Four Novembers ago, I voted by absentee ballot. I was due to pop out a baby very close to election day and I didn’t want to take any chances.
“I will tell them to turn on the TV in the delivery room if I have to!” I told everyone. “I’m going to watch those election returns even if I have to do it through contractions!”
As it turned out, my wee (or not-so-wee) little Benjamin wasn’t born until 7 days later. So my massive belly and I spent election night schlumped on the couch. I dozed in and out and opened my eyes long enough to see the crowds gathering in Grant Park in Chicago. I smiled, patted that big old belly, and went back to sleep.
I didn’t vote for Barack Obama because of his color. I voted for him because I thought he was the right person for the job.
That I happened to be casting my vote for America’s first black president didn’t occur to me until later. “Oh yeah. I voted for the black guy. And he won. Wow. That’s … huge.”
Let me get that for you
The day after that election, I was busting with pride. I actually put a flag on my car that morning, to go with my Obama/Biden bumper sticker. I hadn’t had a flag on my car since 9/11, lest people confuse me with a Republican. 😉
I dropped my daughter off at preschool and then went to Wawa. As I was walking in, I saw a delivery man coming toward the door with a dolly full of soda cases. As I would for anyone on any day, I stopped and held the door for him.
But on that morning, it felt different. I was a nine-month-pregnant white woman, performing this courtesy for a black man. And we had just elected a black president.
I probably smiled at the guy a little too big and a little too long. I imagine black people were getting all kinds of goofy looks from white people that day. Looks that said, “Hey! How cool is this? I voted for him, too!”
Let me just admit: I recognize how lame this sounds. You can just see it as a headline in The Onion, can’t you? Area woman shows appreciation for black people by holding the door for deliveryman.
But really, on the other hand, it’s not so lame. Sure, it was a teeny tiny gesture. Something that we take for granted. But we all know that not so long ago, teeny tiny gestures like drinking out of a water fountain, sitting at a lunch counter or choosing a bus seat were loaded with meaning — and sometimes danger.
Allow me to gush
I’m a white chick. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be black in this country. Often, even though I’m a screaming liberal and a total equality-for-all kinda girl, I’m afraid to express certain things because … well, talking about color can be scary. I always fear that I’m going to say the well-intentioned-but-incorrect thing and step in a big pile of you-know-what without knowing it. Like, for example, is my holding-the-door story accidentally racist because I shouldn’t assume that all black people voted for Obama?
But today I will say this: I am SO FARKING PROUD to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today by watching our first black president get sworn in for his second term. I am certain that I will not be the only one shedding some tears over this.
We have come a long, long way.
Hey, America: Good job.