scary times, exciting times

This morning, it was storming in Bloomington, with the thunder long and booming, so it sounded like bombs.  A few booms were followed by the sounds of sirens, and even though I knew it was just coincidence, the sense of danger, destruction, and things ending did not seem impossible.  I read in the New York Times that the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s; when I called my father, he told me that he tells the men in his prison job skills class that the suggestions he has for them are not as good as the ones he could have given last year, and in this comment, about the difficulties one family is facing with healthcare, even in light of increased government support in Indiana.  I can’t escape a sense of nervousness on everyone’s faces, whether it’s my friends or people at the grocery store.

Still, I read this article about Barak Obama and mixed-race identity in the New York Times and it made me excited.  From the article:

“I think Barack Obama is going to bring these deeply American stories to the forefront,” said Esther John, 56, an administrator at Northwest Indian College in Washington, who identifies herself as African-American, American Indian and white.

“Maybe we’ll get a little bit further in the dialogue on race,” Ms. John said. “The guilt factor may be lowered a little bit because Obama made it right to be white and still love your black relatives, and to be black and still love your white relatives: to love despite another person’s racial appearance.”

Americans of mixed race say that questions about whether Mr. Obama, with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, is “too black” or “not black enough,” as the candidate himself brought up in his speech on March 18, show the extent to which the nation is still fixated on old categories.

“There’s this notion that there’s an authentic race and you must fit it,” said Ms. Bratter, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston who researches interracial families. “We’re confronted with the lack of fit.”

I’m sure that for myself, and for many other people who identify as multi-racial, that we don’t need the New York Times or Barak Obama to validate the stories that are our stories, but I have to say that it is exciting to hear them repeated so publically and personally. I hope, that with every telling, whether it is at a crowded political event, in the national media, amongst friends, or in a fiery confrontation on the street, that this is the first warmth of a burning consciousness that race, like so many things in our world, is something that cannot be ignored, that is complicated, subtle and brutal, that is painful and beautiful and something that we define our collective humanity because of, and not in spite of.