Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pinch me!

It’s a pinch-myself morning. Perhaps you’ve felt it too.

President-elect Barack Obama.

We’ve seen Obama give election night victory speeches so many times in this long campaign that last night’s simply fell into the slot. I had become conditioned to thinking “so it’s on to North Carolina or Nevada or the next election.”

But no — and I actually had to set my mind straight —this time it’s on to the White House. There won’t be any more elections in 2008.

President-elect Barack Obama.

When will it really sink in? When I stop visiting When Obama begins to announce his cabinet? When he meets with Bush at the White House?

On Inauguration Day, which can’t come soon enough?

Of course the other “pinch-me” is that Barack Obama is an African-American.

What that means to American blacks, what if feels like to them, I can only imagine. Each will experience the Obama presidency differently. African Americans are as different one from another as white Americans are.

What they share is racial discrimination. Obama and his candidacy swept racial discrimination aside, at least in national politics. His presidency will do much to sweep it aside in our culture.

But we need to put the Obama victory, America’s victory, in context. It might never have happened without the disastrous, shameful Bush administration and the perilous economic times it has created.

Nor should we for a moment think that racial discrimination disappeared on Nov. 4, 2008. Discrimination, of all kinds, has been slowly, almost imperceptibly, dimming for the past five decades. Yesterday it dimmed noticeably, but it has not gone out.

In 1964, when Barack Obama was two years old, I was in Mississippi as part of a mass movement of young blacks and whites working to secure the vote for African Americans. I never thought that within my lifetime I would see those votes help elect an African-American president.

But who knows what it takes to aspire to the presidency of the United States? In Mississippi, our movement was a magnet for black leadership. James Farmer, Bob Moses, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Fanny Lou Hamer. While Martin Luther King, Jr. never came to Mississippi in my time there, he was the pre-eminent guiding figure.

Today his message and story is enshrined in our history.

Did any of these leaders aspire to be president? Could they see the way to lead the nation from the pinnacle of government? Forty-four years ago, could they have imagined this day would come so soon?

I doubt it. (I would love to put that question to Young, Lewis and Moses, who are still alive)

The other figure that inspired my generation was John Kennedy, whose grace and mastery of the language are legend.

I see and hear and feel King and Kennedy in a composed, eloquent, youthful Barack Obama. In the cock of his head, in the cadence of his words, in the over-arching righteousness of his passionate message ….

And I pinch myself. Could it be?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right in your insight with Bush. America should be thankful for Bush. He was the one responsible for uniting many Americans and rallying them into one single thought: That change needs to be done. For me, he was the one who campaigned hardest for Obama. So hard that he was able to transcend the barriers of race.

I am not a racist and I salute this historic event for America, but here is my honest opinion about African Americans: The majority of them are arrogant, lazy, and often would indulge in self pity, excuses, & blame-tossing. This was not the case during the battle for equal rights. They were the most hard working part of the American populace who always persevered in improving their way of life with dignity & respect. I can only hope that this spirit would be rekindled with the election of Obama. I hope it inspires them, rather than encourage more bad attitudes.

Well done, America. God Bless.

9:55 AM  

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