of the fingers or an oath of office.

However, there is a feeling of change. And the great thing to me is that it is happening at the top and setting the tone. But what is even more important is that the tone that is being set at the top was chosen by us. As Barack Obama told us back in February, "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." (February 5, 2008)

We had to make the decision to no longer be a country where the national guard prevents instead of protects. We had to make the decision that people of all ethnicities have important insights to contribute to this country. We had to decide that we want to be a country of hope instead of fear. We elected a president who chooses to listen to people. We elected a person who values opinions.

We decided that.

Today, we are not perfect. We have a ways to go. But if we can continue to believe that "we" are the ones we've been waiting for and "we" are the change that we seek, then we have a bright and hopeful future, no matter what struggle comes our way. I am excited about that.
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