Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope and Common Ground

Today I am hopeful. I cast my ballot for Barack Obama, and have been emotional about this historic election all day. This morning, on my way to work, I welled up when I saw lines at a polling place at 7 in the morning. This afternoon, I was moved by how many voters brought their children with them to be a part of history. It comes as no surprise to people who know me well that I plan to be within earshot of my TV all evening and intend to keep my clicker next to my pillow once I decide to call it a night (in the interest of being able to function tomorrow at work).

One of those people who know me that well is my friend, Candyce, who is also hopeful, and whom I have known for 20 years (give or take a few), since our days in Boston. She lives in Arizona now, and has for years, with her husband and two sons. Characteristic of many long distance friendships, our communication waxes and wanes. As quickly as we can fall out of touch, for no other reason than life gets busy, we can get right back in the swing of friendship with a simple phone call or email because one of us sees Rehema Ellis or Gwen Ifill on TV. Yes. You see, we are all proud alumnae of Simmons College, where C and I first struck up our friendship.

C is in DC tonight for a conference so we are primed to be in the same time zone, ready to text back and forth as the election returns come in. It is certainly a great opportunity to be in DC on this exciting election night, but for C it is also particularly auspicious. The historic nature of the election is personal. Unlike me, C also shares with said respected Simmons-alum journalists, Rehema and Gwen, being African American.

Kind and generous in spirit, C has happily stepped beyond the role of friend to help educate me about some matters related to race. In her company I have witnessed insidious and lingering racism, and have been tempered by her grace and dignity. She has never presumed to speak for all black people (and I learned early on that it would be ignorant for me to ask that of her), but has shared with me some of her own experiences as a black woman--as a black girl growing up in Springfield, Mass; a college student and young professional woman in Boston; as an established professional, woman, wife and mother in Tempe, Arizona. Likewise, she never asked me to speak for all white people or presumed I espouse the divisive and racist ideas of some, but she has asked for my perspective as a white woman.

Before we talked on the phone, I texted C this: I keep welling up all day. I can't imagine how you must feel.
She replied: Girl, I can't think. I'll call you in a few.

Clearly, this election season was a perfect opportunity to reconnect with C, for us to share our perspectives, to embrace this time and learn from each other and the behavior--if you will--of Americans. Tonight, she is excited and nervous--about Obama winning as well as losing. I am too. We both agreed we have a long way to go, but Barack winning will be a measure of the progress we have made, and will provide that extra glimmer of hope that we need to move forward still.

I shared with her a story that I heard a pundit tell this morning about a friend of his, an African American who returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. When he arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston, in his uniform with a purple heart, he could not get a white cabbie to drive him back home to Roxbury.

"Can," I said, "I hope that man is still alive today and celebrating this day in his heart."

"I wish that too," she said.

What Candyce didn't say, but I know is true, is that she wishes her mother and countless other quiet heroes, as Obama described his grandmother after her passing yesterday, were here to celebrate too.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Hi Joanne. I was catching up with your blog tonight. I never tire of your writing--sensible yet witty, and always so eloquent!
Keep up the great work!

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