My father died in 1967. In those days, there was a lot of racial strife over issues like civil rights. Viewings and funerals I suppose, were different. I remember, in a sea of white faces of family and friends, one black man came to his viewing to pay his respects. He was a co-worker of my father and came over to this 9-year old to shake my hand and offer his condolences.
At the time, I was probably in some contorted state of emotional shock, but in the days that followed I came to realize that, in that small instance that people are the same in more ways than not.
My father wasn’t the type who treated people differently because of who they were. In fact, he taught me that I should treat everyone the same – whether they’re cleaning the toilets or running the place. That’s a valuable bit of knowledge to pass along to a child.
(In my adult years, upon speaking up to our company’s CEO, I related my father’s teachings to one of our Human Resources people and was told that “your father was wrong.” I needed to slug him but restrained myself)
I’ve lived my life with that attitude ringing around in my head, even though much of society doesn’t share it. My attitudes aren’t often in line with society, so I’ve come to accept my viewpoint as odd. It’s why I bristle at the attitude that certain people are special or above the law. We are in fact, a nation of laws, not a nation of men. But I digress.
Barack Obama was elected president last night. For a child of the early 60s, that’s quite an accomplishment. Maybe younger people don’t have the same background or feelings of accomplishment that those of us older folks have, but trust me, it’s a big deal.
At least once, we have allowed ourselves as a nation to see through a man’s color and put him in the highest office in the land. Granted, it wasn’t by a huge majority of votes, but neither were the last two elections. For people like me, it never was about electing a black man or, in Hillary’s case, a woman. It was about a man’s ideas and comportment. It was about bringing back a sense of pride in being an American. It was about shoving aside the old ideas and embracing new ones. It was about the man, not his skin.
I think my father would be proud.