mercredi 5 novembre 2008

The Race Race


Elgin Baylor and the Seattle U team at Sea-Tac Airport

It is important to say, today, that last night's election was not about race. But it is equally important to say, today, that America has just done something extraordinary in electing a black man to the presidency of the United States. I had been dreading a conversation with my mother about this election, because I knew she would vote for McCain while clinging to her most resistent self-myth: that she is a moderate and an independent. She is not a moderate; she's a conservative, shifting a little bit more to the right every time Bill O'Reilly opens his mouth. Yes, that's right. She watches Fox; it shapes her view of the world. She's also my mom, and the daughter of Ralph Malone.
My grandfather was a self-made man, no doubt about it. He overcame hardship to get a college degree and then came west to Seattle, where he made a small fortune as the owner of a Ford dealership. He was a well-known and respected man in the community. He belonged to the Washington Athletic Club, The Broadmoor Golf Club, the Kiwanis Club, and all sorts of Catholic organizations. We went to luncheons at fancy places where he was loved and feted and admired. Along the way, he became a booster of black people. He brought Elgin Baylor to Seattle U, gave him work at Westside Ford and even created a team for Elgin to play on as he sat out to earn his eligibility. I remember going to the airport to meet the basketball team and looking up at tall black guys. I remember the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember wondering how he could love black people but belong to a club that excluded them (Broadmoor) and the Jews. But no matter. He loved people and he loved helping people. He was grateful for his success and wanted to share it with everybody. He voted for Roosevelt and he voted for Kennedy.
So when my mother tries to paint him as a Republican, it just makes my hair stand on end. Yesterday, we had that conversation. It wasn't so bad. I teased her, asking when she was going to give up the pretense of being an independent and just join the Republican Party. I asked her when she last voted for a Democrat. She stammered. I told her it surprised me that Ralph Malone's daughter would vote other than Democrat. She protested; I said, mom, come on, you have to admit that Grandpa would be so proud if he were alive today, to see a black man in the White House. He would have voted for Obama, don't you think so, mom? And you know what? She said yes, you're right, he would have.