This week, I learned, in a new way, that God’s ways are higher than ours, and He is not as concerned with politics as with the heart.
This is a guest post from a dear friend of mine, Tiffany Christian, an African American Conservative Mom. She wrote a touching account of the 2009 Inauguration of Barack Obama that brought me to tears, and has graciously shared it here. Tiffany will be taking her social work students to Uganda for the second consecutive year, and you can get information about the trip here (coming soon): http://asuuganda.blogspot.com/
There are a myriad of descriptors one could use for me:
- Christian (no pun intended)
- Community leader
And many of those adjectives appear to be contradictory, but somehow, I’ve been graced to bring it all together in a way that works. So, because of that, it’s been an interesting two years as we’ve watched this election unfold. The past 6 months have especially been a mixed bag of emotions. In the battles between Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, Black and White- many of us have lost sight of the bigger picture and, unfortunately, the relationships that bind us.
As strange as it may seem, from where I sit, this election wasn’t about politics at all. Instead, it pushed buttons of prejudice and discrimination all over America-
· Can we elect a woman as president? What if she cries?
· Can a Black man be president? Will he have watermelon and fried chicken on the White House lawn? Will he put big speakers in Air Force 1?
· Can a woman with small children be Vice-President? Will she get PMS? Will she be changing diapers during press conferences?
SATURDAY NIGHT: Anyone who knows me would describe me as confident. I just don’t have time to leave in doubt and fear- there’s too much out there. So it was really strange when I was overcome with anxiety as I was trying to go to sleep. My head flooded with strange thoughts: What if terrorists attack? What if there is a riot and my kids get trampled? What is there are so many people I get separated from my kids? What is we come all this way and we can’t actually get into DC?
So, I relied on my most reliable form of comfort-prayer. I prayed for protection for Obama and his family, the Bush family, those attending, the entire city of DC, and the nation! Then, in this rare moment of self-doubt, I said, “God, if you’re sending me a message to stay home please tell someone else to call me to confirm it.” I got no phone calls, so I proceeded.
SUNDAY: I started to get excited. I was a little relieved that we got iced in and I didn’t go to church that day because the rest of the conservative, Christian world wasn’t always so supportive of the idea of attending the inauguration for this “socialist liberal.”
MONDAY: We got on the bus at 6am and I was numb- a little overwhelmed, a little nervous, a little excited but mostly concerned about how I would manage my kids in the crowd.
Monday night the kids made signs with the college students we’d traveled with. That was fun to watch. I never would have imagined that my children would be this excited, knowledgeable, and involved.
TUESDAY MORNING: I woke up with this unexplainable feeling on anticipation. Like being pregnant with your first child and waking up the morning of your due date- an excitement you can’t explain but it’s tempered by the reality that you are about to embark on something totally new and unfamiliar. I took a picture of the sunrise, and as corny as it sounds, I actually thought “this really is the dawn of a new day in America” And I wondered, is this what people felt like in 1963 when they were heading to the March on Washington to hear Dr. King speak? Then, it dawned on me- everything changes today. Maybe this story will make it clear to you:
When my 9 year old son was in kindergarten, they were asked to dress up like whatever they wanted to be when they grew up. He wanted to be the president so he wore his suit and went to school as the president. He looked absolutely adorable, but as a Black mother of a Black child, there was a pain deep in my heart. I understood the reality: that door wasn’t open to him. I couldn’t tell my child that he couldn’t be the president because he’s Black but that was the reality of the world we lived in. But, when I woke up on inauguaration morning, a new reality hit me hard: that door now stood wide open and my child’s dream was not just a crazy fantasy, but it gained substance.
Standing in DC, people were cordial. Millions of people gathered- of all classes, all backgrounds, all education levels but mostly people of color. They said “Excuse me!” and “Thank you.” There was a feeling in the air of civility, of peace, of excitement, and as trite as it has been during this campaign, of hope. I saw women and men in wheelchairs there to witness the event that thought they would never live to see. I saw people who felt disenfranchised for decades coming to DC to inauguration, even though they didn’t truly know what it was or what to expect. I heard the Lord’s prayer ring out through the city as millions of us recited it in unison.
As if simply been there wasn’t enough, the fanfare was amazing. TV does not do it justice. As I watched Obama take the oath of office, an unexpected flood of emotion (and tears) came over me. That could be my son! His daughters looked like my daughters! His wife looked like me! I finally felt like a real American- Aretha’s rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” had a whole new meaning because, for the first time in my life, my heart put the emphasis on MY!
WEDNESDAY: We arrived in Boone at 6am and I felt different- lighter, happier, freer. It wasn’t just a dream- this had really happened. I thought- America is different now. Then I got an email from a friend in Uganda and he said:
“may America head down the right road, the inauguration was shown on CNN here and in primetime…it was very inspiring and my Ugandan friends were amazed at the order of things…the lack of soldiers, the masses of people and that Bush was not booed…it would never happen here according to them…[but if] it could never happen there, maybe it can happen here.”
On Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 we, as Americans, welcomed the first Black president to office. We, as a country, are different. I, as a Black woman, am different. I, as the mother of Black children, am different. YET- I am very much the same. Am I still conservative- yes! Am I still pro-life- vehemently! When I’m voting and come to those candidate and offices that I know nothing about, will I default to the Republican candidate- usually! But, I am a more empowered me, a more emboldened me, a more hopeful me, all because my country has finally and sincerely made the ultimate gesture of equality.
So, as a mother- A Black mother, with Black children, I encourage everyone to capitalize on the teaching moments. Fortunately, our children will never truly know the depth of the painful past we have faced in America. But, in many ways, we have a responsibility to make sure they understand as much as they can so they can grasp the magnitude of the triumph we celebrated on January 20th.