Here is an opportunity to infuriate all those who strain against reality to argue that Barack Obama’s election is proof that racial equality has been attained. At one time, many felt the primary test for racial equality was the inability for an African-American to be elected president. And before I state my case here, let me be clear: I believe the most prevalent form of discrimination in America is not racial, but soci-economic. Racial discrimination has been pressed further into the recesses of the corners of America’s socio-political environment, but its effect is still profound.
Obama’s election demonstrates the complexity of the problem. It may have been easier — difficult as it actually was — to get him elected POTUS than it would be for your town’s corporate and political entities to appoint him to its presidency or head position.
In 2008, not even the Supreme Court had a chance to save the race for the conservatives. Bush II created such a hostile environment against the conservative political Right that “even a black man proved preferable to another version of Bush.” McCain didn’t lose the election, Bush did. But that’s another story for another day.
Its quite a confluence of historical tides that allowed Obama to be elected. He was the right man for the right time. He is prepared. He has a vision that Americans are compelled to welcome. He is qualified by any measure, and his race didn’t get him elected, it kept him from winning by an even-larger margin. And I am not belly-aching. Far from it.
Without the combination of an historically-low approval rating for W, flagging support for a sustained American presence in Iraq, unfathomably high fuel costs, and financial disaster on the macro and micro-level of our economy, the Democratic ticket would not have succeeded.
Thank God for it! All those forces needed to conspire to allow the best man to win the election, and he did. But it occurs to me that now, proponents of racism and racial discrimination, and opponents of ground-leveling legislation have new fuel to pour on the fire in the argument that everyone is truly equal. In point of fact, the new political reality will only serve to increase the amount of racial tension in our country.
But herein lies the real opportunity for change and hope. This, if handled with civility and honesty, could allow for an impassioned, rational discourse. It may be precisely what is needed to tip the nation toward acknowledging and dealing with the less-visible, and more nefarious, forms of racism that still prevail. Even before Obama was a candidate, I am proud that my community accepted this challenge and underwent an intensive, and ongoing community-wide discours on race and racism. Lynchburg leads the way!
Ironically, Obama’s presidency will cause latent misgivings, and shallowly-concealed disdain to bubble to the surface in areas where the courage to do the same don’t exist. I say bring it on. The central reason our nation has not truly realized its potential is because we have pushed too many sensitive discussions to the margins. We have instituted political correctness in place of honest disagreement. We have surrounded our views with comfortable compassion, and insulated ourselves only with those who share our world-view. We have created a situation where an African-American man could be elected president of the United States, even though the vast majority of American institutions from colleges to corporations would struggle to permit equal courage in choosing leaders who don’t fit the “traditional” model.
In the few areas where I have seen data, African-Americans have lost ground, not gained: college enrollment of African-Americans lags behind the general population proportions. There are fewer black head coaches in Division I football, for instance, than there were just a few years ago. And our children still seem to be fighting for equal footing in the public education system.
When Obama is the rule and not the exception, then and only then can we say America has undergone the type of soul-searching and unification that allows true change. And when we do, we will restore our pre-eminence on the world’s stage politically, socially, culturally, and economically as One America. I long for the day. In the meantime, I look forward to new American leadership paradigms. I truly have hope.