I'm a latecomer to wholeheartedly supporting Barack Obama. When most of my social group were hailing him as our progressive savior, I was nonchalant. I was initially a Hillary supporter, even though Obama's positions are generally much more progressive than hers.
I told myself it was because Hillary had more experience, and I had recently read her biography, which had given me a sense of respect for her intelligence and skill in making the transition from First Lady to U.S. Senator.
The day after the election, I understood the real reason that I wasn't initially excited about supporting Obama. Racism. Not so much mine (though I believe that I am like the rest of the human population in having unconsciously and unintentionally internalized racist ideologies.)
No, I mean the racism of my parents, my community, my teachers, my peers, when I was growing up in that small town in Indiana. That racism told me that we were not to live near, be friends with, or be taught by African-Americans. That racism allowed my next-door neighbor to give his black poodle the name "Nigger." That racism tore my best friend apart when she fell in love with a young Black man. That racism told me that Black and white people shouldn't have children together, because those poor children would be taunted and shamed.
Certainly we would never elect the child of such a union to our nation's highest office.
And yet, we did.
Let me say that by election day I was extremely excited to support Obama, and thrilled at the prospect of his election. But I wouldn't believe it until I saw it. On election night, when they called the race, I couldn't celebrate until I saw the electoral college map with my own eyes.
Then I watched, holding back sobs, as Barack Hussein Obama gave his acceptance speech. I was crying partly because it was an historic moment, but mostly I was crying because of my own scars from racism, our nation's scars from racism, and my own lack of faith in the ability of humans to change and grow.
Truth is, I hadn't been excited about Obama at first because I would not ALLOW myself to be excited about him. I honestly didn't think our country would elect an African-American. Certainly the people I grew up with never would.
And those people didn't...70% of my small home county went for McCain. Yet the fact that the state of Indiana, along with so many others, went to Obama has restored my faith, and I can finally dare to hope that our communities, our country, our planet, might actually change for the better.