Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America's First Black President

Not just America's first black president -- America's first biracial president, America's first president raised in a transracial family! I doubt any reader is surprised to discover I'm giddy with delight this morning! Even if you disagree with him politically, I hope you can see Obama's election as a powerful symbol today, one that is likely to benefit our transracially adopted children.

As the NYT reports: "[His election] was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago." I'm a baby compared to some, like Congressman John Lewis, who have noted the changes in race relations during their lifetimes. But I was alive during the end of Jim Crow. I lived in Texas and Mississippi while America's South was dragged kicking and screaming into LEGALLY doing the right thing, while still resisting integration as lived reality. Ten years after Brown v. Bd. of Education tore down barriers to schooling for non-white children, I was bussed to the all-white school, away from the closer all-Black school in Mississippi. I was in junior high school -- almost twenty years after Brown -- before the first black child attended a white school in my Texas hometown. If you had told me as a child of Obama's election in my lifetime, I would have said, "Nice idea -- never gonna happen!" How wonderful to be proved wrong!
Zoe and Maya are excited today, too, though I'm sure they don't fully understand the significance. Zoe went to vote with me yesterday, and declared the experience "booorrrringggg! But the first thing she said when she woke up this morning was "Did Obama win?!" And we talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and what he meant when he prophesized a future where each person would be judged on character and not color.
But for them, I think, today is mostly about the winning. It was funny when we got to school today -- Zoe and her blue-eyed, blond-haired friend Rafael ran to embrace each other, saying at the same time, "OBAMA WON!!!!!" In the election held among students at her school, McCain beat Obama 4 to 1 (what can I say? It's Catholic school in Texas!), which was a bit of a downer for her. She and Rafael campaigned hard for an Obama victory in their second-grade class to no avail. Of course, Rafael's big plan was to tell everyone that McCain kidnapped people (!) and was righly slapped down hard for it! (Don't worry, I was very fair-minded about the whole election thing -- Zoe told me she was going to vote for Obama because I was, and I told her "no way!" and made her learn about both candidates, including asking her grandpa why he was voting for McCain.) On the way to her school after dropping off Zoe, Maya chanted, "Go-Bama! Go-Bama!" and thought herself very clever for thinking of it.
What does Barack Obama's election mean for our children -- and I'm not asking about taxes or terrorism! Does this change anything for them in terms of race relations? As racial minorities raised in transracial families? What are you saying in your families today about the president-elect?

12 comments:

Wendy said...

Madeline woke up this morning and asked the same thing! She feel asleep after she knew he won Ohio!

She was also a supporter and KNEW her issues--I too, do not go for "you vote for someone so I will" philosophy. How will our kids learn to think with that mentality?

We have been talking about the significance of Obama winning for some time and I think M can feel it, not fully understand obviously--she is four! She knows that it is important. She identifies with him as well--and LOVES his children's book, she read it the night before because she said she knew that was important for election day.
We voted weeks ago (early voting here thank goodness) and she checked our ballots to make sure we marked her choice! I am so proud of her. I am proud of our nation. We have a long road, but at least are on our the correct path and moving away from the all white club (predominately male with the power) and into a sense of pride, change, and voice for the real America!

Of course it was wonderful to hear Obama's speech last night, but the best part was seeing the crowds in various locations--the crowds that represent our diverse country! Seeing a crowd filled with varying shades of skin, multiple religions or lack their of, gay and straight, disabled and not, rich and not, just US. Just America as it really is! That representation is something I share with my daughter and will continue to do; it is too easy to think you are alone when you live in the shrinking all white, Christian only areas of our country. I am glad she can see that the attitudes we face in our area are not universal and that America belongs to her too!

Change is finally here!

Louanne said...

I am thrilled that our country has elected our first black president. Though I differ with him politically and did not vote for him - I honestly hope he MEANS all the things that he said in his acceptance speech. I thought he and McCain both gave classy speeches on Tuesday night and I would like all those things to hold true.

Wendy said...

I want to thank Louanne, I was wondering why no one was responding to this most awesome achievement in US history.

We are supposed to be able to disagree politically, but come together after the people have spoken. It is an awesome moment for our country and one for our kids!

Anonymous said...

Are you seriously saying that you voted for Obama because of his race? Not because of his policies? As a Catholic, how do you reconcile his statements regarding abortion? Did you tell your daughters about John McCain's adopted daughter and the fact that he has a bi-racial family, one that he built by choice, rather than simply being born into it?

malinda said...

Anonymous asks if I'm "seriously saying" that I voted for Obama because he is black. If you read my post, I doubt you could have concluded that. Nowhere did I say I voted for him because he is black. But that doesn't mean that I can't revel in what his election says about race relations in America.

Yes, I'm Catholic. And as soon as the Catholic Church decides to abide by its teachings about social justice and a culture of life by refusing communion to politicians who vote for the death penalty, I'll take their abortion rhetoric seriously, too.

And yes, my kids know about the McCains' daughter adopted from Bangladesh. I have not, however, shared with them Cindy McCain's rhetoric about how she "rescued" that child. I don't want my children to see adoption as a charity mission.

And a transracial family built by adoption is more noble than one formed by birth?! Where did you get your talking points?!?!!!! That's not really how we think of adoption in the modern day. And it sounds like you think there is something wrong with mixed-race couples having children . . . .

Thanks for commenting! Next time you might want to read more of the blog, you might learn something!

Wendy said...

You are right on Malinda, especially about Cindy McCain and her pathetic way of displaying her daughter to the national media AND that somehow adoption trumps bio families.

Don't you just love people who go on other's blogs and give their holier than thou attitude and then don't even have the backbone to leave their name. Makes you wonder if someone so narrow-minded (sounds like a one issue voter) voted against Obama because she feels she has the right with her religion to dictate the lives of others, instead of understanding that we are a diverse nation with varying beliefs and religions.

***most likely the same poster that does not understand a landslide when she sees one--even McCain and his campaign conceded to that!

Anonymous said...

I didn't say that being a biracial family by choice was better than by birth, simply that McCain actually made the choice to be part of a biracial family, while Obama has vehemently rejected the white part of his heritage. Cindy McCain did rescue her daughter, whether you like the fact or not. She took two children who were close to death out of the orphanage and brought them home to keep them alive. She didn't have to adopt one of them but she did.

Wendy, I can indeed understand how the electoral college works. Can you do simply math? Can you subtract 46 from 53 to see how the makeup of the country is actually split? Pretty much along the same lines they were split in the last two elections. Half bigoted red staters and half egotistic foul-mouthed blues.

malinda said...

Anonymous,

Can you point to the evidence that Obama has "vehemently rejected the white part of his heritage?" I don't see it, given the love and respect he has shown for his white grandparents, even leaving the campaign trail to visit his white grandmother before her death.

It is not, of course, surprising that he "identifies" with the skin on the outside. Those who are perceived by others as a racial minority tend to identify internally with their outward experience.

This has been an issue for transracial adopted kids. They feel they've been raised "white" and have considerable racial identity work to do to try to reconcile that internal message with the outward message. I'd expect biracial kids to have to go through the same process.

If you're interested in learning more about racial identity formation, I highly recommend the very-readable book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"

I think it is great that Cindy McCain rescues children. I very much admire the volunteer work she has done and funded. I just wish she didn't connect that to the adoption of her child. If she would say, for example, "I rescue children -- but my adoption of my daughter wasn't about rescue, it was about family expansion, family formation, love . . . . " It's not just that her spoken attitude is harmful to her own child -- that would be her own business -- but as a "celebrity" she is frequently quoted in the media on this topic. Others then see adoption as a rescue mission, and sure enough, it trickles down to my family. I think all adoptive families should be concerned.

I don't mind anonymous comments at all, so feel free to keep posting. I'm also perfectly fine with disagreement, there is no litmus test to post comments on this blog! But if I disagree, I'll say so, that is how one has a "discussion" after all!

I will remind everyone of the need for courtesy -- try to disagree with the argument, not the arguer!

Wendy said...

I would also like to see this "vehement denial of his whiteness".

I agree Malinda, anyone who goes and helps anyone (child or otherwise) in achieving a better life is doing good work, but equating adoption with rescuing is not helping the fight against these attitudes for and directed at our kids. Anyone going into adoption to rescue should be questioned at a much deeper level--the modern adoption community has moved past this along with social workers and adoption health specialists. All evidence points to the harmful nature of the "savior" mentality.

anon--YES, I can do math. Seven percent may not seem extraordinary to you, but historically it is very significant and in politics it is a very significant lead. Also, as I pointed out earlier, the division in the states that barely went one way or another is very telling and the fact that long standing conversative states changed their status (you must realize that red/blue is a false construct). I wish you would just see the statements as they are and not take things so personally. We are speaking in terms of the significance for our country with the nasty history that we share; if you don't see that I don't even know where to begin. Maybe you are so used to be represented in government that you cannot understand those that finally have a voice or that the America that has been represented throughout history is shrinking, which is finally allowing a voice for those disinfranchised.

Personally, I don't think you are going to hear anything we are saying because you have not acknowledged or understood the posts as presented, instead reading into them the bias that you feel. I am sorry for that. The facts are clear, we have a new President elect and we are moving forward ( a long hard road), I just hope those who don't want to forward our country's ideals of freedom and acceptance (long denied to many in our country due to prejudice and the illegal mixture of church and state) would just get off the bus now and allow the rest of us (with beliefs from the left to the right) make a better world for us all.

malinda said...

Anonymous, you might be interested to know that Obama won the Catholic vote, 54% to 45%. Four years ago, the Catholic vote went to George Bush by five points. Pretty interesting 14-point swing in 4 years.

malinda said...

Luanne,

I didn't want to forget you in all this back-and-forth! Thanks for your comment; I hope there are tons more fair-minded people like you who can appreciate the symbolism of Obama's win even while disagreeing with his politics.

I agree, both gave great speeches. I was really impressed with the graciousness of McCain's speech.

On Election Day in my law school class I asked my students to turn to their neighbors and say something nice about the "other guy," the one they did not/were not voting for. I started it by saying how much I admire McCain's military service (I'm a military brat, how could I feel otherwise?!). I did that little stunt to remind my students of the basic lawyer creed of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Hope to hear more from you in the comments in the future!

Syd'sMom said...

OH MY GOODNESS - Can we not just stick to the topic of adoption? McCain supporters are not racists, and Obama supporters should not be, either! This election "should" have been about qualifications, not issues of race. I would hope neither candidates are racists. For those whose candidate lost (me) we have to accept the voter's decision and move forward and make new decisions. Let's move back to the wonderful topic of adoption...pleeeeeeease! Love ya Malinda!