I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m currently incubating a small human. It came along today when its Daddy and I voted. I really wanted to be cheesy and put my “I voted” sticker on my belly but our polling location never gives stickers. Bummer of the day.
Later in the evening we went to Vintage for election night communion. How beautiful it was to sing together about turning our focus to Jesus when there are so many things pulling us in other directions lately. It’s so easy to get sucked into the political bickering. It’s kind of fun and we want to be right, don’t we? Tonight I came together with my church family to rest in the knowledge that, no matter how the elections ended up, I believe that God is sovereign and where our focus needs to be. Jesus didn’t call us to convince everyone we know to vote the way we want them to. He called us to LOVE. We gathered together tonight as a group that represented pretty much every bubble on the Arkansas ballots. There was no tension or arguments. Just the joy of being together. A feeling of love and trust that our votes do not separate us in any real ways. And the knowledge that no election results will change any of that.
Back to the tiny human-shaped critter currently giving me killer heartburn.
I have no memories of a time without MTV. It may be lame now, but it does still exist. This little one will come into a world with an African American as the elected leader of the USA. He or she will probably never know a world where it’s a big deal. Maybe our kid will grow up and just not be able to stand Barack Obama and think “I hate that my least favorite President was in office when I was born!” But, while I hope we will have instilled in them an understanding of the importance of the step forward, they won’t have any memories of Americans electing a non-white President being any big dang deal.
That makes me so happy.
I didn’t get that, though I wanted it so badly growing up. I seriously felt like a 60′s era civil rights activist in a little 7 year old body. I was an odd kid. I know that I can’t truly understand the experience of growing up a person of color in this country. I’m a white woman who grew up in a home with both parents and, no matter how tough times got, I never had to worry about a roof over my head or dinner on the table. Maybe my parents worried about it at some point, but I never did. I was and am a child of privilege. I married a white man. We have good educations and good jobs and a roof over our heads. I have had great prenatal care from before this baby was even sparked into existence. It was a child of privilege the moment it began to grow. Still, I am so happy that it will have a privilege that I didn’t have. The privilege of always living in a world where a black man got elected to the presidency of the United States. Twice. No matter what his politics are, that is such a joy to me.
I got into a lot of fights as a kids about race. I’m not sure how much of it was my personality and how much of it was something my parents did early on, but I was never shy about standing up for issues I felt strongly about. It might have stemmed from me finally figuring out the whole “color” thing. See, I had two bi-racial cousins when I was a little kid. I knew their white mom (also my cousin) but she remarried a white man before I was old enough to remember anything else. So, in my infinite 4 year-old wisdom, I put two and two together and decided I knew how it all worked. Let me explain genetics to you through a Pre-Ker’s eyes. Before you have any kids you don’t know what race they will be. Then you have your first one and you find out. My cousin had her first baby and she was black. So obviously the second one was too. Thus, when we went to visit her to see her new baby with her new husband I was very confused and, frankly, pissed off that her baby was…white. What the crap? What business did that baby have being white? Once my mom explained the situation I was pretty ticked because I had been really looking forward to finding out what kind of babies I was going to have. Also, now that meant I was probably NOT related to Ozzie Smith, after all. I think that just made me extra sensitive to the whole issue of race at an early age. So I noticed a lot more than most other kids around me when the grown-ups talked about it or it was the subject of a tv show or movie.
In Kindergarten we had one of those worksheets where they tell you what color to use on each area. Like a paint by numbers only with crayons. The worksheet was a picture of a Native American (only we still called them Indians back in the early 80′s and sat “Indian Style” instead of “Criss-Cross Applesauce.”) My teacher instructed me to color my “Indian” Red. I don’t remember if I hesitated. I just remember refusing to do it. I told her “Indians aren’t red. They are kind of brown” It wasn’t a political statement. I just thought it was stupid. Why would she be trying to force me to color a person a color that didn’t actually match them? I never did color my picture red. Usually I would have gotten in trouble for talking back to a teacher but I think my parents were actually pretty proud. It never occurred to me after that to adapt to fit the norms around me when it came to something I felt was right or wrong. A lot of self-confidence came out of that one moment of not getting in trouble for sassing.
When we moved from Kentucky to Missouri I was 10 and in for a big shock. I had only heard the “N” word a few times before that. I started hearing it a lot more. I heard it within the first few weeks when my mom put my ponytail in a bunch of tiny braids and sent me to school. I could wear that hair-do for a week and then I’d have wonderful crimps when it came down. Hey, it was cool at the time. That first day a boy came up to me and asked me if I was a “Some kind of N—– lover or something?” I was so very shocked. I never ever come up with good comebacks so I’m pretty proud of my 10 year-old response of “I love all people. Except for jerks like you.” Smooth, tiny blond girl. Smooth. I did adjust to my surroundings there. I stopped calling everything “Coke” after a while and switched to “soda pop.” I stopped using “ma’am” and “sir” when speaking to adults because my entire 5th grade class laughed at me my first day when I said “Yes ma’am” to our teacher. But that particular trait, the horrible bigoted racist one, never rubbed off on me.
Again, I just want to reiterate that I don’t think my experiences are anything in comparison to kids who dealt with racism directed at them. Mine was 3rd party indignation. I could step outside of the sadness and hurt I felt. When I had a teacher in 6th grade who continually made racist remarks about property values and black neighbors and Michael Jackson being glad he was “turning white” I was angry but it did not affect my self esteem in the ways that I’m sure it could/would have an African American kid. I’m not comparing my experiences with those kids. But my experiences will be comparable to the little human I’m cooking right now. And I want so much more for her/him than we had. The election four years ago and the one tonight made sure there is at least one thing that will be different for this new generation. I am so glad for that.
PS–I’m not forgetting the awesome results tonight where women were elected to various offices for the first time EVER. It’s just really past my bedtime and I’ve already rambled enough for one post. Maybe I’ll revisit it later.