Friday, November 28, 2008

Why Black Americans Are Indebted to White Americans

One of the real ironies of Barack Obama's election to the presidency is that it was white Americans who recognized and believed in this possibility long before blacks. I remember getting e-mails in January from two white friends in California who were raving about Obama and wanted to know if I'd read his books. They were already working for his campaign and kept telling me that I had to read his books.

But like most blacks, I didn't think a black man had a chance of being elected president, especially a black man with a foreign name. To be honest, I think the initial black response to Obama's chances came not only from our perception of a racist white America. That initial black response came also from residual feelings of black inferiority. President-elect Obama was quite right when he said that white America was not ready for someone like him, and neither was black America.

But when Obama won the Iowa caucuses, I and other blacks started to pay attention. We knew that the number of blacks in Iowa numbered between zero and one, excepting Des Moines and the towns where the University of Iowa and Iowa State were located. Iowa got our attention but we were not yet believers. However, we became believers after Obama's wins in the Super Tuesday primaries, and especially after Bill Clinton started attacking Obama personally.

So, this is a thanks to all those white Americans who believed that Obama could become president and worked to make it happen when most blacks thought they and Obama were a little crazy. My personal history of growing up under racial segregation and my involvement in the civil rights movement to overthrow racial segregation limited my ability to perceive the new movement of change being born before my eyes.

But when my eyes began to see truly, my heart was made glad and it becomes gladder and gladder with each day's sunrise.

Oh, by the way, at 1:54 a.m. (EST) it is 53 days, 10 hours and 5 minutes before Barack Obama becomes president.

© 2008 by Julius Lester

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