NOVEMBER FOURTH: A DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

A NEW DAY DAWNS IN BLACK AND WHITE AMERICA

The Chicago experience has produced a president elect of unprecedented proportions. The world is watching.

{Here is a little history of mine involving my perceptions on race relations. Followed by the November 4th election event.}

I was born in Chicago over 1/20th of a millennium ago. I grew up in an all white town a few miles away. In a neighboring town that bordered Chicago, in the 1950-60’s, you could see all white people on “our” side of the street, and all black people on the other. Crowds of both seemingly separate but equal. As a child I wondered, how did we all manage the separation so unanimously?

That situation had changed by 30 years ago. The neighboring suburb then had affluent blacks moving along with all of us other Americans in stores and elsewhere.

With many family deaths and a remaining parent’s suicide, I left Chicago for good before I was an adult. I have always kept a home town interest in the Chicagoland area, and occasionally visit.

After leaving Chicago, a couple years later, I was the only white guy living in a black neighborhood in another state. I thought I was enlightened, accepting all humans as my equal. I lived, in my perceptions, as free to be immersed into a world where race did not matter. I could deal with what blacks would feel towards me because of my color and its presumed entitlements.

I could not fairly judge negative response to me “because” I was white. I felt I could never quite comprehend an other’s bias toward me based on appearances. I did not like being in someones mind as “one of those…” merely by being a physical symbol, but I could not force anyone to change their view no matter how wrong I thought they were. This was a spiritual mission of mine my entire life; to not accept tribalism separations as inalienable facts of truth. It also included my perspective on men and woman.

Many years earlier, as a child, I had one of my first experiences with racial antagonism, when as we kids were at one of our rare outings to the local forest preserves, Maple Lake, busloads of all black kids from a church outing or somewhere, passed us by while we were walking around, angrily shouting “white trash” and waving fist and spitting. I had no idea what I had personally done to cause folks my age to be so mad at me.

Now some 13 years later, and living in a black neighborhood, I felt I had every right to live where I want, just as any black or anyone else should live where they want to, in an actually free country. That view has a certain naiveté as far as history is concerned, but such ideas are the promise of hope and law in America.

I bring my history up for what happened in the election of 1976, when Carter won, many blacks were for him. In discussions with black friends I was taken aback, when president Carter would be referred to me as “your president”. I felt; Well what can I do with that kind of view? It was perhaps my most personal sense of rejection by race that I had had. Much more than being called names or whatever. Some fundamental perception had these blacks I knew feel the country was for whites and not for them.

I thought, like it or not, the president is the president. He was not my president because we are both white, while not being yours due to your view on appearance and history. Seemed a canyon like separation of identity. Of course, I was on the side of American history that did not have an ingrained sense of being used and horrifically abused to others benefit due to my color. The bit of some Native American in me, and the larger part Italian/French, did not occur to me as not being assimilated. Yet in my own life I have had people ask me of my name and say; “What kind of a name is that anyway. Doesn’t sound American.”

BREAKTHROUGH

2008’s 80,000,000 million cracks through the glass ceiling.

I saw a young black guy on TV last night. For a moment, the camera was on him gazing ahead and shaking his head, at the huge Obama victory rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. You could tell, as far as that is possible, that he was trying to process the profound nature of the moment. He seemed to look around at all the mix of people and said; (reading lips) Holy s***!. He appeared to be having an epiphany over the reality that had come into being. For many, everything is different now. It took awhile, and now the ball is in the rest of Americas court; Do we embrace what this nation really is, or go around, no matter how cordial in our differences, thinking someone who looks a bit different than us is not “ours”?

Believe it or not, America is an idea meant to smash tribalism and assert the rights of all.

I could not sleep last night. History kept going through my mind. Every black person I had known, and all the ones out of view of this moment, who never knew what this country was capable of. Last night their candles flickered and burnt out, the sun then rose up upon a new dawn of civilization. One whose light only magnifies with what we overcome within ourselves. We stand now surprised at this mountain top and the view, yet remembering its dream was born of hope and faith in what we each can learn from our differences, instead of turning away.

I live in a different minority area now, where my “kind” are about 8% of the population. I seldom see any black people, but when I do? I feel more at home. I lived with black folks, and know some of what many of my “kind” never quite see. But I think quite a few of our young people are getting there or are way ahead of me. Many of my age and older have lived by many stereotypes.  These vanish when living within a Black community.  I could say from my experience, whole veils of misinterpretation are lifted.

Blacks are an extraordinary people, as we all are. Blacks make up 70% of human genetic diversity, as last I heard. Likely, back far enough, we all are kin. But given my current circumstances, often when so rarely surrounded by blacks, it feels to me like a long drought is over. As if some vital part of being human is a bit more known.  Of course this is derived in part from my own history.

I had tears last night, thinking that one day, (and it may be that way for many already, especially in places like the military, where blacks may come to miss something precious from we other folk,) things we seem never able to say out in the open, are opened up inside of us. For now, Barack Obama’s election may seem to some like the day and the dawn for one minority group, or some particular Americans achievement. But the promise of this moment is within each of us regardless of color or background. That is the new measure of Barack Obama’s win and the American experience.

NOV 4 2008

Chicago may be losing the Obama’s to Washington and the world, but in its own way, Chicago may take a more prominent place on the world stage.

In this moment in time, Chicago became a place on earth, second to none.