Posts Tagged ‘Whoopie Goldberg’

by Shannon Penrod

Last night Barack Obama was elected President.  Personally, I was thrilled.  I recognized that in addition to being the right person for the job there was also a historical element to his winning.  But I was dismayed when so much was made last night about him being “The First African American President”.  I was annoyed that so many of the pundits and the newscasters went on and on about it.  Come on!  He wasn’t elected because of or in spite of the color of his skin; he was elected because of the content of his character!  Okay, he was also smart, eloquent and savvy enough to surround himself with other smart and eloquent people.  I went to bed dismayed to think that we had come so far only to have the entire evening reduced to a discussion of the color of his skin.

Then this morning I had the Ah-ha moment – I turned on The View – yes, I will admit I wanted to see Elizabeth crying into her conservative coffee.  But Whoopie Goldberg said something that took my breath away.  She said that she was shocked by her own reaction to the election. She shared that she had always viewed herself as an American, but when the call was made for Barack Obama for the first time in her life she felt she could “put her suitcase down.”  I was stunned.  Whoopie Goldberg felt like that?

For all of my 46 years I have lived in an America that I had no doubt would and could one day elect an African American President, just as I have lived in an America that I am certain will one day have a woman President.   What I didn’t realize until Whoopie so eloquently voiced it this morning is that I have been living in a different America than many of my fellow citizens.  I confess that I really did not know that African American children have been told for decades that they cannot group up to be President.

When I was four I remember a member of my family asking me what I would like to be when I grew up.  I said that I wanted to be the 1st woman to walk on the moon; this is especially hilarious to all of my friends and family now as I get car sick on a stationary bicycle!  In 1968 saying I wanted to be a female Astronaut was pretty progressive, and one of the adults in the room laughed and said, “Sure, Honey you can be what ever you want, except the President.”  Everybody laughed.  Except my Grandmother, who very loudly said, “That’s not true.  If you want to be the President you can.”  That was it.  I had permission.  And I never ever doubted it from that moment.  I also never doubted it for any of my friends, regardless of their skin color.

It never occurred to me until this morning that everyone did not have a Grandmother or Teacher or someone who handed out Presidential permission slips.  I am glad that Barack Obama had the opportunity to hand out a billion or so belated permission slips last night.  I am confidant that it will be the first of many great things he will do to heal our broken nation.  I am relieved that white America, myself included, has passed a test I didn’t even know we were taking. 

Please understand that I have not been moving in a bubble where I thought that there was no racism in America.  I am well aware that is exists, even now, despite the election.  I just thought that everyone knew that those thoughts belong to a select portion of the population, not to all of us.  Much the way that I hope the world looks at the actions of our government over the last 8 years and realizes that many Americans have not agreed with George Bush and his policies.  I don’t know Whoopie Goldberg personally but it made me sad to think that someone as giving and brilliant and talented as her would ever feel even slightly unwelcome in a place that I consider home. 

In listening to Whoopie today, I found myself hoping that in the coming days more Americans will come to live in the nation my grandmother gave to me 42 years ago.  I mistakenly took it for granted, but I am gratified to know that the American Dream that was given to me as a child is alive and well. Welcome Home Whoopie!

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