January 22, 2009

Some Thoughts on Barack Obama’s Inauguration

Posted in politics, society tagged at 1:03 pm by degyes

Here are some thoughts I had this morning in response to the assertion, made by some, that Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency is just that–the attainment of high office–with no deeper significance in terms of the (perhaps gradual) erosion of overt racism in the United States, a view with which I do not agree.

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.

Let it be stated, for the record that no, I did not support Obama in his bid for the presidency, but at the same time recognize the profound significance of his attaining that office. I wish him success.

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