Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Liberal guilt, and progression.

I must admit I am feeling a little guilty. I am a self proclaimed history buff you see. I loved my history classes in school, I enjoy museums, National Geographic magazines, archeology, the Discovery Channel, The History Channel, various history books, PBS, etc etc. A bit of a dabbler in the info of the past. I love the little tidbits of information about that past that filters in and much to the chagrin of friends and family I love to share that information.

So I have been a bit surprised at myself.... a bit ashamed and abashed even. Since the election ended I have begun to put more thought into WHY I have been so blase about this election. I have even done a little history refresher for myself a la the internet in order to fully enjoy todays experience. Now back to the self examination...

I lay blame for my initial lackluster excitement about this election on the fact I am a Westerner. A Californian to be exact, and to put a more precise twist on my personality as far as demographics go... a NORTHERN Californian. So, I always thought I would see the first African-American President take office in my lifetime. I was not surprised or shocked or overcome (at first) by the outcome of this last election. It was a feeling almost of.... "Oh yeah... ok. Whatever." It was almost a "Big deal.. of course... why not?" kinda attitude.

Do not take offense... none is intended. I know it is a big deal.

You see throughout the campaign I had focused more on Mr. Obama's age, his message, his poise, his intelligence, his eloquence, his background, and the positive and professional way he presented himself than I did on the color of his skin. I listened to his voice, watched how he spoke, heard his words, examined his reactions to the questions put to him and focused on his answers. I was impressed with him because of all I just mentioned. At first he was a mystery to me so I was suspicious, as one should be about politicians. But my suspicion came from the fact that I knew nothing about him. However, as the election progressed I was increasingly impressed with what I heard.

I was impressed because in the end Mr. Obama is definitely presidential material... not because he is definitely black presidential material. Know what I mean?

You have to understand, along with expecting to see a black president, I also thought in my lifetime I would see a woman take that office... I expect to see Hispanics, Asians, Native American men and women. When I see pictures on the news of a flock of congressmen/women I fully expect it to look like all the schools I attended in the Bay Area. I expect to see a multitude of faces, shapes, sizes, different colors of skin, different ages, and sexes. I am always disappointed when all I see is a wall of pasty grey testosterone in navy suits with sprinklings of different colored skin, and maybe even a little estrogen thrown in here and there. Even though I am disappointed, I always use those sprinklings to give myself hope for a more balanced picture in the future.

To be frank, I am surprised we have not had our first African-American president yet. But what had I done about it? How had I helped in any way to push this country to progress? I hate to admit I have been lazy in my "demand" for that door to be opened to people other than older white men. Lazy because of my generation I suppose. You see, the civil rights movement was a little before my time.

This was not something I grew up seeing on the T.V. or in the streets:

nor was this:

and be thankful you never had to be this courageous just to go to school:

I am not naive enough to believe that since the Civil Rights Movement all is hunky dorey. We still have a long long way to go in regards to relations between the many different groups of peoples in this country.

But isn't that the point?

The very American point? WE KEEP TRYING. We keep hoping. We keep progressing... maybe slowly.. maybe we fall backwards sometimes but we always get back up, get back on track, and try again. Americans an idealistic people. That is in the very core of our makeup as Americans and it has been from the beginning. We are always striving for a better life for all of us even though we sometimes fight with each other. Our hope and idealistic outlook is why so many have come here and continue to come.

We continue trying to live up to that whole Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights thing. Those Darn forefathers set a pretty high bar for us... but damn...

Didn't we just get one hell of a big step closer?

1823 Alexander Twilight the first African American to receive a bachelor's degree from an American college.

1845 Macon Bolling Allen was the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States and later became the first African American justice of the peace.

1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent who were slaves, and/or their descendants whether slaves or not could never be citizens of the United States. Therefore they had no standing to sue, and as chattel (property) they could not be taken from their owners without due process.

1862 The Emancipation Proclamation. declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863.

1865 the 13th Amendment abolished and prohibited slavery and secured a minimal degree of citizenship to former slaves.

1866 Cathay Williams the first African American woman to enlist. Williams enlisted in the United States Regular Army on 15 November 1866. She posed as a man under the pseudonym, William Cathay.

1870 Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American member of the senate, and therefore first African American member of Congress.

1876-1965 Jim Crow Laws. State and local laws that mandated segregation in all public facilities with a 'separate but equal' status for African American and other non-white racial groups.

1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of 'separate but equal'.

1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy. The unanimous decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

1964 Civil Rights Act: Outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment. The bill was introduced by President John F. Kennedy in his civil rights speech of June 11, 1963.

1965 The National Voting Rights Act: Prohibited states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.

1968 Shirley Chisholm the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

1990 Barack Obama elected the first African- American president of the Harvard Law Review

2009 Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

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