Saturday, August 30, 2008

Glad to be living in this moment

I grew up in Buffalo, NY, far enough north that I never personally drank from a water fountain reserved for my race. But I am old enough to remember what happened to black students who sought to attend white schools in Little Rock. I remember the news reports of Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus and I went to high school in Topeka, where the Supreme Court case that ended state-sanctioned segregation originated.

I also remember when John Kennedy's religion elicited deep concern about whether his loyalty would lie with the Constitution or the Pope. And I think any number of American women are at least as capable of leading a country as Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir.

Which brings us to this past week. I hope that years from now, those who follow will look back on this week - when a black man became one party's candidiate for president, and a woman was put forth as the other party's vice presidential nominee - and wonder what the big deal was, because race, religion and gender will have become no more consequential to a candidate's resume than height or hair color.

But in my time, this week has been a big deal indeed. In particular, watching an African-American man take center stage surrounded by 80,000 cheering party faithful, on the 45th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, has been both astonishing and immensely satisfying.

Of course there's a long way to go before we really judge a man (or woman...) on character content rather than skin color. But it's another step forward. And an extraordinary moment I am grateful to have lived in.

No comments: