Monday, January 19, 2009


Well, tomorrow we'll have a new President. I've been reading a great deal about it from all kinds of sources - the newspaper, the Economist, my fellow bloggers - and I find I really only have one thing to say:

It's. About. Damn. Time.

I was thinking about this "first African American president" business. American attitudes toward race are weird (only less weird than American attitudes toward sex); and really, my lifetime has spanned the full range, except for slavery itself. When I was a small child, in the Fifties, Southern black people drank from "colored" fountains and sat in the balcony at movie theaters; and the town I lived in (not in the south) didn't sell land to blacks. Negros, we said then. I didn't meet a black person until I was 10 or 11 years old and joined the Vallejo Junior Symphony - Vallejo was a Navy town and had lots of black people.

In the Sixties, I was in college (at U.C. Berkeley no less); we watched the marches, we saw the dogs and water hoses on the news, we read about the murders. The Black Panthers arose here in Oakland, and I didn't approve of their armed stance (I never have liked guns), but they did schools and child care and social services. If only they'd stayed with that; but they had to have the guns. White women still crossed the street when black men came along, but people were beginning to say it was wrong.

That was forty years ago. Now, nobody (well, almost nobody) even blinks at interracial marriage; whites work side by side with black people (and Hispanics and Asians) and think nothing of it; the American population is a spectrum of shades of brown. Black people still face some discrimination, but the Jim Crow laws, the miscegenation laws, are history; the "white only" rental signs are gone; it's a lot better. It amazes me how much better it is, within one lifetime; people who get stopped for "driving while black" may not agree with me, but really, it used to be much worse. Now racial profiling is questioned. And with Barack Obama, who ran as an American (not an African American), maybe we can take one more step along the road.

Maybe we can just be Americans. Those of us who were born and raised here still have more in common with each other than we do with anyone from another country, no matter what color we or they are.


  1. You sound very cheerful, as I suppose we should be, given the inspiring language of Obama's Inauguration speech.

    I'm still skeptical. I wanted Hillary to be our first woman President, and I think that would have been, on balance, a more revolutionary, and promising development, for mankind, than racial advancement. I didn't buy the Obama "mantra of change" promotion, because it was unspecific and bland. At least with McCain you knew what he stood for; you could hate him and distrust his motives, but you knew what you'd be getting if you voted for him.

    Obama's a wild card. His appointments have been all over the place. No one can figure out what his agenda really is.

    Right off the top he's talking about breaking the budget in his first month in office. Will a 1930's style social welfare scheme actually generate an economic recovery? It didn't work in the 1930's; as everyone knows, the American economy didn't bounce back until the War economy of the 1940's kicked in.

    That could mean Obama's a lame duck one-term failure just as Jimmy Carter was. Carter was a well-meaning, caring, feeling, optimist. But Washington politics, and a bad economy, killed his administration.

    I suspect our new budget-busting dreamer is headed down the same road.

    Don't get me wrong. I'd never have voted for McCain, not in a million years. I just don't think we've found the new Messiah.


    We'll see.

  2. We'll just have to differ on this. You sound like you think that the broad generalities of Obama's campaign are because he has a secret evil agenda that he's not saying. I'm inclined to think that his campaign was broad and general because he didn't want to promise anything specific that he might not later be able to do, thereby laying himself open to the "broken campaign promise" accusation.

    We had the amazing choice in this election of two stereotype smashers: we could have elected the first black or the first female president. I didn't vote for Obama because he's the first African American to get to the White House. I voted for him because his message was, there is hope if we come together and work together. Hillary's message was much more partisan. I'm tired of partisan. But in electing a black man, we have suddenly told the entire black population that they really can be anything they choose, if they only work hard enough - the true American message. As a white woman, I didn't realize, until I started reading the responses from the black community, how deep that divide really was; and we haven't healed it yet, but we've bridged it. The long term consequences of that are yet to be seen.

    There are and have been women in power in other major nations - Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi - but no major nation has elected a black man to power. Until now. So I think the American people chose the right ceiling to break through.

    But you knew that ;-)

  3. The best part about Obama is that he deserved to be President on his merits. There was no payback in his election. Just a man.

    That's the wonderful thing about it. His skin color DIDN'T MATTER.