Wednesday, November 05, 2008


the J-M 3 this morning,
watching a re-run of Obama's historic victory speech in Grant Park last night
The boys slept together last night in Owen's bed. They were sleeping soundly in there as Braydon and I watched the television, astounded and teary, as Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election fair and square. My thoughts were all over the map, but kept coming back to my boys. Words cannot describe what it means to a black boy's mother as we watch this unfold. The significance that Barack Obama's mother was white is also not lost on us here in the J-M household. After nursing Meera around 2:30am, I checked in on my boys. They were both lying on their backs, fully outstretched, with their arms wrapped around each other's. I stared and tried to pour the message into their little minds through the universe in the night: 'He won my babies, he won. You will wake up to a new day.' This morning Kyle was quick to ask, "Who winned Papi?! Who winned?!" 'Guess what guys?!!! Barack Obama is our president!! PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!" They (Kyle especially) literally jumped for joy. They were concerned about McCain. They were worried he was sad. We talked about what it means to win --and lose-- fair and square. And what it means to concede. Then they ran to tell Meera, just waking up in her crib. "BarackO winned Meera! He winned as president!!!" We turned on the t.v. in the kitchen for the second day in a row. This time to watch BarackO as President Elect, and to get glimpses of the next First Lady and two little girls with "beautiful brown skin just like us." These images are so powerful. To say that this is profound is an understatement. At three different moments this morning I held each of my children in my arms and whispered to them, for the first time ever, what I now actually do believe to be true: "My baby, you can be anything. The sky's the limit now. You can be anything you want to be." The barrier has been broken. It is not all peaches and cream. There is struggle to come. There is a long road ahead. But we have turned a corner. Today is a new day.


Anonymous said...

"Rosa Parks sat so MLK Jr. could walk…. MLK Jr. walked so Obama could run …. Obama is running so our children CAN FLY….(Jay-Z)."


(I tried to post this comment yesterday, but I'm not sure if it went through.) On your blog, you do an incredible job of sounding your voice and making the reader feel like he/she is right there with you, through your family's adventures and trials and little daily victories. I've loved your Obama posts because this entire election has made me think so much about the American Dream, your book, your Soc. classes that I loved, and your fighting spirit. I loved that you said you watched the acceptance speech through "awe and tears," since I've been crying off and on all day, almost uncontrollably, and I'm sure I never cried this many tears of pure happiness. I'm so proud of the collective "us." American NEEDED this. The world needed this. I needed it. Your kids needed it. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts...

A big hug from a big fan,
Marsha in Romania (and on to Namibia in February!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a beautiful message.

You are indeed correct. The turner has been turned; the barriers have come crashing down.

Today is a new day, not only for African Americans but for America as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! We stayed up and watched here in good old Germany as well. And boy were we excited!
The sky is the limit :)

Heather said...

Hooray! Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Heather. I sit crying through your post because you described my feelings exactly. Last night when I put B to bed I kissed his head and said, "sweet dreams baby, tomorrow you will wake up to a new world."


This Mama said...

Thank-you for this beautiful post and even though we are not American we are right here cheering with you!

My three little guys were huddled around the radio last night with me
(no TV/cable) and I tell you they sat there and how could you not feel the power of the moment? It was truly awesome.

Wendy Huning said...

I've lived in Italy for 20 years now and have heard, over and over, that I'm not a "normal" american, that I'm an exception. A person with my values and views certainly couldn't be an average american! And yet, today, I have proof of what I've been saying all along, that so many americans are decent, good people who want the best for the world.
Just one month ago we returned home from Mali with our precious son, and I just can't wipe the smile and tears off my face when I think of what this means for him! Europe has alot to learn from America today.

insanemommy said...

Thank you for Heather for saying what so many of us feel! It truly is a new day......Looking forward to a brighter future. And, yes, he did win the electin. Fair and square.

Michelle said...

As the proud mom of a transracially adopted AA little girl, I felt so similarly watching Obama speak. I wonder if this event could be the start of a new era for racial relations in the US. I truly hope so.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the lovely post Heather. It had touched our very hearts.

I was passed out by 7:30 p.m. last night as I have been working 3 days straight from 4:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. but woke when my daughter came running in and said "Yahoo he won, he won".

Being in a fog for a few minutes it didn't register who had won, but was elated to know that Obama won. Was able to catch the speech this morning. We are so very excited and are happy to be part of this history.

Love and Hugs,

Cate said...

I really struggled with this election. I love the man Obama. I believe in the hope he offers so much and that we should help each other but, as a small business owner, I don't agree with some of his stances. I do believe Obama will lead and that is something we haven't had in a LONG time.

I was most touched though by two things. I, stupidly, didn't realize just what Obama's victory would mean to my friends who are black. Their emotion had me in tears, and I found myself caught up in their joy.

Secondly, my older sister. who has a 10-year-old son, said it best, "I love the fact that my son will never think it unusual that a black man is elected president."


Anonymous said...

What about the intense emphasis during the campaign on Obama's white mother (as you point out) and grandparents? What about the fact that his skin is lighter than most African-American men, that he speaks standard English or that he is solidly in the middle class?

I don't mean to be a pessimist (or to cling to views of structural determinism), and I know your boys are likely too young to fully understand class privilege, but the rhetoric of "anything is possible now" is irritating to me given the "long road ahead," as you put it--especially for those black children much less fortunate than your boys, black children who enjoy much less privilege and whose lives are still sadly very deeply impacted by the powerful ideological structures still so present in the lives of so many.

Milwaukee, WI

Anonymous said...

I've taught for 8 years in an urban/inner-city public school in which the student body is 50% black. We also chose to purchase our home in the same city. ALL of my students (regardless of race) are "much less fortunate" (an understatement, really) and enjoy "much less privilege" but ALL of them can and do speak standard English -- even if they don't with their friends they absolutely do in the classroom. Many of my students are biracial, but I can assure you that many/most (possibly all) of my biracial students identify themselves as Black, and are accepted as Black by their peers (regardless of the whether or not they have a white parent who raises them, or are lighter in skin tone). This is the norm, whether you agree with it or not, it is what it is. That being said, education is the key to success, rich or poor, and Obama's victory has had a HUGE positive impact on my students and our community. Their are still hurdles to overcome, nobody could deny that, but to say that Obama's victory is less because he isn't "Black enough" or didn't start out "poor enough", etc. undermines the gravity of the hurdle that we JUST DID OVERCOME. THIS IS HUGE!!!!!!!
Mama to one very EXCITED and PROUD black five-year-old boy who, no doubt, will remember these past few days his whole life and tell his grandchildren of this election.

Rebecca said...

Again, I do not mean to deny that Obama's win is certainly exciting for many (especially for all children); however, not mentioning what differentiates Obama from the masses and promoting the ideology of "the broken barrier" (which Obama himself did in his acceptance speech at Grant Park) is essentially very damaging for those whom the barrier remains unbroken.

I do not believe my comment to have suggested in any way that Obama was "not poor enough" or "black enough" as you state. Certainly, I do not feel that he should be shamed into representing the identities of groups he isn't apart of. Following this same logic though, I don't feel that he (or others) should make claims on behalf of those groups either (which is how the "broken barrier" logic implicitly functions--it claims that race is no longer the barrier it once was while ignoring other systems of oppression).

I'm already hearing a lot of conservative rhetoric about how blacks "can't play the race card anymore". I refuse play into these damaging myths. I will celebrate Obama's victory and pay attention to the small social shifts it will allow. But I will remember that "the American Dream" and meritocracy are myths, not realities in this country and as seductive as these narratives may seem, they ultimately serve to reify social structure and, hence, structural inequality.

Milwaukee, WI

(and BTW, I also teach at an urban university and live in a predominantly African-American neighborhood *in Milwaukee*).

Heather said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for your comments. I agree with you. I also believe now, more than ever, that *for my boys* a barrier (specifically, the barrier keeping black men outside of the presidency) has been broken. Other barriers are still there. Racism exists. Structural racism exists. Structural inequality exists. OBVIOUSLY. But a corner *has* been turned and today *is* a new day. I think it is o.k. to celebrate a bit--- knowing that struggle is to come, and knowing all the backlash that will result from this. It is all very complicated and I don't want to get into it here on the blog. But if you haven't read it already, I'd be very interested in hearing what you think of my book. Take a look at it if you can. 'The American Dream and the Power of Wealth'-- Routledge. I think you'd find that we agree on the important points!