My President is black. It didn't hit me until election night, when states like Virginia and Indiana were lined up in the Obama column. On that night, I realized that upon his election although some prejudices still persisted, they were in the minority and for a moment, we had overcome.
But only for a moment.
The fight for social justice and tolerance is unending, it did not begin with Barack Obama and it can't end with him. Every generation must fight a new series of misconceptions in order to provide the next generation with the opportunity for advancement. So this Black History Month, I ask what must be of the generation who stands on the shoulders of Barack Obama? The day he was inaugurated we; Black, White, Latino and Asian, were all elevated to a new place of being. I don't think we're in a "post-racial" state. We all still exist as individuals armed with our different features and distinctions that set us apart from one another. But I think that perhaps we're entering into an era where these distinctions cease to matter, where race compliments rather than defines.
At the Inaugural Staff Ball, the President looked around the room and remarked, "Look at you! You're a bunch of kids!" He proceeded to joke that we initially supported him because "we didn't know better." I'm going to disagree with the President to suggest that we supported him because we were willing to believe in better. We ignored the punditry to insist, with no precedent, that America wasn't that divided, that our politics wasn't beyond repair and that of course the country was ready to elect an African American President. I realize now that what the pundits never understood was that we weren't dismissing our past, we were willing to believe that something had been gained from it.
We are not raw with the fights and transgressions of yesterday. We have been freed from them by those who fought them throughout the ages, so that we wouldn't have to, so that we might push different boundaries. We are not beholden to the old assumptions and ways of thinking. We have been liberated from them by those who stood up against laws that allowed us to believe that our differences were insurmountable...those who refused to believe that we were forever damned to be a country of parts, rather than apart of one country. Although we cannot forget our history, we are a generation that is working to transcend it. So when Barack Obama ran for President, we didn't see him as a "black man"; and we lined up for and against him accordingly.
I've since heard that Dr. King's dream has been fulfilled, but I think the finality of that sentiment should give us all pause.
Complacency is what we have to fear, it's what this generation must fight.
In this moment more than ever we must revisit the dream and expand it. It was never a singular demand, it was a vision of what we might be. In the years to come I hope that we might aim to judge one another not by our attributes but by our ambitions so that no one is limited by not only their race, but their gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion or occupation.
No one should feel like what he or she does with his or her life is a consequence of his or her appearance.
No one should feel like his liberty is determined by what god his prays to to or whom he chooses to love.
No one should feel like his or her pursuit of happiness is conditioned on pursuing only that which has historically been deemed acceptable.
These truths are self-evident, but are they fully realized? No. They are not. So although ignorance may have found itself in the minority on November 4th, there's a conversation to be had about what happened in California, about what happens across the country everyday that we teach our children that our differences are something to be feared, or even worse, something to be legislated. This is the task of my generation -- to push the parameters of the American dream, to initiate a conversation where we push back on that which contradicts these sacred truths.
It's certainly an audacious undertaking -- but let's face it, if there was ever a time to display a bit of audacity, this is it.