Okay, so I was wrong.
It's one time I will happily say (and will write the post on November 5 if it plays out) I was wrong about an issue. I've always told friends that I believed the United States was too obstinately racist to ever put in my lifetime an African-American man in the Oval Office. I've always believed for that reason the first African-American president would be a woman rather than an African-American man.
Monica Roberts, October 1, 2008
But today I'm saying President-elect Barack Hussein Obama Jr. with a Texas sized smile on my face.
I woke up to the realization that on January 20, for the first time in this country's history there will be a First Family occupying the White House that shares the same ethnic background as the people who built it.
The words that many African-Americans spoke to each other as they danced in the streets after the historic call of this election at 11pm EST were similar to my own.
"I can't believe I'm actually seeing this happen in my lifetime."
"I wish my ________ was still here to see this."
"We did it!"
Like many African-Americans, I'm standing a little taller today and my smile is a lot broader. But I've also heard some comments from the "He isn't a real African-American" crowd. They see Obama as not descended from a person connected to the Middle Passage and will loudly insist that we are still waiting for the first African-American president to be elected.
While his mother is white and his father is a Kenyan, the man is a United States citizen. He is one of us, claims us in return and is connected to the African Diaspora through his father. His marriage to Michelle connects Obama and his daughters to a person who is descended from a survivor of the Middle Passage.
So yeah, he's definitely an African-American - an American who has African roots. Obama is fortunate enough to know exactly what part of the African continent he comes from and didn't have to take a DNA test to learn that information.
Sometimes, people who make a historical breakthrough are chosen by the moment in time. He was elected as our next president with the overwhelming support of African-Americans, the youth vote, Latino/a's, independents and GLBT Americans.
It was also a cathartic election because it partially erased the bitter memories of Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004. He broke the 60 million mark in the popular vote, and overnight began the process of restoring our good name as a nation to the rest of Planet Earth that the Bush mis-administration had badly tarnished.
How well he governs over the next four years will not only make a future election of a Middle-Passage-descended African-American possible, it also broadens the pool of presidential candidates beyond just white males. Someday we will see an openly gay president, a female president, a Latino/a, an Asian or even a transgender person occupying the Oval Office.
My joy over last night's election was tempered by my sorrow over the losses on the various ballot initiatives to ban marriage equality, same-gender adoption and affirmative action in several states. We are not a "post-racial" nation - by any means - just because of Senator Obama's blowout victory. As progressives we still have much work ahead of us before the promise of our "more perfect union" is shared by all who live inside the borders of the United States of America.
But for the first time in a while I'm optimistic that as a nation we can get there.