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The year is three weeks old, but we CAN reboot

Waveney Ann Moore



Wednesday, Jan. 20: Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn in. Screen grab

Like millions of people across the country and around the world, I was transfixed by the history unfolding at the Capitol this week.

The daughter of a Black professor from Marcus Garvey’s Jamaica and a doctor from Mahatma Gandhi’s India became the first woman to hold the office of Vice President in these United States.

An indefatigable 78-year-old man became our nation’s President on his third try and the oldest person to hold the office.

In a moving recitation, a 22-year-old Black woman, a Harvard graduate, delivered a powerful message as the nation’s youngest inaugural poet.

Perhaps, like me, you got goosebumps as you witnessed this cherished and envied American tradition that almost never was.

The pillage of the Capitol by marauding bands armed with, of all things, the American flag, which some claim an allegiance to as theirs alone, was frightening. Their would-be revolt, an attempt to make a lie of the words “peaceful transfer of power,” was the sort of anarchy observed with scorn when it happens elsewhere. Instead, on Jan. 6, many in other countries found themselves gaping in disbelief and sympathy.

I don’t know whether Americans appreciate how much this country is revered around the world, its people seen as generous, confident, hardworking and accomplished. For immigrants and their children, the American dream is no myth, but a goal to strive for behind fast-food counters, in fields, as caregivers in homes and hospitals and through earning valued university degrees.      

It’s why I smiled when I heard it said that Vice President Harris’ bright purple ensemble on Inauguration Day was a nod to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress. Chisholm made history again when, in 1972, she became the first Black woman to run for President. According to The Hill, her campaign colors were purple and yellow. Like the new Vice President, Chisholm was the daughter of immigrants. Her father was from Guyana and her mother from Barbados.

I smile, also, as I read reports about the pride in the tiny Indian village where Vice President Harris’ grandfather was born and of the celebration and prayers that came with her achievement. I’m certain I’m not the only one who appreciates that she and America acknowledge her dual heritage. Having grown up in a country where a mixed heritage is acknowledged, I’ve always found it strange that America had discouraged multiracial people from identifying themselves as such.

According to the Pew Research Center, it was not until 1960 that people could select their own race on the U. S. Census form. Before then, Pew said, “an individual’s race was determined by census takers, known as enumerators. And it was not until 2000 that Americans could choose more than one race to describe themselves, allowing for an estimate of the nation’s multiracial population.” Pew adds that in 2020, for the first time, the form asked “respondents who choose white or black for their race to give more information about their origins – for example, German, Lebanese, African American or Somali.”

The new Vice President, a proud graduate of Howard University, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, embraces both her Black and South Asian heritage.

And lest anyone get nitpicky about this, we hear often about President Biden’s Irish heritage. We speak of Cubans in Miami, Irish in Boston, Italians in New York and many others in this melting pot of ours, none of which makes anyone less American.

Much has been made of our new President’s determination to unite Americans across the racial, political and ideological ravine that continues to separate us. Some have said he’s naïve. But in the wake of the rampaging mob that could have sabotaged such efforts, many were stirred this week by Amanda Gorman’s inspiring words.

Here, in part, is her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Helen Huntley

    January 26, 2021at5:48 am

    Thank you for your inspiring words.

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