Veering slightly but not wholly from the subject of feminism, I am celebrating today as one that will be remarkable in history. I have great hopes for President Obama. Not just because of the symbolism of equality that this man and his family bring to a position of power, but for his policies also. I feel that his presidency will bring a more balanced feel to the world and that this will have a knock-on effect in terms of not just racial equality but for all manner of equality and human rights issues.
For lots of people have been proved wrong. I personally know people who are openly racist. I am disgusted by the comments they make and by the way that the people who have to listen to these comments excuse these racists on the grounds of age, upbringing, culture or and other feeble excuse for ignorance. I know these people but would never tolerate them without challenging them to understand the standpoint of others.
I have lived in another country, a country where I was not born. I ran away because I was treated badly and sought refuge in a remote village on an island. On the second day I was there I was stoned, yes, literally stoned in the street because my ankles were visible. The island was Cyprus. Gradually, I negotiated my position and situation with these people and was accepted as part of their village, mostly through compromise and symbolic understanding (I did not speak Cypriot and they did not speak English.) I have never forgotten this experience, how it felt to be treated as an outsider and the look on my children’s faces as their mummy was beaten for being different. I have also never forgotten that with time and with patience these barriers were overcome.
The racists that I come into contact with now clearly do not have the capacity for abstract thought, to put themselves in the place of another, or they would never be so cruel to a fellow human being. Most of these people are at an age were they should know better, where they have been shown many examples of how people can live together in harmony. They seem to be able to simply turn their heads and ignore what they see, remaining bigoted. Even so, I accept that they are in the world and different to me, although I see them as not having the same freedom as I enjoy as they are so constrained by their narrow views. My aim is not to exclude those who simply don’t understand, but to try to understand why they don’t and help them gently.
I hope that today every one of those racist people are watching their television to see President Obama take his oath of office. There is no escape from the evidence now that the Civil Rights Movement has succeeded. I hope that those who are confused about how human beings can be equal to each other whilst embracing each other’s difference have the capacity to connect what they see happening on the television with what can be achieved in a town in the North West of England, how the vines of relevance wrap themselves around every aspect of our lives and understanding of what it is to be open and fair-minded.
So, thank you President Obama and all those who fight for equal and human rights for the significance of today for all aspects of equality and for the hope that embeds itself in the future.