A teaching moment
BY SARAH PINNIX
When Tiffany Christian’s son was in kindergarten four years ago, students were asked to dress up as what they wanted to be when they grew up.
R.J., now 9, wanted to be the president at the time, so he wore a suit and went to school in all his presidential splendor.
“There was a pain deep in my heart. I understood the reality. That door wasn’t open to him,” Tiffany, his mother, said.
“I couldn’t tell my child that he couldn’t be the president because he’s black but that was the reality of the world we lived in.”
From left, Watauga County residents R.J. and Rayann Christian pose for a photo on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day in Washington D.C. Photo submitted
However, on a recent, frigid Tuesday morning, Jan. 20, Tiffany and her two oldest children traveled to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president.
Tiffany, a social-work professor at Appalachian State University, described herself as “conservative, Christian, pro-life, PhD, black, mother, wife, friend, sister, community leader and advocate.”
For her, the past six months have been a “mixed bag of emotions.”
“In the battles between Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, black and white — many of us have lost sight of the bigger picture and, unfortunately, the relationships that bind us,” she said.
Though usually confident, the mother of four was overcome with anxiety as she prepared to travel to Washington. Questions clouded her head.
“What if terrorists attack? What if there is a riot and my kids get trampled? What if there are so many people I get separated from my kids? What if we come all this way and we can’t actually get into D.C.?” she recalled.
At 6 a.m. on the Sunday before the Tuesday event, Tiffany, R.J. and daughter, Rayanna, boarded a bus to the nation’s capital.
Later that night, the kids made signs with the college students who had accompanied them.
“I woke up [on Tuesday] with this unexplainable feeling of anticipation. Like being pregnant with your first child and waking up the morning of your due date — an excitement you can’t explain but it’s tempered by the reality that you are about to embark on something totally new and unfamiliar,” she said.
She wondered if this was what people felt like in 1963 when they were heading to the March on Washington to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak.
Tiffany and her children joined 1.8 million other people of all classes, backgrounds and educational levels.
“I saw people who felt disenfranchised for decades coming to D.C. to the inauguration, even though they didn’t truly know what it was or what to expect. I heard the Lord’s prayer ring out through the city as millions of us recited it in unison.”
“That could be my son. His daughters looked like my daughters. His wife looked like me,” she said, referring to the moment when Obama took the oath of office.
“As a mother — a black mother, with black children — I encourage everyone to capitalize on the teaching moments,” she said.
Watauga County resident Sarah Pinnix is the founder and editor of the online magazine www.highcountrymomsquad.com, and www.reallifeblog.net.