We were 12 years old…maybe 13. A bunch of kids in English class. John Jay Middle School. We sat around a table, all white kids, me included, talking about the future of our generation. The conversation wasn’t that deep, we were 12…maybe 13. We were a nation at war. George Bush had invaded Iraq in this country’s first attempt to topple Saddam Hussein. Only a few years prior, we perfected air raid drills, in case the Soviets fired nuclear missiles at New York. We would hide under our elementary school desks until the sirens ended. We were kids coming out the Cold War, entering into a new war.
All we really wanted to do was dance to MC Hammer, sing like Whitney Houston and kiss a girl while Boyz II Men played at the school dance. We thought we were hip-hop. But, hip-hop was just pounding the pavement of the inner-city and hadn’t even reached the suburbs yet. But, there we were in eighth grade, English class, talking about war, thinking about race. Because there was this guy who wore a lot of army uniforms and seemed mighty important who was always on TV. They called him General Colin Powell. And we thought maybe, one day, he could be the first black President. There weren’t many other black people we knew. Bill Cosby. But, he was still doing Jell-o commercials. Colin Powell seemed liked a real potential.
Twenty years later, we became a generation that elected the first black President. They call him Barack Obama. Twenty years…those 20 years were tough. We watched Rodney get beat. We saw that the glove didn’t fit, so OJ got the acquit. Crown Heights caught fire. Amadou waved his wallet and in return received 41 shots. James Byrd was dragged to his death on the back of a Texas pick-up. Abner Louima lost his dignity at the hands of the police. We marched for the Jena 6. Sean Bell was just trying to celebrate and ended up with a death certificate. Troy Davis lost his innocence to the electric chair. Trayvon dropped his bag of skittles when the bullet hit his chest. This is our history. This is the history of our generation. What we have endured. What we have overcome. What we have never forgotten about, as we paved a path for an America that judged the content of a man’s character, and not just the color of his skin, when our nation voted for our President. Two times. Killing me softly. The Fugees.
We have waited our entire life for this moment. Not for the moment when racism is dead, but for the moment when we have the chance to kill it once and for all. And I will make this point loud and clear. We will not be stopped. Mitt Romney can talk in private to his rich friends and come up with ridicilous reasons why, he, as a candidate with no core, lost. Mitt, the biggest gift Obama gave us was beating you. The reason why Barack Obama won the presidential election was because he received more votes than Mitt Romney. Period. End of sentence. On to the next one. Bill O’Reilly can dream about his own, delusional version of a “traditional” America. The Republican Governor of Virginia can convince himself that his party has “minorities” who believe in their platform. But, we as a generation, know better. We are yearning for the day where this entire nation can look past race. Where we can clean the stains of our pain and suffering out of the quilt that is patched together that has created the history of this beautiful country.
When we were 12 years old…maybe 13, we knew this day would come. Or at least we hoped it would. We knew that there would be a lot of kicking and screaming from some White people who do not want a compassionate America. Who have no desire to promote a generous America. And certainly are not contributing to a more tolerant America. We knew that we would have to stand up to the old guard. And trust us, we are ready. We are prepared to stay in line until the sun comes up to cast our ballots on election day. We will speak louder against these voices of division now that we know how powerful our vote can be. And we will continue to use every tool imaginable to push this country forward.
It is the sacrifice of Rodney, Amadou, James, Abner, Sean, Troy, Trayvon, and the thousands of other innocent victims of hate that have guided us to this point. No way, will we ever let them down.
~Michael Skolnik Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik