The voting booths hadn't even cooled down from last night's historic election, before the Wall Street Journal exploited the moment by not only suggesting that "racism as a barrier to achievement" will no longer exist now that a black man has been elected, but by actually declaring that these barriers were a "myth" in the first place. I guess it took a stubborn stronghold of white, male, corporate privilege, where black achievement is the exception, not the rule, to make such a claim.
Obama's achievements are indeed an American achievement and all those who were able to vote their dreams and not their fears reveal the very best instincts of this country's citizenry. But let's not forget the popular "real America" theme that Sarah Palin drilled home to her party faithful, a creepy, divisive, and yes, racist, maneuver that tried to paint Barack as a bogey man that threatened "American" values. It reminded me of when I was in high school and a student tried to convince me that Martin Luther King was strictly a Black hero, not an American one.
It does no one any good, much less me, to stubbornly cling to an "America is racist" narrative in the face of any event that qualifies or even challenges that narrative. But perhaps the biggest threat to the social progress of this country is to blind ourselves to how much further we have to go before racism as a barrier to achievement is a thing of the past.
In the meantime, I leave you with a poem by the late Robert Hayden, entitled "Frederick Douglass."
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.