As someone who has close friends who fall all along the political spectrum, election results are always a mixed bag for me. I know that whoever wins, the next day some of my friends will be rejoicing while others I love just as much will view the world with unease, or even fear. Knowing that has always tempered my own reaction. And this morning, I know this fact remains as true as it ever has.
But still, I cannot escape my own history. I grew up in Alabama in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. I think it is easy to forget just how little time has passed since the fight for civil rights. I am forty-one. The primary schools in my hometown were integrated only a few years before I was born. The Voting Rights Act was signed the year before I was born, and Martin Luther King was assassinated when I was two.
I attended schools that were newly – forcibly – integrated. Living on the poor side of town, I attended underfunded black-majority schools. The idea that those schools were equal was a joke. Good teachers were rare and standards for us were low. Racial incidents were commonplace. I met boys from “white” schools whose parents would not allow them to date me, because no “decent” family would send their daughter to “that kind” of school. Few things marked the course of my young life like the issue of race.
Despite that history, I’ve seen the South transformed. I have argued that my home state does not deserve the wretched image many people hold of it. That image is outdated. The people who live there are better than that. I truly believe this. And yet, I did not think I would live to see an African-American man named to the presidency – not in my own lifetime.
So the world looks different this morning. No matter who you voted for, we can all at least take pride that we really are better than many people believed we were. We have taken the image that Americans are small and intolerant, and said, “This is not who we are. We are better than that.” It is, as McCain said in his extremely gracious concession, a good day for all of us to cherish our citizenship in this great country.
So forgive my detour into election politics after I said I wouldn’t talk about it! It just seems, from where I sit, like such a special day. I promise – back to little shiny ponies tomorrow!