It has been a riveting few days awaiting the US election results. The entire world has held it's proverbial breath waiting to see what would come out of the elections.
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I remember exactly where I was when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States of America. In 2007, I was doing my Masters practicum and was in Kampala, Uganda to collect data. I had my copy of Dreams with my Father and reading it while in East Africa had a beautiful familiarity. My Dad who is a retired Economist served in the Kenyan government at the same time as Barack Obama Snr. (but do I say). And given that He is a proud Luo man, I felt a deep connection to the hope that Barack Obama was sharing. I remember having a discussion with a group of intellectual Kenyans and Ugandans telling them that this guy will be the next President of the United States. They had that same condescending tone that I heard over and over: it was admirable for him to aspire to such a high office and almost cute but it would never happen.
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I finished my Masters and had moved to Ottawa for a research job and that November when the president elect stepped out with his family, I remember calling my parents who were in Kenya at the time. My family takes civic duty very seriously and we grew up in a household where geopolitics was part of regular dinner conversation. My dad had tears in his eyes. He said to me he never thought he would see the day that the son of Luoland, the son of the Motherland would hold the highest office in the United States. Racism is not something that was new to my Dad. As a senior Kenyan government official he travelled often to World Trade Organization, the United Nations and World Bank meetings internationally. He had several anecdotes but one in particular stuck with me: they were in the plane on the way to Geneva and the airhostess refused to serve the black people on the plane. Yes you read that right. She by passed ALL the black people on the plane. When they protested she claimed that they were sleeping and she didn't know they wanted food. Black people. On a plane.
So you can imagine the joy we as a people felt when Barack Obama was elected.
I did not agree with all his policies, but I will forever have a deep appreciation for his presence as a global figure and for the glass ceilings he shattered. When he was re-elected, I was pregnant with my first son. As a toddler, all he knew was Obama as president of the USA. He didn't know that he was the first anything, he was the only president he knew as a global figure. He knew the Obama's. To this day that imagery is engrained in his head.
What I felt in 2016 when Trump was sworn in was sadness. Whatever hope we had felt when Obama was president for 8 years was eroded in one fell swoop. I'm not American nor do I live in the USA, so why should this matter? Well I don't need to tell of how white supremacy, racism, bigotry and hatred have become pervasive. Trump has been the mouthpiece, both literal and figurative, of hate speech and has inspired several white supremacist groups. When confronted about condemning this, during the presidential debate, he refused to do so despite being given several opportunities.
Which brings me to the moment at hand. We were waiting and waiting for the U.S. election results knowing that we couldn't handle another four years of hate from the highest office and soap box in the United States. Having seen George Floyd murdered in broad daylight by the very institution that was meant to protect him by an unremorseful white police officer. Having seen Breonna Taylors murderers walk free. THEY HAVE STILL NOT YET BEEN ARRESTED. Having to have had tough conversations with my kids on what it means to be black in North America. Having witnessed and experience several "micro" and macro aggressions not just to me but also to my children. Having occupied several tables where I was the only one who looked like me and having to constantly navigate professional and social spaces where my presence felt unwelcome.
To then live to see and witness Kamala Harris elected as the FIRST female, FIRST Black, First South Asian Vice-President of the United States is not only historic it is deeply symbolic for me as a black mother and parent raising my black daughter in 2020.
As I raise my daughter in a world where white parents threw a fuss because a little black girl was cast as Arielle the little mermaid never mind that ALL the other princesses already look like their children, the symbolism of this moment is felt both deeply and profoundly.
Barack Obama was not just a symbol for my son, Michelle Obama was that symbol for us as black women. A professional, dignified, Careerslaymama in her own right. She reminded us of the grace of a black woman. A professional black woman.
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My 4 and a half year old daughter is going to grow up for the next 4 years knowing Madam Vice-president Kamala Harris. This is going to be the norm for her. She already sees me working from home and sits on my home office. She often swivels on my chair and says I'm in my office.
For her to then grow up and see and hear Kamala Harris on a regular basis. And have that imagery reinforced for her. The weight of that symbolism is will impact not just me but my children for generations to come.
Black and brown girls who are often forgotten, dismissed, excluded, disregarded will AGAIN have someone to look up to. Someone to aspire to. And for the next four and hopefully eight years they can believe again that while denialists retorted ALL LIVES MATTER, they learned that ALL VOTES MATTER and this also reinforced that Black Votes Matter - TOO!
And the fact that this moment belongs as much to Kamala Harris as it does to Stacey Abrams who turned systemic racism and voter suppression into a grassroots movement that eventually turned Georgia around. The black women who made this moment come together have to be acknowledged.
My daughter will have this moment to treasure and look up to for the next few years.
Of course I called my parents today soon after learning that Biden was declared president-elect. My mum has been up almost each day this week watching the vote count from Kenya. We had some beautiful laughs and reminisced about that night when Barack Obama was elected.
As an immigrant to Canada, I also relate to Kamala Harris' mother who was from India and who came to North America to study as an international student at 19. I turned 19 less then a month after arriving in Canada as an international student, though I didn't know that I would eventually settle and raise children here. I don't need to imagine what it was like to raise children without her parents around and in a culture completely different from where she was raised. For her daughter to then break so many barriers tells me that my daughter's future is bright
Kamala Harris is my daughter!
The beauty and weight of this moment is NOT lost on me.
The future is indeed female. The future is here. My children are the future.