On Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, I cast the first ballot of my lifetime. What a powerful experience — It will not be my last.
I am registered as an Independent. I voted, however, for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Even though the GOP won my state of Alabama, I was lucky in that 53% of the nation (not to mention two-thirds of the electoral college) agreed with me on who would be the best leader for our nation at this time. So even though my vote didn’t carry enough weight to sway our particular state, I can still take solace in the fact that my candidate won by an electoral landslide.
History was made that Tuesday — and I understand some people aren’t particularly happy about it because their candidate lost. That’s OK. And you know what? I’m not calling you a racist for it.
I’m not accusing anyone of being a bigot because they didn’t vote for the Democratic Presidential ticket this year. People have their differences, and I’m not going to slap folks with the race card just because they didn’t vote for “the black guy”.
As an African-American, of course I’m thrilled to finally see a President that looks like me, but let me tell you that has nothing to do with why I voted for him. I voted for the man who was the President of the Harvard Law review and went on to serve his community to make the world a better place, one block at a time. I voted for the guy who ran the best campaign of our lifetimes and has shown us that he knows how to run a tight organization. I voted for the guy who has the temperament and judgment to be commander-in-chief. That guy just so happens to be Barack Obama.
What I am saying is that after what was the longest and most hard-fought presidential campaign of our lifetimes, our country is naturally going to be divided. This is to be expected, that’s what happens after an election.
What we need to do as a nation is make sure that we move beyond the divisive, partisan rhetoric of the campaign trail and start showing some support for our fellow Americans who happened to disagree with us.
I remember the night Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States. I’ll never forget it. A friend of mine got a phone call saying that a bunch of folks were rolling Toomer’s corner (as if we’d won a game). I went out there and I was genuinely surprised as there were all kinds of people present, not just African-American students.
I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of seeing black and white people together in harmonious unity. This was a little different though: instead of holding hands and singing, we were throwing toilet paper together and shouting. It was a little bizarre, but still a beautiful, beautiful thing.
We need more images like that. We need more times when those of us who have sharp disagreements and come from vastly different backgrounds can still come together in the interest of our nation and say, “We are all Americans”.
I’m not being naive here. I know racism still exists, and anyone that tries to use this election as proof that racism is dead is fooling themselves. I live in Alabama, folks — trust me, racism isn’t going anywhere. I am glad to see though, that this election was a massive step in the right direction as far as race relations are concerned.
Don’t be fooled. There is still a lot of work to be done. Americans today face the greatest challenges of our generation, and we’ve got much bigger problems to tackle now than party affiliations or political disappointments:
We are fighting two wars. There is an energy crisis. There is a healthcare crisis. Let’s not forget that the economy hasn’t been in shambles this bad since the Great Depression. We need to work together to solve these challenges and build a brighter tomorrow for ourselves and those to come after us.
The time has come to let the healing begin!