Last night, I joined the rest of our nation in watching an African American accept a presedential nomination. This was remarkable in several thousand different ways, and I can leave it to those who are more eloquent and informed than I am to count them all today.
Here’s something cool that happened in the middle of it: Laura came downstairs, unable to sleep. This was not cool in so much as I prefer my children to be asleep long before 10:00 pm, but it was cool because I invited my daughter to sit beside me and watch Barrack Obama accept his nomination.
“This is a tremendous moment in history,” I told her, and she nodded at me silently and glued herself to the set. When he began speaking to the state of our broken nation, the reasons why he believes it got this way, and all that he aimed to do to heal the damage, her eyes began to glaze over a little bit. Few eleven year olds possess a zest for politics, but it bothered me nonetheless.
“Do you understand how important this moment is?” I asked her, and she nodded again, because she knew she was supposed to and also? Because she didn’t want to find herself sent back to bed. I’m pretty certain she would have claimed an understanding of chaos theory had I been willing to let her sit there for a bit longer.
In the midst of my disappointment, though, I realized something. I realized that we’ve come an awful long way as a country. Laura doesn’t know the sort of hatred that Barrack Obama’s ancestors dealt with. She hasn’t witnessed the levels of prejudice that all of the Americans of my generation grew up with. She was born decades after Brown vs. the Board of Education and lives in an America that has realized some portion of the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke to. It’s true that we have an awful long way to go, but after last night, no one can deny that we have certainly found a path. We’re on our way. I realized last night that my daughter’s lack of appreciation for what we were witnessing was confirmation of that fact.
Don’t get me wrong. Laura needs to be schooled around these things. She has much to learn, and she’s still very young. But I remember being eleven. And I know what I heard and what I saw. I remember the house rules that governed who I was and was not allowed to play with at the time, and I remember the rage and fury that I confronted my parents with when they sent my first friend in our new neighborhood home strictly because of the color of his skin. Remembering this eases my disappointment in some ways.
My daughter wasn’t as excited for Barrack Obama and our country last night as I was because she has no understanding of the kind of intolerance and ignorance that has previously prevented great people like him from raising to positions of leadership. So, I think we’ve come a long way….in this way.