Illegal Jesus

I Can Hardly Wait to See You Come of Age: Inauguration Day ’09

Posted in letters, personal, the personal is political, to my nephew by indiegoddess on January 20, 2009

Dear Braden,

It’s snowing where I am today, all the way across the country from you, in North Carolina. Your Noni says that it was nice and sunny today, a little cold, a little warm. I’m sure you spent the day snuggled up in your warm baby clothes, close to your mama and safe from any harm. Certainly you won’t remember this day when you are old enough to be asked, “Where were you when Barack Obama was sworn in as president of the United States?”

You should know, little one, just how very much your aunt loves you. I may be far away from you right now, and your mom tells me that it’s okay – you won’t remember, but you should know that I think of you every day: you and your mama, your daddy, and I miss you every day. Pictures of you line my mantle and seeing your sweet little face brings tears to my eyes and a pang and swell to my heart that someone like you exists now in my world. You are what is coming next. You are imminent. You are the future that I have been working for, fighting for, for as long as I have been able.

You, and the brothers and sisters you will have, are the reason why I go on every day, even when it is so very, very hard.

When I came out to see you this last winter, I watched you sleep in Noni’s arms while CNN reported the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Right then, I got down on my knees and touched your sleeping face and promised you that I would keep fighting, that your Noni and your Mama and I would keep going and keep working to make sure that things like that never happen in the world where you grow up. I took a picture of you, fast asleep and safe, while people screamed in terror in India because of mistaken ideas about what is right, what is good, and what must be done to bring equality to the world. This world is so unequal, this world that your mama and daddy brought you in to has so far to go before it is the place that I want you to know, the world that it can be, the place I want you to grow up. I pledged to you that I would work, and fight, and keep going until you were old enough to join me in that fight.

Today, the very first African-American president was sworn in in Washington D.C..

More importantly, today, seven years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States of America came together and elected a man, a man of African descent, a man whose parents interracial marriage was illegal in this country until 1967, a man whose middle name conjured up, for many people, a terrifying image of an brown boogie man, intent on our nation’s destruction. Barack Hussein Obama became President of the United States.

There are so many ignorant people in this world, Braden, my love, so many people who refuse to understand, who refuse to reach beyond their unbearably small idea of what is right and what is good and who is right and who is good – for a long time, they have scared the people around them into following them… but mere months after you were born, this country stood up and said “we refuse to be scared. We choose that one.'” And we stood up, listened instead to the voices of our better angels, and chose, we chose, a man who will, God willing, bring to pass a new era of freedom, hope, peace and mutual understanding in this country and throughout the world.

Someday your Mama will explain to you why this was so important, because someday, I hope, I pray, you won’t understand why a black man as president is such a big deal. I rejoice today, not just for the country, but specifically for you, my darling nephew – you will never know a world where a black man cannot be elected president. You will never know a world where such a thing is unheard of.

For twenty-nine years, I, as a political scientist, grudgingly agreed that “the world wasn’t ready.” I have never been so happy to be wrong. I have never been so happy to have been PROVED wrong by my fellow countrymen. Today we took another step toward the world I want you to grow up in, Braden. Today we took another step, an important step, in making this a world where everyone, not just privileged, white, adorable boys like you, but disadvantaged, poor, single-parented, disabled, transgendered, gay and lesbian, black, white, latin@, … where everyone, everyone, everyone, no matter what life they are born into, can find a place in the world where they fit in, where they thrive, where they are loved, and where they can continue to change the world for good.

I want to document this moment for you, beautiful boy, so that when you write a paper, or study political science, or race relations, or when someone stuns you with the fact that it took us over 200 years to elect an African-American man (and yes, we still have barriers to break; and hopefully by the time your sisters and brothers are born, women will have broken through that glass ceiling, as well…But for now, we have done this. WE have done this), and you come to your Mama, or your Daddy, or your Zia or Noni, and you ask us why, or you ask us how…we’ll be able to tell you – this is why. YOU are why. Because we want a better world for you. Because we want change for YOU. Because we fight for YOU. And because we never want you to live in a world, like the one we grew up in, where people were judged by the colour of their skin, or the people they love, or the clothes they wear, or their sexuality, and that includes you, precious, precious little one. I do this, we do this, so that you will be judged by your character’s content, and may that content be all that it can be. You have been born into privilege, precious, perfect little boy, and what you chose to do with that privilege will say everything about you that needs to be said.

This is what I choose to do: I choose to fight for you. And I choose to hold this moment in my mind and in my heart, so that some day, when you come to me and ask how, it won’t be “how could we have elected an African American president” it will be “how come it took us so damned long?”

I love you, I miss you, and I’m fighting for you. My every breath is for you and your Mama, your Daddy, your uncle, your Noni. My every step forward is to make this world a better place for you, Braden. Never doubt that you are loved – and never forget that everyone, everyone, everyone, deserves that same love. Not everyone receives it, and so we have to be patient, but we must never be patient with bigotry, or malice, or degradation of our fellow humans. We are all God’s precious children, and I thank Her every day that she has brought you into my life. I cannot wait to see what you will do with the history we hand over to you.

Do your best. Grow up strong. Fight with me.

Love,
Your Zia