Senator Barack Obama has officially accepted the presidential nomination from the Democratic Party (on the 45th anniversary of “I Have a Dream” no less) and has made history in the process. America is making history. We like to talk about how far ahead some European countries are in terms of racial equality, but none of them have done this. This country has such a long, checkered past of intolerance and hate (genocide of Native Americans, slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, etc) and we still have a lot of work to do on that front, but to have a black man be this close to being commander in chief is awe inspiring.
My father, who is in his 50’s, was in the Detroit Public Schools system when Brown v. Board of Education required schools to be integrated. He was bussed to an all white school and his white classmates would literally spit on him. His white teachers deliberately selected black students for corporal punishment whether they deserved it or not. Today’s racism is a lot more covert, but blatant, over-the-top, government sanctioned racism is not ancient history. To be able to hear the not-so-distant memories of overt racism by my elders (and I actually have my own stories too) and then sit here, no STAND here, and watch Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination for president is incredible.
And Barack Obama is not just some generic, fill-in-the-blank, token black guy being thrust out there for the sake of saying “Look we let black people do stuff.” He has substance, drive, passion and I believe, a sincerity that people in my generation have never seen in a politician on a national scale. This upcoming contest in November will be the third presidential election that I have been old enough to vote in and it is the very first time that I don’t feel like I’m going for “the lesser of two evils.” That’s not to say that I agree 100 percent with everything Obama has said, but I truly believe that he is not just the best candidate of these two people, but that he is the candidate who can get this country going into a positive direction.
Obama’s speech last night was phenomenal. He was poignant and practical and really tough on the Republicans. I have not doubts about his ability to run this country effectively and compassionately and repair our global reputation. America does deserve better than the last eight years. We need a president who can make the next eight years as tremendous as the last eight were disastrous.
We know what happens to a dream deferred. It does fester like a sore. It does sag like a heavy load. It does explode. Langston Hughes was right about all of those things. What he didn’t mention was how that dream turns into a nightmare and perpetuates cycles of poverty and despair that strangle the forward progress of countless families in this country. For black children to see someone who looks like them within reach of being the leader of the free world is like injecting a big dose of “YES, WE CAN” into their brains and into their hearts. They can truly believe that there are no limits to their potential. That’s a beautiful thing and it’s priceless.