January 22, 2009
Some Thoughts on Barack Obama’s Inauguration
In 1984, when Jesse Jackson made a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, there were whites who expressed themselves quite openly — USA Today ‘man on the street’ opinion page, Donahue and other talk shows — that they “don’t believe America is ready for a black man” to be president. Plain and simple. There was no sense of cultural sanction that prevented them from expressing themselves that way. Now I’m not claiming that America has seen the last of racial bigotry, ethnic tension, or just plain nastiness, by any means (some even say it may get worse if the Obama presidency sours or fails). But I can say that such a “we’re not ready” view would probably not even be expressed out in the open today, for fear of social sanction. Yes, there are individuals and groups who may be “openly” bigoted when amongst their own, but they’ll keep themselves in check when in polite company. This was not so much the case when I was growing up, and wasn’t even on the horizon when my folks were kids. To me that signifies a change, a slow change perhaps, but progress nonetheless.