11/07/2008 01:11 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Fear in Black and White

Any discussion about President-elect Barack Obama has to include some mention of how far we have come with race relations in this country. When I cast my ballot, I had my doubts. When the election results were clear, my doubts were cast aside.

Like JuliasMom, the citizens of our country can see beyond a person's name and the color of his skin. And we can elect our president for reasons much greater. We put our faith in Obama's mind and his heart. We voted for change and hope and a future that includes the rest of us.

That's true freedom. For all of us.


By JuliasMom

Maybe it is because I am so deeply moved by casting my vote for an African American man today that I am reminded of how far we have come.

There were riots in the summer of 1964 in several cities across the United States. I lived in Rochester, N.Y. where one hot summer night turned into four days and nights of rioting and violence. I remember Joseph Avenue being almost completely demolished. My grandfather's bakery was destroyed, and like so many other businesses in the area, was never rebuilt. It looked like a ghost town when it was over.

We had a citywide curfew. I was just a little girl, but felt safe in my neighborhood. One afternoon we saw a car drive down our street. The people in the car were African Americans and we ran. We ran back to the safety of our insulated homes.

We didn't know any black people. Yet we feared them. We actually ran. I'll never forget that fear. But what we were actually afraid of, we couldn't tell you. We had heard stories of downtown Rochester being burned,and that there were people who wanted to hurt us.

We lived in ignorance. Our parents lived in ignorance, and so we suffered the same fate. I'd like to think that the other kids who ran that day outgrew their fears and ignorance as I did. It's pretty hard to stay in darkness once you've seen light. I never understood why we ran that day, but for many years after I was appalled by my reaction. Children really do live what they learn. I'm just grateful that I learned. Fear and ignorance keep a lock on our souls.

Many years later, I married an African American man. My family never spoke to me again. My mother died without ever acknowledging her grand daughter. Fear and ignorance kept a lock on her soul for sure.

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