My daughter was born in January of 2009, a week after Barack Obama was sworn into the office of the Presidency. I couldn’t have been happier. Her original due date was January 18, but I wanted SO badly for her to be born after he was inaugurated so that she would be born into a world with a Black person (in this case, man) as president of America. I didn’t know if or how much it would matter, or if he’d even see a second term, all I knew is that I wanted there to be a Black president when my daughter was born.
As luck would have it (though, maybe her mother didn’t feel the same), my daughter, was born on January 27th, 2009, and for the past almost 8 years, all she’s known as a President is Obama. Obviously the post-racial America many hoped for never came to fruition and the country at many times feels further divided than it ever did. But having a Black man in office has, on a psychic level, affected my own household positively. As the days wind down on the most historic presidency to date, I feel in some sense of having taken their time for granted. Either that, or I just wasn’t prepared for how fast the time would fly by. The fact that my daughter will be 8-years-old in January also isn’t lost on me. Her life, to date, has tracked with Obama’s presidency.
I even have a picture of Obama up in my household though not because of some sort of idol worship of 44, but because the picture really is cool as hell. I limited my idols to two Barack and Michelle bobbleheads sitting on my second floor bookshelf.
On this past Tuesday, while a bit nervous, I couldn’t wait to cast my ballot, and for Hillary Clinton. I can’t say that I liked her very much (or any candidate really) but I did like what she represented on a societal and a personal level. And considering the incompetence of the opposition, a symbolic victory would have been just fine. The societal level is obvious: the election of the first woman president would have been another historic event, especially in a world, where patriarchy and sexism run so rampant. So many of us contribute and perpetuate both – and I’m no exception – but I was actually very excited at the prospect of having a woman represent our nation for the first time as its highest elected official.
On a personal level, I REALLY wanted to see a world where (hopefully) for my daughter’s first sixteen years of life, all she would have seen as President were Obama and Hillary Clinton: a Black man and a woman. Two “boxes” (Black and woman) that historically have had the power to hold her back. And yet, here we were, on the brink of a nation that somehow managed to put two separate minority groups into the most powerful position on the planet. Back to back.
I was excited for my daughter as I prepared to take my “I Voted” sticker and hand it to her to show her that with my vote, I was voting her for future and helping break that glass ceiling, effectively telling her there was absolutely NOTHING she couldn’t aspire for and as instead of them being open words, there was some truth to them. The truth would be in the pudding.
And then Tuesday happened. I obviously don’t need to relive that for anybody as I’m aware the pain, disappointment, and despair will carry with many of us for a while. I spent most of yesterday disappointed, texting and emailing friends to check in on them to see how they were doing in light of the results, and processing for myself.
I take my daughter to school every morning. On Wednesday, I picked her up from her mother’s house and when I looked at her, I told her I was “I’m sorry.” And how much I really wanted a world where a woman was President for her. And she told me, “I know, daddy. It’s okay.”
That broke my heart; almost to the point of tears. As I listened to Van Jones dejection on CNN and wonder how we explain this to our kids, my daughter seemed to already know, at 7. I was so excited about what, in my mind at least, a Hillary presidency meant for little girls everywhere that, selfishly, my biggest disappointment was that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk about broken glass ceilings with my daughter, even if that ideology is shortsighted in the way that an Obama presidency created a post-racial America.
Knowing the things my daughter will undoubtedly go through in life at the hands of men who don’t even have the wherewithal to know they’re doing it (though some will), knowing what she’ll have to fight for and praying that she doesn’t end up in situations that I’m not even emotionally prepared to think about yet, I felt like this win would enable my daughter to beam with some of that same pride we all did when Obama was elected the first time. It meant something even if it was too soon to know exactly what.
I know that my daughter will do great things and this doesn’t set her back. But I wanted her to know that our country was also ready. And you know what, maybe it is, and Hillary just wasn’t the right person, but we can’t say for sure that we even know. And that’s disappointing.
I wanted to hug my daughter with history on Wednesday morning. Instead, she hugged me with encouragement when I felt like I failed her.