Full of American pride

Published 12:40 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

“That which was unimaginable has occurred. The anvil is lifted from our backs. Our emancipation is complete. An African-American has been elected President of the United States.” These are the words that flooded my thoughts as I watched the results of the recent presidential election.

Although I grew up in what could be considered the post-civil rights era, I am still reminded daily of the vestiges of slavery in this country, a way of life that took away the personhood of African-Americans.

This is not to deny that with assistance from people of good will from all races we have slowly and with a great deal of struggle regained much of that which was taken from us; however, some harsh consequences remain.

Whether it be the disproportionate levels of poverty in minority communities, negative stereotypes encountered in the workplace and classroom, or the absence of black faces in places like the Oval Office, these reminders have always been there.

As a result, my relationship with the idea of a great America that deserves my allegiance has been a strained one.

It has not been one of love and hate but love and disappointment. Symbols of the American ideal, such as the flag and the national anthem, only served as reminders of broken promises. On the other hand, it has also forged a profound sensitivity to the experiences of those who are less fortunate in our society and a deep commitment to work to empower them.

But this election did not disappoint. The citizens of the United States, by a clear majority of voters, shed centuries of hate and fear in favor of significant change.

Our society appears to have crossed a threshold in which most of us, to quote a famous American, judge a person by the strength of their character, not the color of their skin. But it is not only the election result that sparked a new sense of patriotism in me. The process of voting was just as important.

As I waited in line to vote at a church in Alabaster I was struck by the diversity of the crowd and election workers as well as how everyone waited patiently chatting with strangers, helping each other through the process.

No matter how one voted, we were all winners because we had a fair, transparent and inclusive election. I think this was an example to the world of how democracy can work.

For me this election was hope personified. This experience left me not only feeling privileged but proud to be an American.

Kimberly Barrett is Vice President of Student Affairs at the University of Montevallo.