Race, Politics and Change

Growing up in the mid-west, I was raised a good Christian girl where everyone looked like me, dressed like me, and as far as I knew was Republican like me. Diversity was not something I experienced until my freshman year at Notre Dame. My education extended beyond my basic academic classes: as my African American teammates explained to me why they can have short straight hair one day and long micro-braids the next, that “whip” actually meant my car, and introduced me to numerous musical artists that I had never heard of before.

Admittedly, I was the naïve of the naïve, but I was also raised in a home where I was taught to love and not judge, that we are all created equal, that race and culture might be some thing that makes us different from each other, but never something that should divide us . As I began to develop strong friendships with teammates of other races, I sought to see life from their perspective and was often surprised at what I saw. The looks or comments that some of my teammates received, the lack of service when we would walk into a certain store or restaurant, or the obvious stereotypes that would be made. My education didn’t stop there, as I saw people that I respected of various ethnicities act out of ignorance because of race and I also experienced discrimination of my own at times when people were not prepared to accept the lone white girl in the group.

I speak of race for obvious reason; our nation has taken a monumental step in this area by electing its first biracial president. This election challenged us all in a way that we have never before experienced. Republicans for the first time voting for a Democrat, young voters becoming passionately involved in politics, Religious organizations struggling to choose their alliances, and for the first time an African American candidate has crossed over the racial bridge that has divided us for so long.

What I have appreciated the most about this election was the on-going dialogue that took place. Granted the dialogue could get heated at times: as we will not always agree on issues of abortion, health care and national security. Success is not always measured by the level of agreement, sometimes it lies in the act of discussion and the understanding that ensues from that.

It was through these conversations that I learned about the tax challenges my friends who own their own small business experience, that not all devoted Christian women are pro-life, the intricacies of what people believe is wrong with our social security, health-care, and welfare systems, and what those who are actually risking their lives for our country believe is the best exit strategy from Iraq. At the end of the day we will always vote according to the priority of our values, and we should hold fast to those values and fight for them, for that is the beauty of democracy—we have a voice! With that voice, let us keep this dialogue open, and let the conversation go on even now after the election has come to a close.

Abraham Lincoln notably stated that we are a government of the people, by the people, for the people, therefore it is our responsibility (as the people) to define not only what type of country we are but also what direction we are going. Both candidates spoke extensively on the issue of “change.” Change does not rest solely on the shoulders of the president and those elected to office, true change happens in the hearts and minds of its people. What will you do these next four years to make our nation better? As America becomes increasingly more diverse, will we seek to understand those of a different race or culture? I challenge us all to not let the excitement and desire for a better future be something we experience once every four years, rather let it propel us to, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *