My parents had done their best to try to explain the disparity between what we had, which seemed to be everything, and what our neighbors had, which was clearly very little. They had sat me down and explained the subject of prejudice, and slavery, and voting rights, and bussing. How hard it was for “Negros” to get the education and the jobs necessary to climb out of those ghettos. It is wrong, they would tell me, but things are changing. Soon after, I was told that I should no longer refer to my African American friends as Negro. “We’re Black,” a friend at school said.” Then she raised a fist. “Black Power!” she shouted. I was very impressed, and I remember wondering as I watched the fires smolder, what my friend was thinking and doing now that the man that had helped give her that strength was dead. Would she still call herself Black? Would she still raise her fist and demand power?
I thought of that young girl again the night Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama. I wondered if she was one of the many thousands of people standing in Grant Park waiting to hear her newly elected President speak. She’d be almost fifty years old now, probably a mother, maybe a grandmother. Maybe she was holding her grandchild up on her shoulders to see for themselves just how far his or her future could reach.
Some people say, why focus on Obama’s race? Some people say, he’s white too – why not talk about that, as well? Both are reasonable questions, but both do not suffice when looking at the sea people that gathered in Grant Park on that remarkably beautiful November evening. Race was an issue that night. Race was the reason there were so many tears not just on the black faces, but on the faces of people in every time zone on this planet. Race has always been a line of demarcation saying who is to be trusted, who is more fit, who is more ready, who is more easily sacrificed. But on that Tuesday, the United States took its promise of equality seriously and said we are indeed a country of "opportunity for all."
To ignore the impact of that, is to ignore all the struggle that existed to get our country to that day.
I am proud of the United States: proud of my city of birth, proud of young voters, proud of all the people who worked on the campaign, proud of my friends, and proud of the little girl who, forty years earlier, had raised her fist in the air and demanded power.