dad: did you hear that obama christmas ornaments are selling like hotcakes?
uncle: no. why?
dad: apparently everyone wants a black guy hanging from their tree.
as i listened to this “joke” from across the room i was overcome. how could someone who i love so much and have always looked up to be so full of hate? why is it still okay to make that kind of joke?
i know we come from different generations and that our opinions over politics, race, and a thousand other minute details clash from time to time. but how can anyone think that that is okay?
i am glad to be part of my generation. generally speaking, as a group we are open-minded, kind, and cognizant of the opinions of others. while this can sometimes be a drag, and we do get a little carried away with “political correctness,” for the most part, we understand respect. we have been lucky enough to have been raised in a society where difference is a good thing. black, white, brown, purple, straight, gay, bi—it doesn’t really matter. we accept people for who they are as individuals rather than what they look like or who they love. for that reason i am proud.
i come from a generation that has had it a little rough. my first semester of college began in august 2001. one month in to my “future,” and the world came crashing down around me. the devastation and utter despair that followed the september 11th attacks will never be forgotten. we, as a nation, were torn apart on that fateful day. i was eighteen years old when the world stopped and my future changed.
no longer could we lead naïve, simple lives. instead, we had to worry. worry about the safety of our borders. worry about the future of our nation. worry about rebuilding our dreams. we were, in the moments those planes hit the towers, robbed of our innocence, ignorance, and bliss. more than people died that day; dreams died to. it became our job to take up the charge of rebuilding. our task. our responsibility. our generation’s legacy.
if it is my responsibility to help rebuild this nation, then i must remain steadfast in my beliefs. i must face each day with respect and hope. i must retain my open-mindedness and ability to really see people.
i am sad for my dad. he will never see the world the way i do. he will never walk down the halls of a college and marvel at the students—each a different race or culture and all communing together and united as one. he will never walk down the sidewalk on a sunny fall day and take in the sounds around him: spanish being uttered in a phone call, classical music streaming from somewhere, and the gentle hum of the electrical wires. he cannot experience these things because he is closed off.
he’s from an older generation: one in which segregation was ordinary and civil rights were non-existent. and that’s okay. he doesn’t need to apologize for the way he was raised. and neither do i.
i am a student of literature, and as such i understand more than most the value of an open mind, and embrace the understanding that certain things are subjective. i merely wish that one day, jokes like this will go away and we can be truly united. until then, i will bear my burden with an open mind and heart.