“I can only speak for myself,” said Brown, 31. “But my life has been very good.”
She had felt at ease with people of different backgrounds that night, and she felt that way now, driving through a Southern city that is more diverse than ever. She had felt purposeful and powerful that night, having voted for a candidate that she truly believed in, and she felt that way now working at St. Paul’s, being near her mom and dad, and pursuing a path that seemed meaningful to her. She had felt the possibilities of transformation that night, and now she was living them.
Although she had been rising steadily in her corporate job back then in 2008, she had felt increasingly empty and unhappy doing it. So, in the spring of 2010, with enough money saved up to manage a transition and against the advice of friends who told her she was lucky to be employed, Brown quit. “I decided I was going to walk out on faith,” she said, referring not to faith in Obama or the economy as much as to the Christian faith that has always sustained her. “I said I’m not going to let fear keep me.”
She spent a year traveling the country. And then, last fall, she drove the pickup — the American flag in the rear window — back home to Charlotte, where she grew up as an A-plus student in a middle-class neighborhood with streets named Snow White and Cinderella and parents who told her that she could do anything, who gave her a Nigerian name that means “gift from God.”
She found an apartment with vaulted ceilings and a balcony where she hung wind chimes. She found a church she loved. And soon after that, Brown found an accounting job there that allows her to have Fridays off to volunteer at a women’s shelter.
“I don’t make as much money, but I love my job,” she said. “So I feel this is where I was meant to be.”
And yet another thought still lingered in her mind from that night in Grant Park, a memory of what had occurred to her even amid all of the cheering and talk about a post-racial America.
“I don’t think his election changed anything about racism in this country,” Brown said.
In fact, sometimes — especially when she read the comments posted online in response to news stories — she wondered whether racial tensions had gotten worse.
It wasn’t just what she calls the “crazy talk” that Obama, a professed Christian, was really Muslim or a socialist or not American at all. It wasn’t just that she felt Obama was being held to a higher standard because he was black — the old saying that you have to be twice as good to be half as good.
What bothered her more than all of that was how, in her view, such talk had become so ordinary, so bold, such a part of the mainstream political discussion.