Tuesday, January 20, 2009

For this white woman, race has come full circle

Will President Obama help us unite?

by Jeneiene Schaffer

TUCSON -- As I was chased home, yet again, by a group of taunting black girls and boys, I knew when I got home that no matter how angry I was, my mother would threaten severe punishment if I even muttered the "n-word". I knew equally well that on the weekend when I visited my father, it would not suprise me to hear him say, with that white indignation he was so fond of displaying, the words 'porch monkies', 'welfare moms', and yes 'nigger'. During the race riots of the early 70s in New Jersey, I went to a predominately black grade school, my mother raised alone three kids in a predominately black poor neighborhood, and my dad was a cop, no doubt making life hell for any unfortunate black person who crossed his path.

As I matured, I could have chosen any truth to lead my life by. As we all know, Spirit lays several paths before us. I have never forgotten running home crying into my mother's arms. Her gentle voice reassuring me that those kids didn't really hate me. As a mother now myself, I understand that what she needed to tell me, but I was too young then to understand, was those kids saw me as 'white' and therefore a good and easy target for their pain, their fustration, and yes, hatred.

Since then, the truth I have chosen is the one that abides by the love, respect, and dignity of all beings. God may have placed me in those turbulent times and blessed me with those early life lessons. And I am grateful.

Today as I sat with mostly black folks at the Inauguration Soul Food Brunch hosted by the Tucson Southern Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce, I thanked God that my life had come full circle. That as Barack Obama took the oath of office, I openly cried for joy and turned and hugged and kissed a black woman I never met before. It is a happy day!

For me, it's ok to rejoice and celebrate the victory of a black president. Until that day when race does not divide us, I will honor times, like now, when it beckons to unify us.

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