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What a Country

more obama supporters

My heart swells with strange sensations such as I have never experienced before. For too long I have been a stranger to love of my country. Today I have been overcome. Overcome with tears of joy, overcome with prayers of thanksgiving torn up from the bedrock of my soul.

The above photo was taken in San Antonio on Nov. 6, 2008, two days after Obama's historic election. Having spent election night far from my home, in a remote cabin in Terlingua, TX, with no radio or t.v., I was hungry for some Obama celebratory bonding. But I was in Texas so I had to tread carefully so as not to get shot. And the only people it seemed safe to have a little Obama bonding with in Texas were black Texans.

Normally I don't go out of my way to speak to African Americans. The reason is because I am ashamed of my whiteness and ashamed of the genocide and slavery on which this country was founded. And fear. Fear, because I assume they are pissed as hell at living in a racist society, fear because I know their anger is justified and fear because I know that I reap unfathomable benefits and privilege solely due to the fairness of my skin.

But listen, on Nov. 4, 2008 something started to heal. I felt it. Obama's victory gave me the courage to lift up my eyes and look into African American faces and even to initiate conversation. I asked these three gentlemen who were working on the hotel if they had voted for Obama. When they said yes I asked if I could take a photo of them holding the front pages of newspapers proclaiming Obama's victory. They said yes.

I have literally spent hours cropping and magnifying each of their faces on my computer screen and feasting my eyes on their faces. I do this because I have spent my whole life averting their gazes, casting my eyes downward and never seeing these sparkling eyes, these glorious faces. And I am amazed. I am amazed at the beauty of these faces. It's stunning actually.

I would have loved to have been in D.C. today, eating up all shiny happy faces of all hues. I hope this looking people in the eyes thing continues.

God, please forgive us all and heal this country.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Ha, they're adorable.

I understand what you're saying, but you have no reason to be ashamed. I'm sure if you asked any of these three guys, they would tell you not to feel guilt. That's some peoples' opinion, but definitely not the majority. There's a difference between guilt and recognition (in some instances, humility) for history.

Just make eye contact and if you're scared the person thinks you have ill intentions, just smile.
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Whether or not I should feel guilt is debatable. Yeah, it's a useless emotion and bears no fruit. But maybe I feel the guilt that other white people throughout history should have felt, but didn't. Or felt but didn't do anything about it.

I am always pleasantly surprised when I speak to a black person who reacts warmly toward me. I think I should give up this stereotype that all black people are angry.

I always smile and it makes me feel like an idiot. White people smile to much. We smile because we're nervous....or a least I'm nervous.... but I trying to give it up.
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
This entry is amazing and nearly wrenches tears out of me. You say something so honest and beautiful here.

I hope you don't mind... I just printed this entry out. There's a teacher I work with who I'm close friends with who I think would really appreciate this.
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
I'm flattered, thanks.
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Well, yipee! It's a beautiful day. I've wept with joy and full-heartedness. My god, just to believe in the promise of America again is something, isn't it? Happy Inauguration Day! I think I love you!

Jan. 21st, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Girl, here's a big President Obama Inaugural Celebration hug coming your way......


I think I love you, too!
Jan. 21st, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
Marvelous post.
Jan. 21st, 2009 07:17 am (UTC)
i've lived in texas for many years, and i'm sorry you had this kind of fear and guilt...but i'm glad you're feeling a change.
living here, i've never been afraid of being shot for my political stance, nor do i have a gun. the stereotype is really unfortunate.

it's a wonderful day.

Jan. 21st, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
Jan. 21st, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
yeah this pic makes me squeeeee I WANT TO EAT THEMMMMMM!
Jan. 21st, 2009 08:19 am (UTC)
Fear, because I assume they are pissed as hell at living in a racist society, fear because I know their anger is justified and fear because I know that I reap unfathomable benefits and privilege solely due to the fairness of my skin.

You'd be surprised. People are people, and in some cases, focusing on race like that, even if you mean well, is off-putting to some people. I lived in the white flight suburbs of Detroit, and there's still quite a bit of de-facto segregation, not just between white and black, but with are huge Middle Eastern presence as well. People generally get along though, and the race issues are slowly healing in some aspects. I've seen surreal scenes of people who are racist, be incredibly compassionate and generous towards the people they disparage. And maybe that is just my experience, where despite living in the suburbs, I had the opportunity to people of other races, both wealthy and poor.

And like I said, you'd be surprised. I'm painfully white at times, and so when I was younger I wasn't sure if I could relate with black folk from the city. The people I've met have been funny, kind, and I think appreciate my sincerity like I appreciate theirs. That's always been my experience.

I'll probably oppose Obama as much as I have previous presidents--but that's just me. I remember talking to someone once though, about how black boys and men are falling behind in education, and if Obama's inauguration gives them something to look towards, then I'd say it's good.
Jan. 21st, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Well, in the five years I've had this journal I've written 400+ posts about being a nervous wreck......and one post about race. So I don't know how much I'm "focusing on race," but it seems to me not much.
Jan. 21st, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean it like that, I apologize if that's how it came across. It's hard for me to sometimes write out my thoughts. My general point was that even as we become sensitive to race issues, we, the general we, have to also see beyond them. That's all. I apologize if I offended you.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
No worries, little bro....I'm sorry for getting all defensive.
Jan. 21st, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
All you humans look alike to me, to tell the truth.

I do admit to discriminating amongst you based on your 'aura' and how it effects my hackles.

Probably just as well you didn't go to DC for this. It probably would have sucked.

Jan. 23rd, 2009 05:53 am (UTC)

you need to get this published.

i've been in awe and tears myself.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
It's a miracle and yet I can hardly believe this has happened. Our President has grace and dignity. I've never seen this before. I never imagined such a thing could ever happen.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
Whoa, how did I miss this post? What a beautiful photo, and beautiful, honest, heartfelt words to go with it.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Amen, sister.
Jan. 24th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
Is it because I'm white?
A few years back I took a bunch of the clients I worked with (mental illness) to the local Black History Museum. When we went in I introduced my self to the docent (an African American woman in her sixties) and immediately said, by way of introduction: "I would like to apologize for the way my forebears treated your forebears", she looked at me rather strangely and said, "You don't have to do that", and started the tour. That was the last time I made that White Blunder"
Jan. 24th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it because I'm white?
White Nerd.
Jan. 25th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
First, thanks for stopping by my Journal per NDR's request.

Second, what a fantastic picture. One for the ages. I like how each man manifests his personality--the guy on the left (kinda shy; maybe feels like a dork), middle guy (awesome smile) and right guy (total dude)--and they're also all saying the same thing.

Third, once upon a time, when I was perhaps slightly intoxicated, I faked an Australian accent for fun in a bar and then carried it out onto the street, where I asked a black woman if she knew the time. To my eyes, the suspicion, fear and...I don't know...weight of American history she and her friends seemed to bear on their shoulders disappeared when I spoke. Smiles and relaxed bodies all around.

It made me sad and it also made me wonder how much of my own meta-anxiety of the type you describe shows on my own face or in my own body when I encounter African-Americans. Maybe they're reacting to my unspoken discomfort as well.

Oh yeah. I'm white. White, white, really pale white.
Jan. 26th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
That is really an amazing story about faking an Australian accent and feeling the weight of American history lighten up.

The more I read, the more I am learning that every country has their own sins to contend with....and the more I begin to value the things about America that I take for granted every day, such as "freedom of movement" not experienced much by women in Afghanistan.....(I just read Kabul Beauty School and Afghan women are on my mind. I pray a Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony rise up in their midst).
Jan. 25th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
What a marvelous photo and an achingly honest post, createdestiny. I don't know how I missed it, but better late than never is what I'm thinking.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )