Foreign Policy Blogs

I Didn't Realize It Would Mean This Much To Me.

Next week my nephew Nathaniel graduates from High School. He was born the year I graduated from High School. But more momentous than the fact that I’m getting really old! is that he was the first member of my immediate family who wasn't born in Guyana, our “Caribbean” homeland at the tip of South America.

Nate came along the year that I moved to New York to join my three older sisters, and to start college, not realizing that my parents and brother would soon also leave Guyana diminishing my reasons for calling it “home.” His adulthood feels like the beginning of the last chapter of our Guyana story and the true launch of our American adventures. You see, Nathaniel doesn't have the hybrid identity of most of the adults in my family (me included) who precipitously balance becoming American with staying Guyanese, holding on for deal life to the latter. Nate is, undoubtedly, All-American. So the pride I feel this week is bittersweet. I’m happy for our American son, and sad for Guyana. And I have to admit, I hadn't prepared myself for this. I just didn't realize it would mean this much to me.

I had another, similar epiphany this week as the news of Barack Obama's ascendancy to nominee of the Democratic party really started sinking in. I’ve covered politics for many years, so I’ve followed this process many times. In fact I had become fairly sure of the outcome of this contest when Hillary Clinton started the downward spiral into negative politics. So the creeping, emotional pride that has been taking over me these last few days is a complete surprise. You see, Obama's historic achievement feels personal and I really didn't realize it would mean this much to me‚ personally.
In Guyana I grew up with a President who was Black like me, and Black, White, Indian and mixed-race Members of Parliament, Professionals, Businesspeople. It was a multicultural (but very Brown and Browner) citizenry. There, I was very sure I could be President.

In the United States, that confidence retreated quite a bit but I tried to take solace in the fact that this was a country of immigrants, with a multicultural identity. That was pretty hard to buy into when the country's chief representatives were all White, Male and Privileged. In fact, I now realize that perhaps I didn't really, truly believe in the melting pot promise of equality until this week and Obama's moment. (As a woman, I’m fairly sure that I would be experiencing similar feelings if Hillary were the nominee).

I’ve been fielding calls from friends and family, also immigrants, who want to talk about what Barack should do next. Who should he pick for a running mate? Can he beat McCain? Their interest‚ their investment‚ in this election is palpable and urgent.

For them (and me) it's like coming to America all over again; a rebirth of promise and expectations. And it means a lot.