The Great American Soap Opera
The world has never been completely lily white nor our country completely a mythical melting pot and the issue of race is harder and harder to pin down, but sometimes perception makes reality as much as the reverse holds true. Many people still see "race" as a continuing problem in this country and many others see it as nothing more than a destructive preoccupation with compelling arguments on each side. In the years ahead, class and economics will come into sharper relief as the national narrative that drives us forward. Sexual identity equality is, in many respects, the new civil rights movement even as Latinos and Blacks continue to guard or secure their own. Among other issues, religious versus secular battles still loom ahead.
Nevertheless, in as much as "race" is becoming less important a consideration in the national conversation, the future of a fully colorblind, post-racial society is still a long way off. History runs deep in the souls of people, even when other considerations demand their attention. All the same, our great national soap opera is about to make a permanent, official plot twist with the inauguration of Barack Obama. For a nation founded upon the deep and fundamental contradiction of the wholesale holding of black human beings as slaves versus its claims of the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this is truly one of the greatest moments we will ever see in our lifetimes.
Unfortunately, there are many people of all backgrounds — some of whom have posted here at Daytime Confidential — who do not see the importance of this moment in our nation's history. This is their right, of course, and I have no intention of changing their minds. In fact, there is a perverse and elegant element of progress in their view as well, regardless of their feelings, motives or intent. Their views notwithstanding, I would hope to convey to them why, for millions of Americans of all ethnicities and for African Americans in particular, this moment in time is worthy of all the pomp, circumstance and excitement this particular inauguration brings:
The promise of America has always been that in this country anyone could grow up to be anything they wanted to be. I was taught this creed from a young age, as were millions of men and women before and after me. In general, Black people have always believed this was essentially a lie in one particular and specific regard: we could grow up to be anything except President of the United States; too much history lingered; too many lynched Black men had swung from trees; too many stereotypes had to be overcome; too many self-inflicted pathologies needed to be corrected. For a lot of reasons (some of their own making and some not), many young Black men and some women have given up on the notion of being anything at all. In addition, far too many whites, especially in the South, made it plain through word and deed that they would never accept an African American as President of the United States. Younger Americans of all backgrounds might have seen a person of color or woman rise to the Presidency as inevitable, but few would venture that it would happen so soon. Even among those of us who knew this day would come, many of us assumed it would be a woman first and others — myself included — did not think we would ever live to see this day. Regardless of anyone's opinion about Mr. Obama's politics, he proved a great many of the more skeptical and cynical among us wrong.
There will be post-mortems on the 2008 election from here to doomsday about how and why Barack Obama won this election. Did George W. Bush wreck everything so badly that anyone was a good replacement? Was Hillary Clinton too polarizing as an individual? Was Sarah Palin the ultimate deal breaker that even rank and file conservatives could not stomach? Was Obama simply the right man at the right time? No matter how right, wrong or far off we were on either side of the debate or political fence, the fact is Mr. Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. He may turn out to be a great president, a bad one, or in between. Still, in this moment while we may not have cut the Gordian Knot of race in America, we certainly have crossed our national Rubicon. This is why you see little Black boys and little Black girls and indeed children of all races and backgrounds jump for joy about Barack Obama. They may never grow up to be President themselves, but they now know that America's great promise for everyone is no longer a promise to white men alone. That is why, given the history of this country, the inauguration of Barack Obama is a seminal moment in this nation's history. (continued)