Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Kids are Alright...

By the age of 7, in 1974, I had used the word "nigger" in casual conversation. I knew it as a synonym for "blacks", though it would be a few more years before I would come to realize it was more than just another word. Such was the advancement of my generation, that we didn't really know the word was bad.

Earlier yesterday evening, I told my own 7-year-old that tonight, in the US, they might elect the first black man as President. He stared at me, wrinkled his nose and said

"So? I don't care."

I couldn't help but smile.

He didn't care because for him, its inconceivable that a black person couldn't be President of the US. The history of the moment was lost on him because, to him and his friends, the idea of "black" or "white" that my generation has, is lost. In fact, my two oldest kids, aged 7 and 9, don't even use the term "black" - they describe their friends as "Jenna with the dark skin" or "Sanjana with the light brown skin" or "Katie with the light skin and freckles". Its not race, is pure visual, pure description.

What to me and my generation is an earth-shattering event of enormous historical importance, is merely a normal day for my kids.

And that is just fine by me.

I have no illusions that President Barack Obama will be anything other than just another man in charge of the state. He won't perform miracles and he won't be a savior. Indeed, I expect him to pass some pretty bad policies and legislation, most of which I will not agree with or even oppose vehemently.

But I know history when I see it and for me this is history. His election is symbolic that maybe, just maybe, the scourge of racism is dying and that in another generation or two, it will be a thing of the past.

My son is living proof that it is happening.

In December I'll be 41 years old. In my life I have seen Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the end of the Viet Nam War, the 72 Series, the resignation of a US President in disgrace, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Challenger Disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of Apartheid, the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tienanmen Square, Oklahoma City, 9-11, both Iraq Wars, the start of the 2nd Great Depression and the first African American elected President of the USA.

I wonder what the next 41 years will bring. Whatever they bring, I know that the next generation is already an improvement over mine.

That is the real cause for hope today.

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At 12:54 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Mike: you have just described a VERY bright silver lining :-)

...and I actually saw a Hendrix concert. y'know.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Thanks... I was pretty proud of the little guy myself.

Hendrix? Awesome. Where? When?

A friend of my Aunt was sitting in a bar in New Jersey in 1974 when this guy took the stage and sang this new song of his...Thunderroad.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Sept 7, 1968 in Vancouver, with Eire Apparent and Soft Machine.

Short Hendrix set but wonderful anyways.

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very similar thing exists among members of my peer group (early/mid-twenties). Very few of us even cared that Clinton and Palin were women, or that Obama was 'black' (there are a few who continue to be shocked that we continue to use the standards of the most racist to determine 'race' these days).

That said, I think few of us missed the historical moment in the way that your son did. Then again we are older, have a longer education, and are in that gap generation where the struggles and victories of our parents' generation are taken as established facts on which to base our interactions, not contentious issues to be constantly thrown in the face of others, as if the victories will fade away. But we can still see the struggle, and the need to keep it up, if only on a different (i.e. educational) plane.

As with other relics of our intolerant past, with time and education we become greater, to the point where the struggles are shocking because we can hardly imagine that that would be worth discriminating over.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Well said morning fog.

Still I'm proud of the fact that he didn't care because it didn't occur to him that he should have to care about the colour of someone's skin.

That is pretty cool.

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The youth are amazing citizens Mike, I've had similiar discussions with my children regarding a number of different things - the whole gay marriage debate comes immediately to mind.

My kids were very confused as to why it mattered - thankfully ethnicity, religion, and sexuality, are non-issues for intelligent youth, and they are in the majority.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here I am Mikey....no, my site isn't up anymore :P

You know me, I figured they would elect a black president....after all, we have a Dipper in Alberta now.....the Devil is wearing a parka and mukluks right about now I figure....

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Ha!, well good to see you back. Be sure to pop in every now and again.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Simon said...

Nice story Mike. The recent U.S. election and the battle over Proposition 8 showed a really positive trend. For example on the Prop 8 vote I believe 67% of people over 65 voted for it, while 67% of people under 30 voted against it. Nice symmetry eh?
The kids are the bright future of the world...but only if the rest of us can save the world for them. And we're not doing too good...


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