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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Pinch Me: If I am Dreaming I Don't want to Wake Up!

This morning I woke up afraid the inauguration had all just been a wonderful dream. It wasn't until I heard the DJ on my morning radio show mention the inauguration that I breathed a sigh of relief. But I can't relax. I still hold my breath every time I see Obama in public, afraid he will be shot. I still worry that someone will find a way to take it all away, to render his election illegitimate somehow. I am still not sure this is really happening.

Its not my fault. Nothing in my 40 years of life on this planet has prepared me for this. Nothing in my experience as a black/red/brown woman in the United States has ever suggested that this was possible. If I don't know how to act for awhile, people are going to have to cut me some slack.

Am I sporting a goofy grin during what ought to be a serious discussion? Cut me some slack. Am I teary-eyed every time I watch the news? Cut me some slack. Am I bumping into walls while walking about in a dreamy state? Cut me some slack, people.

When I was a wee girl all my teachers told me I was supersmart. My parents tended to agree with them. Given all the praise I was getting from the big people- who ought to know-I had no reason to think it unreasonable for me to decide that I was going to grow up to be president of the United States. The adults were too nice to burst my bubble. They never discouraged me but oddly didn't encourage me much either. Looking back on it now, I suspect that just hearing me say that was what I wanted may have broken their hearts a little bit.

When I was older- around 10 or 11 I was reading an encyclopedia (something I enjoyed doing for fun, being a nerdy type of child) and I came across a section on the presidency. The book had a photo gallery with photographs (or in some cases drawings) of all the presidents who served in the history of the country. I looked through all the pictures, page after page, and I was struck by two oddities: there were no women and there were no brown faces.

By that age I had  been made aware of the great number of white people who thought Black people weren't real people like them and I had met my share of men who believed that we lived in "a man's world" where women were just their helpmates, their ornaments, their entertainment. But I didn't put it all together until I saw all those old white men lined up in that book. I didn't know until then that when they said any American citizen over the age of 35 could be president that the term "American citizen" did not include me, despite my being Indigenous to this country on one side of my family and a 3rd generation American on the other.

So if I you find me stumbling through my day in a dreamy state, don't pinch me. I don't want to wake up from this wonderful dream! I hope I never do.
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