Amid all of the reactions and gifs and videos on social medial today, it was a single tweet of thirteen words from a man and writer that I respect that struck me the hardest.
It’s easy to forget, living in the shadow of New York City, where races, cultures, genders, and backgrounds mix and blend seamlessly, that huge swaths of America are much more homogenous, where scores of people have never seen a mixed race couple or a Muslim, their only experience with such things is being told to fear and hate such things.
My wife and I have been together for fifteen years and, on a day-to-day level, I don’t even think of the fact that she is a full-blooded, second-generation Puerto Rican-American. We live a mundane life – we go to work, come home, change diapers, and make dinner – but if our situation was presented to some outsiders, I’m sure they would have strong opinions. Not only is her last name Cruz but she decided to keep it, even after marriage.
I’m a white man so everything I’ve seen since 1980 looks like me or was targeted to me. Growing up that way, particularly in a relatively small town where almost everyone looks the same, can make it all feel natural. Of course everything should be seen through a Caucasian lens.
At some point, all of us that grew up that way saw a movie or TV show that made us stop and realize that there are no white people, or men (or both) of any import in the story.
From there, one of two things can happen.
Some people get offended and decry (reverse) racism or (reverse) sexism, stubbornly insisting that Santa is white, Ghostbusters are dudes, Hermione Granger has alabaster skin, and only white men have the brain and temperament to lead a government.
Others are able to take a step back and think about the stunning number of films and shows that only show white people living out traditional gender roles and norms, or how other countries are led by political rock stars that also happen to be women.
These traditions are so ingrained that when someone white gravitates towards someone or something that doesn’t look exactly like them (like, say, hip-hop or the NBA), they are immediately branded as weird or a traitor (or worse).
The reality, however, is that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter and feminism does not mean anti-male. Instead, these long overdue and incredibly scrutinized movements are simply trying to expand the American Dream to include everyone (a tall task considering that slaveowner Thomas Jefferson specified that “all men are created equal”).
Remarkable progress was made in 2008 and 2012, but for all of the doors that Barack Obama kicked down, he was still a half-white male. Misogynists and quasi-racists could squint and convince themselves he was close enough. Don’t believe me? As late as 2014, a majority of Americans did not consider him to be black.
Not this time.
Kamala Harris is not even a little bit white. The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica and graduate of an HBCU, she is projected to be so many firsts it’s almost hard to fathom. The first female vice president, yes, but also the first black vice president, and the first Asian-American vice president.
The United States has has had forty-five presidents and forty-eight vice presidents, and a whopping one of those ninety-three was not predominately Caucasian…but he was still half-white. And a man.
In some ways, this is even more historic.
My daughters are eight and two. One of them looks just like my wife; the other more closely resembles me (poor girl). But despite appearances, both are half-brown and fully female. They will live their lives as Hispanic women in America. That future just became a bit brighter.
Neither of them yet understand what today means, but one day they will.
They will understand more than I could ever imagine.
Christopher Pierznik is a nine-time worst-selling author. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.