Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Glass Ceiling

Last Sunday, I went out to Central Park to cheer on the NYC Marathon runners. The weather was great, so a big crowd turned out. People of all races and nationalities stood together shouting good wishes in many languages, urging the runners on whether they were strangers or friends. I doubt I’ll ever attempt a marathon myself, but even standing on the sidelines, I felt like I had become a part of something bigger.

That was two days before the election, though, so my thoughts strayed to what it might feel like to be running down the home stretch to be elected the first black president. I was struck by similarities between what was happening there on the race track and what was happening in the country as a whole.

Folks in NYC danced in the streets last Tuesday night – people of all races, and of a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Yet we came together in joyful celebration as Barack Obama ran through the tape at the end of his long run and another glass ceiling shattered over all of our heads... or did it?

When I think of our past, it seems that the only way to pass any glass ceiling has been to break it, sending shards raining down on everybody below. The desegregation of schools was met with violence and fear. The first black voters risked life and limb when they went to the polls. Civil rights workers were destroyed for holding up hope. What I saw happen on Tuesday night was something totally different. It felt like the country finally rose up in unity and just carried the glass ceiling out of the way.

As a community, black Americans have been running for a long time. Not a single marathon, but a relay of marathons, a baton passed from one generation to the next to the next. I’m not sure that we actually came through the tape last week, but it feels like we might be on the home stretch at last. I’m sure that the American presidency isn’t the last glass ceiling that people of color will have to pass. I just hope we will be able to push aside the rest as gracefully and with peace.

1 comment:

Pauline Karakat said...

President-elect Obama is an inspiration to everyone, regardless of race. I know that African Americans must feel a strong sense of pride now that the glass ceiling has been shattered, but I feel it as an Indian American woman struggling to establish a career. Even though we have tough times ahead, I feel better about our country's future with a fresh new start. I am crossing my fingers!

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