I don’t think that Obama is erasing racial tensions in America. I don’t think that there is an equal playing field. I don’t for a moment think that his election is the end of racism, discrimination, and disenfranchisement. But I do know that when I went into school on November 5th, outside of my windows the streets of the Bronx were resonating with the same chants of ‘Obama’ from 8am until I left school at 3:30. The teachers in my school were glowing and gushing and still tearing up at the memory of the night before.
“Yes we did, baby, yes we did!” the said, shaking their head that it had actually happened. My students waltzed in, chanting and screaming and holding newspapers. It took an extra 10 minutes to quiet them to get ready for class – and even then it was only because I had abandoned the idea of teaching about anything other than the election. They all told the same story of their parents sobbing with happiness. Several of them had been woken up in the middle of the night by their parents to go out in the streets and celebrate.
“My mom is saying that now even her kids can be president!” one of my students said.
“Yea! Mine too!” exclaimed the others in the room.
It is something that parents say to their children – you can be anything you want if you work hard. You could even be the president. But that’s not a dream that their parents had ever had for them. For my students – a dream was put on the table that hadn’t been there before, and regardless of how much racism and prejudice still exists – and it’s a lot – it means something big to have that dream on their table.