Thursday, August 28, 2008
When all is said and done in this election season one thing is sure. August 28th will once again be a historic day not only for African-Americans but for the United States of America. Forty-five years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most stirring and moving speeches in American history. His speech voiced the hope of some 20 million black people along with millions of other Americans who genuinely wished to live in a country where one’s ethnicity didn’t determines one’s fate from cradle to grave.
Now another African-American will give a historic speech but this time to accept his party’s nomination for president. And he’ll do so just one generation removed from the time when this country prevented many of his people from even casting a vote. Indeed we’ve come a long way baby. For most black people this will be the most significant political event we’ve ever witnessed. Millions of African-Americans will sit down with their children and watch a black man call the country to rise to its potential to live as one unified nation. And these millions will relish the possibility of seeing a black man, his wife and their children occupy the signature symbol of power of this country.
Does that mean that black folks believe that Senator Obama’s nomination has ushered the country into some kind of new racial utopia? No it doesn’t. But I believe there is a hope that successive Obama administrations can go along way to changing the racial climate of this country. Here’s what I mean. While most African-Americans deny that ethnicity is the single greatest impediment toward opportunity in America, we nonetheless still believe that it carries some weight. There is still the belief that you always start out as a suspect until you prove yourself otherwise. There persist the belief within much of black America that the mainstream society feels much more comfortable with us on the ball field than the boardroom. To this day many of us still shake our heads and wonder when someone from the mainstream society notes with surprise how ‘articulate’ a particular black person is. (if you don’t believe me just ask your best buddy black reformed cat how many times someone remarked how articulate he was)
And it’s my view that this belief has become so persistent among so many within the black community that many of us give up without even trying. Far too many of us seem to think that there’s little or no chance that the mainstream society will view us as little more than either potential ball players or criminals. Perhaps at one time there was the hope that America’s collective consciousness would change, that she’d open her arms wide to those whose ancestors built the country and we would indeed live as one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. But that ship has sailed. While it would be nice to live in a land without racial prejudice that just ain’t going to happen.
And if we need any more proof then the reality that some life-long democrats will refuse to vote for Senator Obama just because he’s black confirms it. His nomination proves however that we no longer have to wait for the collective acceptance of the white community to do what is needed to address the issues of ourselves, our families and our communities. Just like Barack and Michelle Obama we too can focus on obtaining an education so that we increase our chances to climb out of cyclical poverty. Just like Barack and Michelle Obama we too can see the value of using our education and abilities to work on the behalf of others and not just ourselves. And just like Barack and Michelle Obama we too can approach life with a sense of confidence, a desire to make a difference and a genuine hope that the world of our children can be better than ours.
The Lord’s Peace