Morning in America

Dawning of a New Era

People are still hung over here in San Francisco from the Obama victory romp, or rather still drunk with victory… The morning after hasn’t quite set in yet, though I imagine that as Obama makes announcements and appointments as President-Elect, as he makes the transition from seeking power to expressing it, and tempering that expression with realpolitik DC-style, there will begin to be some signs of disillusionment. But for now, it still feels like the dawn of a new era in American political life, morning in America.

And, finally, we can all play the race card – with Black as the winning hand – even if people are still being a bit cautious about it, like Colin Powell:

“President-elect Obama is going to be a president for all of America,” Powell said Wednesday night during a visit in Hong Kong. “He also happens to be black, which makes it a very, very historic occasion.” [source]

Around the world and here at home, people are seeing Obama’s election – the election of a black man as President – as a long-overdue turn from racism here in the United States, and the culmination of the Civil Rights movement.  Obama has been among the most circumspect in referring to this aspect of his victory, though he has done so in carefully coded language. For instance, he has talked about the “long road” of the campaign or of the movement for change which his campaign has embodied, in a deliberate reference to Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom as well as of course to descriptions of the struggle against slavery and for civil rights as a “long road.”

there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow (of death) again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires. – Nelson Mandela [source]

On race and racism in America, as on the other changes Obama has championed, his election is not the end of that long road to freedom – that would be too easy, and as Mandela reminds us there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere – but Obama’s election represents such a major milestone on that road that we are right to celebrate.  Barriers and glass ceilings have been decisively breached, not only by Obama’s election, but also by Hillary Clinton and (ugh) Sarah Palin. There will be no going back from this moment, and I feel like I can breathe in a way which I haven’t since I first became aware of racism. I was so sure that America was incapable of electing a black man as President, and I have never been so happy to be wrong.

There has been a lot of talk in this election about America as the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth, in history, but of course the dirty little secret (not so little, not so secret) has always been that this wealth and power was built, decisively, on the blood and bodies of slaves, of black slaves in particular (not to mention the land and lives of Native Americans), and we as a nation have not done enough to reflect on, repudiate and make right the stolen source of our wealth and might. But maybe now…

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