Here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to get up early, and my wife and I will go down to the elementary school down the road — the one where my daughter goes, where I went, where my mother and grandfather went — and cast my vote, just like my grandfather did when I was a kid. Then I’m going to go to work and be mad at myself all day for not taking a vacation day and offering to help drive people to the polls like I promise myself I’m going to do every year.
At quitting time, I’m going to come home. We’re going to order pizza, I’m going to pour a glass of bourbon (a good American whisky, made with sour corn mash, like George Washington used to distill), and then I’m going to crash on the couch and wait for the votes to come in. We might let our 8-year-old daughter sit up a little bit to watch.
And I’m going to be confident that what she’s going to watch is our nation elect a woman to be president. The first president she’s going to remember will be a black man. The second: a woman, whom the black man beat in a bitter contest, brought in as part of his cabinet, then endorsed and campaigned for to succeed him.
I know we’re not going to witness the birth of a post-racial republic in my lifetime, no more than we’re going to witness the end of gender politics. This election itself has proven that these issues remain very real.
But I’ve been aware all my life that there are some things, right or wrong, that went my way by the simple absence of pigment in my skin and the inheritance of a Y chromosome, like I somehow had something to do with that. African Americans have a very different experience in this nation than my daughter and I, and are the products of a very different history. Deride it as white guilt; at least I’m cognizant.
Not all that long ago, blacks and women argued over who should receive the vote first. And within my daughter’s lifetime, she’s seen both a black man and a woman compete for — and likely ascend to — the office of the highest executive in our nation. And for her, this is routine. It’s just the way things are. That’s really cool.
It doesn’t mean for her that things have changed radically. But I hope it means they have changed a little. Because I want her to understand that the only thing that makes someone less of a person isn’t their pigment or chromosomes; it’s the things they believe and the way they behave.