Jeff Rivera writes in a guest op-ed for IC
This week Obama appointed members for his national security team which included his former nemesis, Hillary Clinton. To see this man of color in such a powerful position is inspiring to say the least.
I remember people were dancing in the streets, honking their horns that day. I remember, and always will remember that day forever as we got the news that Barack Obama had won the presidency. The magnitude of it didn’t really hit me until the next day. Whereas there was a gloom about New York City the day before, suddenly spirits were lifted. People of color seemed to walk just a little taller, a gentle smile on their face. Foreigners and Immigrants from all over the world enthusiastically greeted strangers saying in their brooken English, “Obama, good? Obama, good! Yes, yes!” It was heart warming and sweet but I pondered on those simple words, “Obama, good.” Was Obama truly good for America. What would this mean, how would this effect not only our brothers and sisters of color but our Caucasian brothers and sisters who were equally supportive and equally responsible for having Mr. President Obama elected?
Practically this election sent out a message that Americans were no longer preoccupied with color. They wanted the best man who could do the job no matter what the color of his skin. It ushered in a new movement which included the appointment of Chicano Governor Richardson to the cabinet. Obama sent a message by mixing his cabinet with people of color as well as Anglo Americans that we had to move beyond the color issue.
Yet, since I moved from Miami to New York City, I have never in my life felt so proud of my heritage. I had been raised with a pride in our mixed culture of Native American and Black American, of our European ancestory, as well as our Caribbean roots, of our Puerto Rican cousins and our Filipino stepfather. These were things were taught to be proud of but never had I realize how much Obama’s election would effect me until I saw him and his lovely wife at the steps of the White House for the very first time. They turned back next to the former president Bush and his wife toward the cameras. He with his trademark smile and she with her firey red dress and I thought to myself, “Wow. It actually happened. It actually happened.” and I felt truly anything was possible, anything and that could be me up there. Watching them experience the presidency for the very first time was like me experiencing it vicariously.
I knew then that anything I had in my mind to do I could do. Anything. No longer did I feel ashamed for speaking educated or articulate. No longer did I find it necessary to dumb down my language when I was around them or put on a bit of an urban accent if it didn’t come naturally just to fit in. No, I could be me, I could be Jeff Rivera and I could speak with pride and dignity, that I knew for certain.
Obama’s election meant to me what it meant to many people of color that we do matter. That our little vote does make a difference and does effect the world around us. And although our vote and voice might have been silenced for 8 years of the previous presidency, that silent wave of disatisfaction and unrest came upon the Bush administration like a silent tsunami powerful and swift. Yes, truly the people had spoken and they would no longer be silent, they would speak with a cheer.
Suddenly, walking down Crown Height Brooklyn often scoffed at as the bowels of New York City, I saw signs all over the windows and smiles, tearful smiles of pride. I could raise my head with pride that we, we had done this not just our little community in Crown Heights but the city of Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon and South Central, Los Angeles. We had done this all of us. No longer could we has people of color blame the man for keeping us down.
Obama’s win meant that we had to stand up on our own two feet, stop feeling powerless because we never really were. If anything, if we were to fail it would be upon our own shoulders, not to blame. For as the old saying goes, “When you point a finger at someone, you’re pointing three fingers back at yourself.”
No, we were the man, finally we were the man and the power that we always had was being recognized. We had spoken and never again would we allow ourselves to be silenced.