There has been a picture in my office for almost two years. It's a picture I requested because of it's beauty and it's significance to St. Johns; a neighborhood I love. It has been taken down at my request. Why? Despite the placard next to the photo that shows it is actual art, visitors frequently ask if the photo is of me, of my child, or if I know the photo's subject. I always swallowed hard and moved on. The picture is a little girl on a bike looking out at the St. Johns parade. I have another picture in my office. It's two women about to perform in a burlesque show. No one ever asks if I know them. I realize people do not mean to be hurtful, they are trying to relate to me and I get that. Asking me if the Black child in the picture is my child isn't the way.
I'm telling this particular story because this is another reason this election is so important to me.
I am a Democrat and there is no way I'd vote for John McCain; especially after the last eight years. I feel Barack Obama is fully qualified and will create the sea change that this country so desperately needs. There is however, something so much more significant to me. This country needs to see people who look like me and we need White people to see people who don't look like them in the positive ways that exist but we haven't seen since the Cosby Show. I want all children to know that Black people aren't just athletes, musical artists or criminals. I want children to know that Latinos aren't just migrant workers, "illegals," or some other worker who clears tables yet never speaks. I want children to know that Native American Indians actually exist. I'm simplifying with stereotypes because this is not about racism, but about cultural exposure. The Obamas raising their children in the White House is ultimate exposure. Until we allow for more exposure, this post and any conversation or post after this will still make people squirm.
Obama isn't going to rescue us from ourselves or from some deep, deep tendencies. But with this election, win or lose, we've started to see a different and inclusive image of Black Americans and their families that all of us needed to see. I hope we keep seeing it as our country continues to progress.