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Audacity of Hope?

December 17, 2008

…  Hope is seeming much less audacious these days.  It feels like a promise, a birthright is being renewed.  Last night I saw it, I didn’t just feel it. 

(Warning:  an attempt at a post of substance:  written by me, from my narrow perspective, an admission of my own imperfect view of the world, but intended in a wholly positive light.) I was riding the MUNI home last night, reading “Dreams From My Father” and reveling in the honesty of it.  Clearly Obama wrote it before his political career took flight.  He shares his imperfect youth (smoking, partying, using the “N Word”, being a ne’er-do-well teenager; more beach bum than future President) in such a candid way that you can’t help but appreciate his vulnerability.  After a passage that particularly resonated with my high school experience I laughed out loud, looked up for a contemplative pause, and noticed something rather heartwarming.  Across from me was an African American mother with her elementary school aged son and her teen-aged son.  The three of them were staring at the pictures on my book jacket.  The mother was softly smiling.  The teen looked proud.  The youngest looked to eyes filled with wonder(? hope? awe?).

I was raised in a very small town (population 3,000) in Northern California.  With the exception of maybe a dozen people, everyone was either white or Mexican.  While some racial division may have existed, I grew up completely unaware of it.  Maybe it was because my brother, who was four years older, was one of those popular kids that was welcome in all the cliques, but the thought of categorizing people by race or skin color never occurred to me.  Sure, I heard off-color jokes but they always seemed to be for humorous effect and not thinly veiled racism.

This blissful ignorance of racial division came to a screeching halt when I moved to San Francisco, of course.  I live in a neighborhood where signs have translations in to English, often incorrectly, and almost always as an afterthought.  I am truly a minority.  I ride a MUNI line that terminates in a neighborhood known for it’s Projects.  I get a daily dose of street culture from denizens of both neighborhoods – and I tell you what… It is totally foreign to me.  It’s even more foreign that the Mandarin signage all around me. 

Maybe I’m too old, too white, too middle-class or from too small a town but I missed the rap/hip-hop boat all-together.  I was listening to hair metal and The Cure when Bel Biv DeVoe was climbing the charts (but I was briefly “cool” and had a boyfriend in high school from the Bay Area that drove a mini-truck and listened to LL Cool J 😛 ).  Any way… the whole baggy pants thing is something I can not relate to – at all.

Then last night – there I was – across from a family fully part of the baggy pants community.  I was relating to what I was reading.  They were relating to what I was reading.  And suddenly I felt like we were part of just one community.  One community where if we work hard together we can all truly be hopeful.

Obama is not the Messiah.  He will not cure all the evil in the world.  He may not even put a dent in our nation’s problems.  But I tell you what… he’s already changed something significant in me and how I perceive hope for the future. 

For the first time in a long time I didn’t categorize hope along racial lines.

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One comment

  1. Your post made me cry…..I love you.



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