I remember back in 1984 when rumors started flying that Walter Mondale might pick a woman to run with him on the democratic ticket. My reaction was to be completely dismissive; a sort of “what’s so new about a woman in the back-up role?” kind of thing.
And then I sat and watched as he nominated Geraldine Ferraro…and I cried.
What got released in me that day was something that for 30 years told me that I didn’t belong, didn’t have a place at the table. I saw myself in Geraldine Ferraro. And all of the sudden I felt included in the scheme of things in a way I never had before.
I saw that same feeling on the faces of African American delegates to the ’88 Democratic Convention when Jesse Jackson spoke. And since it had happened to me only 4 years previously, I recognized the look.
I don’t want to be alienating to anyone, but the reality is that white heterosexual men in this country don’t have a point of reference for this kind of experience. You have grown up seeing yourselves represented in every position of power that can be imagined. But perhaps with some empathy, you can understand a bit of what it feels like to have that sense of marginalization being communicated every day in ways that sometimes are overt, but most often covert, to the point that the feeling sinks deep into your bones and you don’t even notice all the time that its there.
And then one day POW!!! Someone like Ferraro or Jackson breaks through…and the world of possibilities opens up again.
For the past day or so I’ve been reading blogs written by African Americans to see what they are saying about the Obama victory in the Iowa caucuses this week. Some didn’t even mention it. Some don’t support or trust him. But for many, they shared that feeling of anticipation that perhaps the door is breaking open, the one that says you belong. Lets take a look.