Monday, November 3, 2008

A Black Man Will Be President, Some Day

Unlike some others, I did think I'd see a black president. Just not so soon. I'm young enough that I figured shifting demographics would have made in inevitable at least by the end of my life (And, of course, I'm young enough that I think I'm going to live a long and happy live instead of, you know, dying horribly in some unpredictable wreck.). That by the time I was an old, graying man still tottering around I could greet the monumental news with a warm smile. That I would then call over to my children and their own, have them gather around me and wait, as I told them just how bad it had once been.

I'd tell them about lynching and riots. Poll taxes and Jim Crow. Detroit and Watts and cities burning because of racial tensions. Dogs and firehoses and boycotts passed. About a dream.

I'd tell them about the long march of time, in so many words. And how, by my time, it seemed as though things were better. And how, by theirs, it had become better yet. Until things had improved to the point where what they'd just done had seemed like nothing remarkable. And that, maybe, they should take a moment to appreciate what they'd just done.

That it used to be unthinkable that a black man could become president of the United States and, now, there was one.

I never thought, though, that I'd be hearing a version of that speech from my own grandmother.

But it's true. What's about to happen tomorrow - what will happen, what should happen, what I and so many others have hoped and worked and strived for through the many long months - is remarkable. It's historic.

But it also feels like it's not anything special. We're about to elect a black man to the presidency. Not because he's black but because he's the best man for the job and, for me, there's nothing extraordinary or remarkable about it.

That, more than anything, speaks to how far we've come. The unthinkable has become normal.

It doesn't, though, speak about how far we've yet to go. You don't have to turn to the election to see that but, instead, the campaign. And all the vile and disgusting sewers through which we, as a nation, have been dredged.

But somehow, on this day at least, I'm not bothered by it all. The ghosts of the past aren't going to vanish without a fight. It's a fight that must be waged and one that is being waged. And it's one where it might not seem like much progress has been made as you've pushed and shoved away. Until, that is, you turn around and see just how far the line's been moved.

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