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.