A New Kind of Pride
Whoever wins this election, I understand what Barack Obama meant when he said his faith in the American people had been "vindicated" by his campaign's success. I understand what Michelle Obama meant, months ago, when she said she was "proud of my country" for the first time in her adult life. Why should they be immune to the astonishment and vertigo that so many other African Americans are experiencing? Why shouldn't they have to pinch themselves to make sure they aren't dreaming, the way that I do?Keep reading. So moving.
For African Americans, at least those of us old enough to have lived through the civil rights movement, this is nothing short of mind-blowing. It's disorienting, and it makes me see this nation in a different light.
You see, I remember a time of separate and unequal schools, restrooms and water fountains -- a time when black people were officially second-class citizens. I remember moments when African Americans were hopeful and excited about the political process, and I remember other moments when most of us were depressed and disillusioned. But I can't think of a single moment, before this year, when I thought it was within the realm of remote possibility that a black man could be nominated for president by one of the major parties -- let alone that he would go into Election Day with a better-than-even chance of winning.
Let me clarify: It's not that I would have calculated the odds of an African American being elected president and concluded that this was unlikely; it's that I wouldn't even have thought about such a thing.
African Americans' love of country is deep, intense and abiding, but necessarily complicated. At the hour of its birth, the nation was already stained by the Original Sin of slavery. Only in the past several decades has legal racism been outlawed and casual racism been made unacceptable, at least in polite company. Millions of black Americans have managed to pull themselves up into mainstream, middle-class affluence, but millions of others remain mired in poverty and dysfunction.
I wanted to add that this is the core of my admiration for Barack Obama - he represents a new era in our country's self-understanding. In nearly taking the highest office in the land (and may well do so), he has shattered the belief that race can never be transcended. More tomorrow. For today, GOTV!