Saturday, June 07, 2008

Today, It's Remarkable

Last week a black man won...no, earned the nomination for the democratic ticket. A black man in America. And coming in at a very close second was a woman. Can you believe it? I hardly can. Given our history and the occasional moron who still utters racial slurs and threats and even follows through with a lynching now and then, the results of this primary season are miraculous.

Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton delivered a masterful concession speech, although it wasn't called that for several technical reasons, and in it she said this:

"You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable...Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time. That has always been the history of progress in America."

She's right about that. Progress comes to us in starts and spurts and set backs and lurchings forward. A generation sees something distasteful in us and overcompensates with the opposite, sometimes creating a new offense in the process, and then things settle down to something resembling reasonable behavior and right understandings of our brothers and sisters. We inch forward like this from generation to generation, like riding a rickety rollercoaster that takes you up and drops you and flings you from side to side until your knee caps are bruised and your heart is racing. And when it stops, you've had such a thrill you can't wait to get back on. This is progress in America, and today I think we can all, regardless of our political leanings, be proud of the history we have just seen first hand.

Several times during her campaign speech, Clinton has referenced the 90-year-old women who told her they were born before women could even vote, and now they are so excited to see the possibility of having a woman as their president. They won't get to see that in their life time, but it's possible I will. My grandmothers were adults before they were given the right to vote, and I often think of them when I think about the importance of having my single voice heard in the polling booth. I do think about that quite often, actually. I am acutely aware that it wasn't so long ago that I would have been turned away on voting day, along with my mother and my sisters and my nieces and my daughters and my dearest friends.
I never want to take my voting right for granted

More from Clinton's speech:

"Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes. Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot-soldiers who marched, protested and risked their lives to bring about the end to segregation and Jim Crow.

"Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote. Because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together. Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them, and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African American or a woman can yes, become President of the United States."

While I don't want to take my rights for granted, I do look forward to the day when I can shrug at the idea of having an African American or a woman as my president. It will be the normal course of events, and my grandchildren will think about how it wasn't that long ago when the idea was nothing but a dream. But for now, it's remarkable.

3 comments:

dive said...

Remarkable indeed, Robyn.
Watching Obama the other day made me almost wish I believed in God, so I could picture MLK looking down proudly.

By the way, you'd make a great president.

Mrs. G. said...

I look forward to the day I shrug too. But in the meantime, I'm going to savor this historical first and help push Obama over the finish line! Go Dems!

Cheri said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!