When I was an activist in the late '80s/early '90s (I was arrested six times for civil disobedience defending gay, abortion, and people with AIDS rights) we used to joke about how one day America would have a black or woman or gay president. Or, more accurately, how it would probably never happen in our lifetime. Last night proved us wrong and I'm still trying to process it.
I spent election night in Harlem, starting out (after soul food at Amy Ruth's) at an extremely raucous Baptist church service (watching Obama's early Blue State victories flash on the large screens while everyone in the congregation sang and danced their hearts out was truly a thrill), moving on to Congressman Charlie Rangel's giant rally at 125th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, then a drink at the Lenox Lounge and finally, ending up at a hair salon on the east end of 125th watching the Obama victory announcement on an old TV with three African Muslim women and two guys who came in off the street who were taking chugs from a bottle of Moet. It was divoon.
Being in Harlem last night made me realize that one of my biggest hopes for this country is that these people, some of America's poorest citizens, are not let down by Obama--that his policies will not just benefit the middle class. As a Socialist, I would like to see (and this is not going to make me popular) both the rich AND the middle class pay higher taxes (like they do in France) so that there will be more funding for health care and education reform in this country--that these things will no longer just be available to the upper middle class and the rich. But in the meantime, I'll just be happy about the history that was made last night and try to remain optimistic.