When I was a little girl, I went to school with plenty of black kids (though back then we said “Negro”), a few Asian kids (“Chinese”), and a lot of kids who were of some Middle Eastern descent (most of them were Lebanese or Syrian). We moved a lot, and there were times when I was one of the few white kids in any given class. This really didn’t bother me, because it did not seem terribly out of the ordinary.
I remember the first time I really became aware of the fact that some people were treated differently based on the color of their skin. We were on a vacation trip, and stopped to use a public restroom. There were two water fountains before you got to the bathrooms, and they each had a sign over them: “Whites Only,” and “Coloreds Only.” I remember asking my mother what that meant, and being completely puzzled by her response. Until then, I had no idea that the world operated in such a way. (I had never lived anyplace where those signs were posted.) I remember going home and wondering if anyone else knew that there were places where people *had* to drink from different water fountains, or they could be arrested. When school started again in the fall, I told one of my classmates, and I remember that he said, “Well, some places where my family has been, there isn’t even a water fountain that we’re allowed to use at all.”
Today, when Barack Obama is sworn in as President of the United States, I will be watching, along with the rest of the world. This time, the inauguration doesn't simply illustrate the "peaceful transition of power," but instead, proves that people who act upon their beliefs truly can affect change. That morally outraged seven-year-old likely never expected to see so much change by the time she became an adult.
But it's happily reassuring to both of us to know that it's possible.