Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Civil Rights

So. Long before the Obama Clinton race became so heated I was asked by a very intelligent man what I thought the effect of a "black" democratic nominee would have on our country.

He may have actually worded it in terms of if he becomes president but I think that his nomination by the party and his endorsement by so many people and states and super delegates is significant enough that I am now giving it some thought.

He prodded me when he originally asked the question but I hadn't considered the answer and discovered that I refused to until I had reason. Maybe I am more hopeless than I thought but I didn't even want to consider the changes until there was in fact a possibility for change. And part of my wondered what the hell he was talking about.

So here is what I think:
Racist white people probably won't change because their national leader is half black. They will either comfort themselves with his half whiteness, wait patiently until the negro leaves office or the more extremists may conspire against him. Any direction they choose, will not matter. There will be no amazing uplifting of the identity of racist white America because of a black president.

That's not where the change will happen.

I work with a 60 year old black woman. She reminds me a great deal of my grandmother at that age. She has a sharp sense of humor but she is a quiet unassuming woman.

I came in several times this spring asking her what she thought about "our boy". Her initial reaction amazed me. She was 100% sure that there was no way a black man would get the nomination. She was not bitter or angry in her assertion - just confident. She was certain that there was no way a black man could win.

And she is not alone. Such is the way of much of black society.

I live in a town that is not particularly racist. I also live in a town that does not have much of a racial mix. That makes it easier I think. And I understand what Biden meant when he said that Barak Obama was well spoken and appealing to white culture. He is a very "white acting" black man. And please do not rail against me for the statement. I could have spent a great deal of time making it a prettier statement, a much less charged statement. I chose not to. Barak Obama fits in. To white culture. And it seems, to black culture. He knows the secret hand shakes and can gain entry.

And that is I think what will change the face of race relations in America. For centuries now the black mentality has been that of oppression. The civil rights movement stopped moving but the race divide widens in most cities everyday.

The bad section of almost every major metropolitan city is also a dark section. And yes we have black attorneys and doctors and teachers and anything else they choose to be. But true equality is still elusive.

I see hope for this when I see Barak Obama. I hope he will win the presidency. I would love for the face of America to not require sunscreen for a while. And I would love for our president to know what soul food is.

This is a man of our future. This is the face that young black men and women will look to to see where their bar has been set. A black president will mean that a black man can in fact do anything. Achieve any goal.

And I worry now that he has the nomination that his defeat by an old old white man might mean that folks will assume that that is what happens to the black man.

But this is huge! And I hope we can hold on to the import of just this moment. This accomplishment.

And retain the hope.

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