Dear Zadie and Malik,
In just 16 hours from now, we will come to the end of an
era error and the future you deserve will begin again. I have waited for this moment for four long agonizing years, years I couldn’t imagine I could endure. And yet somehow I did. We all did. We got mad, we got sad, we were outraged, we were struck dumb wondering how this could have happened. But we also got together and we spoke out and we wrote postcards and signed petitions and gave money and put our bodies out on the streets and our thoughts on our clever signs and our marks on the ballot. And lo and behold, it made a difference and the man who spent every waking minute selling your future down the river will be exiled from his throne of power, leaving in disgrace with even many (but not all) of his staunch supporters and enablers cutting themselves loose from his adoring fan club. Not a moment too soon.
You both began life with one of the finest Presidents the country has ever had. Things were so promising when you started out. The first black President, a black woman bass player (Esperanza Spalding) playing jazz at the White House, more women in Congress than ever had been before and doors that had been closed for so long finally starting to open.
Zadie, as a girl, you can play any sport you please, aim for just about any profession you please, be proud of your talented math-skills without even considering that you have to hide them, outrun every single boy in your class (you can!). If someone makes nasty comments to you or touches you when you don’t want them too, you don’t have to keep silent and they will get in trouble. In the future, you can marry whom you please—black or white, Buddhist or Jewish, man or woman. (Or choose to remain single, of course). I imagine you are thinking, “Duh! Of course I can!” but even a mere 50 years ago, it wasn’t easy or even possible.
And Malik, you can be wholly the sensitive boy you are and cry freely and love whatever or whomever you love without apology. Now you know you could be President (not the best job, by the way) or a poet and if you wanted to play classical music instead of jazz or hip-hop, you could. Or all three. You will have support when you choose to respect all people and appreciate women as your friends, colleagues and equals. And though you might get teased or bullied by boys or men with small hearts who confuse strength with hurting and harming others, you will be able to find others like you who find strength in kindness.
These are all good signs. These are the things your grandmother and I fought for almost 50 years ago (and are still fighting for), things your Mom, Dad and Aunt are fighting for now, things that, truth be told, you both will probably have to continue to fight for. But hopefully not quite so much because of the work that came before.
And yet. While I write this, you are hiding in an Air B&B away from your house because there were some suspicious people in your yard and strange vans on the street and your parents are worried about Inauguration Day and all the unleashed dogs fed by this lunatic man who somehow was chosen to lead this country. I share their caution. All of us are nervous about what might happen tomorrow in a ceremony which, until this moment, has always been a sacred moment in the history of our country.
This is not good. This is not normal. This is not what any of us ever dreamed could come to pass after each new victory against racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental destruction, capitalist greed, military stockpiling. We thought that once the right door opened, everyone would happily walk through. We (or at least I) couldn’t have predicted how important it was to so many people to keep their identity based on white supremacy, male dominance, heterosexual status, “Christian” values and how ferociously they would cling to it, to the point of wanting to overthrow the very government that they professed to love.
And yet again. Just think of how far we have come! (I know, because I know how it was before). The casualness with which my colleague James can introduce his husband Dan, the way your white Mom and black Dad can go to some restaurants and no one looks twice, the way the Portland Moms and then grandma’s and grand-dads and then leaf-blower-equipped Dads stood up so bravely to protest murders by police, the way just about every house in your neighborhood has a sign that says “Science is real. Women’s rights are human rights. Black Lives Matter. No person is illegal. Love is Love.” We have made progress.
We were heading to the cliff’s edge and enough of us woke up in time to make a sharp turn and get back on the real road. Driven by a caring, hard-working intelligent man as President and our first female/ black/ Indian Vice President. And the First Lady is a teacher!! How about that?! And instead of tweeting out mean-spirited and hateful messages that divide, instead of stirring up violence, instead of bragging about a self that is a shame to our species, Mr. Joe Biden talks about unity, mourns the pandemic deaths, is already hard at work on actual plans to recover from this severe blow. After fingernails on a chalkboard, this is music as beautiful as Bach and as swingin’ as Sonny Rollins.
And so on this night before this moment we have waited for for so long, all I see is your beautiful faces and your future that we’re all fighting for. You are blessed to have two such loving parents, an extraordinary aunt and grandparents who love you beyond what any arms can stretch to show. Tomorrow Joe and Kamala take the seat and that disgraceful little boy in a man’s body will be confined to his golf cart or (hopefully) prison cell and we can begin this work again.
For both of you.
For all of us.
Happy Inauguration Day!!