Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just to expand on my comment from yesterday....

I am proud, not because we have elected an African-American for the first time. I am proud that his being the son of a black African and a white American didn't matter. Obama didn't win because of his race. He also didn't win in spite of his race. He truly won because of the race he ran rather than the race he belongs to.

People sometimes tried to bring race into it, but it never really stuck. And despite reports of "huge turnout by the African-American community," the percentage of black voters in this election was not drastically different from previous elections. And it was proportional to the population as a whole.

Obama won among blacks, but he also he won among Latinos. He won among those making less than $50,000 per year, but he also among those making more than $200,000 per year. He won in the so-called blue states, but he also won in red states. He won with more votes than any President in history. He won on the largest voter turnout in a hundred years. He won running against a very experienced, highly respected opponent with crossover appeal. He won despite a series of smear campaigns that lost his opponent a lot of that hard-earned respect. He won without resorting to a smear campaign of his own, as far as I can tell. He made his case based on real issues rather than side issues, or imaginary ones.

In the end, it didn't matter that he had skin of a different hue than all who came before him. It didn't matter that his father was a Muslim from Kenya or his preacher was radical or his middle name was Hussein. It mattered that he ran a better campaign, that he had better ideas, and that he won more respect, and inspired more people.

The day will come when we no longer feel the need to remark on these semi-arbitrary firsts - first black to do X, first woman to do Y, first Hispanic, first Jew, first gay Asian, first black Hispanic Jewish woman... When there have been dozens of black senators, it won't mean as much to be the first black senator from Ohio.

Race and heritage will always matter, but it will matter to families. It will matter for traditions and customs and holidays. It will matter in a different, more positive way. We will stop thinking of people who are six generations removed from Africa, as African-Americans - they'll just be Americans. We'll stop referring to those with some small fraction of their ancestry rooted in Africa as black people. They'll just be people.

And that was the real essence of Martin Luther King's Dream. Not that a black man could become President, but that a man's being black wouldn't even factor into it. In Dr. King's own words:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

We're not quite there yet. But yesterday, we took a giant leap in that direction.


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At 11/05/2008 8:25 PM, Blogger Katie said...

Well put. I have never been more proud to be an American than I am today.

At 11/05/2008 11:15 PM, Anonymous ~Lori said...

Darn you! Darn you to heck!

You made me cry again. Thank you.

At 8/14/2010 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was utterly embarrassed over Rick Warren's inauguration prayer, thanking God for this AFRICAN AMERICAN president that shows that RACE is not a factor in the hearts of our nation, and that ETHNIC DIVERSITY had been brought to the White House, yadda yadda.

Talk about making a deal out of something that isn't a factor. Oxymoronic...


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