I can't believe it's been a whole month since the election. For the past month, I've been so incredibly proud to be an American. (And a bit less proud to be a Californian, but don't get me started on that right now. I'm feeling fairly joyous and a tad philosophical, and working up a head of steam about self-righteous and intolerant out-of-state religious freaks would really harsh my mellow.)
So, where was I? Oh, right. President-elect Obama. Has a nice ring to it, dontcha think? He seems to be hitting the ground running, egged on by still-President Bush, who is so eager to hand off the steaming pile of turds that he has made of our national economy and international reputation is likely to leave skid marks on the White House lawn.
Of course I'm interested in what President Obama will do, but I'm also curious about what we Americans will do now that he is our leader. Will it change the way we think about race? For me, it already has.
We all hate to admit how much we've internalized the racism we grew up with, how much our sneaky little subconscious still recoils when a Scary Brown Person heads toward us on the sidewalk, but it's there. Recently, however, my subconscious is much more apt to look at said Scary Brown Person and wonder if he has kids. Or if he owns a house on my street and if so, whether he worries about his property values as he waters the hydrangeas in his garden. My rotten, racist subconscious has quite suddenly and disconcertingly decided that the Formerly Scary Brown People are actually Folks Like Me.
It's bizarre to realize I've had a mental shift like that, because it forces me to acknowledge that I had all those awful racist thoughts to begin with. And then of course I wonder if the person walking in the other direction is thinking, "Great. Another slack-jawed fool giving me the lovey googy eyes because she's suddenly figured out that we share a common humanity. Hoo-friggin-ray." It is, quite frankly, rather embarrassing.
But I'm hoping it's an experience that a lot of my fellow white folks are having. And I'm hoping that maybe the googy eyes will give way to actual conversations, and, you know, community and stuff, and then maybe we can all stop segregating ourselves and each other into little enclaves and fighting over schools and jobs and start realizing that we've got common goals -- and common enemies -- and oh geez I'm about to burst into that song from the Coke commercial so I'll just leave it at that.