Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

'America is so racist it would never vote for a black president' and other urban legends


Thank you America, for finally shutting up every pub bore who smugly informs you that 'America is so racist it would never vote for a black President.'

Thank you Americans for standing in line for many hours to prove so decisively that democracy functions exactly as it should. Thank you to the low-income workers who lost pay yesterday because they had to wait in line so long. Thank you to African-Americans who came out in record numbers to vote, often for the first time and to white Americans who put centuries of bigotry and prejudice behind them to vote for America's first black president.

But very selfishly, thank you America for releasing me from eight years of being a minority. A minority among my anti-American friends, who believe that no good can come from America.

Thank you America for your optimism, your belief in the future, the vitality of your language, your literature and yes - your television (The Sopranos!), for Jon Stewart and the Onion, for Studs Terkel, who didn't quite live to see this, for Philip Roth and Toni Morrison and Houdini and Robert de Niro and Donna Karan and Betty Friedan and Ms Magazine and Goldie Hawn Marvin Gaye and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. For frozen yogurt and Barney's. The list goes on and on.

Yes it can. Yes it did. Yes it will.

(And a minute ago a DHL courier came to the door with the first copy of the US edition of The Clothes on Their Backs. Which has a starred Kirkus review coming up.)

America still reinvents itself, and that is its promise to the world.

12 comments:

Marian D said...

I'm a member of the same minority – I think America's a great country. I hate the sneering comments people make (I used to live in Italy, where it was just as bad). Your list could indeed go on and on: random choices of mine would be Woody Allen's films and all those 1930s and '40s classics with their sharp dialogue, Manhattan (song and skyline), the gloriously diverse mix of names you see in film and TV credits, proper burgers and diner breakfasts. And yes, the optimism.

Arabella said...

Is it possible to experience a warming surge of happiness for an entire country? I've lived in America for nearly eight years and last night I did.
Texas, went to bed red as usual but Austin, where I live, is still blue and stays on my list of American wonders. Along with NYC, baseball britches, Honky Tonks,California sunrise, the music all the wonderful music, Oldsmobiles, and the Lindyhop swing-out.

Deja Pseu said...

I'm just relieved that we went with the candidate who appeals to the best of our nature, rather than listen to those politicians and pundits who appeal to everything small and mean in the human spirit.

Now I just hope we give him a chance, and don't expect everything to turn around a week after he's sworn in. There's a lot of damage to undo.

Toby Wollin said...

Yes, Pseu -- the really hard work starts today. But I am supremely grateful to everyone who voted - who were involved in the process - who discomfited themselves to do a real national service.

Linda Grant said...

Watching the crowd in Chicago last night I could not help think that two generations of idealists have had very different experiences. Mine, the generation in our teens and twenties in the 60s and 70s, saw defeat after defeat. The young people who worked for Obama were rewarded with a triumph. I think that might stay with them for the whole of their lives: the knowledge that it's possible to make a difference. The election has certainly has dealt a big blow to cynicism and apathy.

dana said...

We finally have a leader who can think and speak, who doesn't make us cringe every time he opens his mouth. The tension of this administration and election season has been lifted, and now we realize how crippling it was.

StyleSpy said...

I keep bursting into tears. I can't remember ever being so proud of my country. I'm so happy and grateful and feel so privileged to have seen this day. Finally, after some long dark years, the rest of the world can see what people like me know in our hearts -- we are a good people, we can do the right thing. Thank you for bearing with us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you stylespy!!! You said it all so well!!

desertwind said...

Yesterday was a remarkable experience, Linda!

He even won my very conservative desert county in California. (unfortch, we didn't drop our awful congressman, but there ya go.)

Beyond what he symbolizes, he really does have the right temperament, intellect and drive for the times we're living in. Oh, I know he'll eventually make a decision that disappoints me (they always do,don't they?) but I'm feeling hopeful right now.

Anonymous said...

You have not lived here, nor have you ever lived here. You have a right to your opinion but you have not walked the walk...I am as pleased as anyone in this country Obama won. It is the first time I have felt such optimism. However, do not for a minute doubt that to be in America is still to experience racism and sexism. It was no urban legend that Americans might never elect a black President. You could see it in the tears of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and a dozen others, that this was the dream they dreamed, but not one they thought might ever happen in their lifetimes.

America is a great country. Let's hope and pray that it can regain it's glory.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you Americans for standing in line for many hours to prove so decisively that democracy functions exactly as it should. Thank you to the low-income workers who lost pay yesterday because they had to wait in line so long. Thank you to African-Americans who came out in record numbers to vote, often for the first time and to white Americans who put centuries of bigotry and prejudice behind them to vote for America's first black president."

You're welcome.

(Middle class African American, consistent voter, night person who got to the polls at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.)

hollarback said...

Thank you! I am so relieved that Obama won - and it is nice to hear genuine shared happiness (without any attached begrudging) about the US for a change.

The bashing from abroad was getting a bit thick. It's nice to hear from a friendly :)

Having been on the losing team the last two presidential elections- I stayed up to watch nervously and was rewarded with seeing Virginia, of all places, turn BLUE! That was when we knew :))))

Cheers!!