THE BLOG
07/03/2009 06:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Fireworks Brighter for Blacks this Fourth of July

As a person of mixed race, I have had many blacks since Obama's election confide in me with comments along these lines, "We finally have a brother in the White House, and that's more than I ever thought would happen."

An African-American friend who manages a local grocery store still has a higher jump in his step when I see him. He says he feels somehow more like an American citizen--and as if anything can happen now that our president looks more like him, his family and the people in the neighborhood he grew up in.

I also have a friend from high school who feels more confident, accepted and even more fashionable and hip with Michelle Obama as First Lady, whom she said resembles her grandmother when she was young, when Blacks weren't allowed to eat at lunch counters.

Just a year ago, I remember celebrating the Fourth of July in my neighborhood where we barbequed and witnessed the unbelievable artistry of fireworks and enjoyed another Fourth with not many patriotic feelings, but with harmless and fun festivities.

Most Fourth of July celebrations that I can remember have been like that over the years. Sometimes we have walked down to a beach to hear local bands with music accompanying in tempo to bursts of fireworks. Other years we have spent lazy evenings in the backyards of friends, with great food and summery sweet drinks the focal point and celebration.

But it's different this year. It's different for us all.

On the local news shortly after Obama was elected, a boy broke down in tears and was barely able to talk about how much it meant to him to see a Black man become president. He said he didn't have a father, and that no one had ever told him that he might dream to be president, because in his neighborhood, black boys just didn't dream that far.

He said he dreamt of attending college one day, as no one in his family ever had, and that he wished he had known who his father was so that they could share this experience together.

This is not to say in any way that life for minorities; and especially for Blacks will somehow magically or drastically change even during Obama's presidency.

It often takes more than a lifetime and then some to break down the barriers and bars that have been built up to enslave and dismantle generations, movements and a multitude of stigmas and outright isolation.

As an American who happens to be both Japanese and Jewish, I haven't exactly known where to fit into society, let alone where some of my patriotism has fallen and waved from time to time.

During college I was told I could only check one box when applying for scholarships, so as the savvy student I was, I always checked Asian so I may get a better chance of financial help. But I soon found out through campus politics that Asian was close to white as we were considered "smart" and "easily educated". I joked to my school counselor, "But I am only half-Asian, surely that must count a minority. I am a bit of a freak, don't you think?"

Just as I was raised with a Buddhist mother and Jewish father, I was equally infused and confused as to my identity as where I fit into the American culture.

Mistaken sometimes for Hispanic, Italian, Filipino and Hawaiian, and always allowed the wink and nod from anyone of color as I might possibly be "one of them" at least in part, I have experienced my racially diverse background as both a blessing and curse in a society that often casts the different and questionable aside.

But I am not Black, and I don't assume to understand for one moment what it feels like to be Black in America, and suddenly realize that you might have a chance at a whole lot more than you ever thought possible.

Think about it.

Just anyone-- think about it. Look at a poster or book or the Internet at just what the presidents of our country have all looked like.

They have all been white, Caucasian and bred for leadership nearly from birth. No Jews, Italians, Indians, Hispanics, Asians or Blacks have ever been painted by any presidential portrait artists; but this will change now. What a declaration of independence right there.

Some say that a picture is worth more than a thousand words; the images of our history and present time reflect more than millions of words that can ever be printed, emailed, blogged, texted or tweeted.

Images of slaves, lynching, segregation, civil rights marches, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and photographs of black soldiers who were forced into wars but not allowed to sleep under shelter with their own infantry's, not allowed to vote and rationed only scraps of food like animals.

But now, the images are changing and possible images of the future are bright, untested and thus far unimaginable, just as the swearing in of a black president.

"He looks like me," cried the unnamed boy on CNN. "The president, he looks like me."

This Fourth of July may be just another chance to get the best view of fireworks for some people; talks about where you can get the best value on ribs and hot dogs; what family member's gossip is the hottest this summer, and classic portraits of babies donned in red, white and blue overalls waving tiny American flags. There's nothing wrong with all that. It's Americana in classic form.

But for Black Americans; whom some prefer to be called African-Americans; this will be a Fourth of July like no other.

The food will taste a little more flavorful, the music certainly more in tune, and the fireworks symbolizing a whole lot more while they glare brighter and stronger along to the Star Spangled Banner.

The summer is better now.