A Black Man in the White House

I was 4 years old when Thurgood Marshall argued Brown vr. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, 7 years old when nine students integrated Little Rock High School, 13 years old when a million people calling for justice marched on Washington, and 18 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Not since the Second World War has anything in our national journey equaled in importance the civil rights movement of my childhood and youth. Yet not once, that I recall, did my parents, my church, or my school draw me into these events or impress upon me their significance. While others traveled, prayed, marched, wrote and lobbied, we in West Kentucky were silent and still. It was a cultural poverty from which I still suffer and for which I am ashamed.

Perhaps this explains why the election of a black man to the White House is for me a cause for celebration. Others have come close: the Supreme Court, the Senate, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I am justly proud of these high achievers, regardless of party affiliation.

But the White House is in a category by itself. To take up residence there a person must be invited by a majority of the American people—not just appointed by some other person in high position. It is a placement that speaks to the soul, not primarily of the person so chosen but of the people who choose. It is not about the man or woman who enters the House; it is about the men and women who enter the Booth: who punch a card or pull a lever or touch a screen. It is about us as much as it is about him.

Not that I vote because of race—a sort of Bradley-in-Reverse Effect. Policy and platform, character and commitment: these still play the trump in the card game of politics. But I can say this: I am thrilled with the opportunity to vote for a person of color to serve as President of the United States.

Just such a person on the ballot is itself an enormous achievement for the country—an accomplishment that must encourage all people of color: Asian, Latino, African, and Native American. It must encourage women, who also have had no access to the highest office in the land. It is a victory—just the ballot itself—over prejudice, division, injustice, and the worst parts of our collective behavior.

If, indeed, victory does come to the minority candidate, it will be a victory for all of us, a triumph equal to winning a war or landing on the moon. It is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize—somebody should prepare a nomination for the American People.

All of this makes me wonder, of course, what things are happening around me about which my own children may one day say: my Dad never told me about this.

For a related blog, check out Christopher Buckley’s fascinating article

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4 comments so far

  1. irabird on

    Dr. Moody,

    Well roared, lion! It hasn’t happened yet, and may not–but what a time to celebrate for the USA–and the entire world. What’s absurd is that we say Barack Obama is a ‘black’ man. He is ‘of color’, like most of the human race. He is also intelligent, ambitious, apparently a good family man, with some spiritual sense. John McCain is a brave, strong, public servant, caught in the worst financial mess since the Great Depression. I fear that Obama’s race is all that keeps this election close.

    If he wins, his plate will certainly be full–but I certainly hope we can celebrate like crazy the evening of November 4!!

  2. Rick on

    According to historian William Estabrook Chancellor, Americans have already elected a black president. In the 1920’s, Chancellor, and others said that President Warren Harding was the great-grandson of a black woman.

  3. irabird on

    One more thing–if Senator Obama prevails in November, the one person most responsible is–Tiger Woods. Note the parallels–both Woods and Obama are from non-traditional African-American families–both have been eminently successful in white men’s worlds (golf and politics)–both are cool customers who can show emotion when appropriate . . . White middle and upper class Americans LOVE Tiger Woods! Perhaps their acceptance of Tiger has made possible their acceptance of another very talented young man–let’s hope!

  4. Rob McPherson on

    >”It was a cultural poverty from which I still suffer and for which I am ashamed.”

    I too grew up in central KY in the heart of tobacco country. A quarter of my high school football team were black. We had a winning team and we were all great friends. All that we knew was that none of us were rich and most all of us worked the farms in the summer. It was the seventies and for us the injustice of segregation did not exist. I am not “ashamed” for not knowing of such things. After high school several of my black teammates were able to get college grants and assistance because of the affimative action movement. I was not and I did not understand why this was.

    Now, I live in the heartland of such prior injustice. Columbia, SC where half the population is black. Over the past thirteen years through my work, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many elderly black people about what it was like to grow up here. Now I understand and I am sad and angry for them. For the most part they are not, at least not now.

    We can truly celebrate the fact that our nation has evolved to the state envisioned by the founders.

    Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day my children will be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.” Simple . Recently, Sen Obama said, “The idea is to spread the wealth around.” Appalling.

    “No man is ever made stronger, no country is ever made better, by taking from one and giving to another.” Abraham Lincoln.

    For me, Sen Obama’s character falls well below the dignity described by Dr. King and President Lincoln.


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