‘And although it seems heaven sent
We ain’t ready, to see a black President’
Tupac Shakur, Changes (1995)
Is this the dream fulfilled?
Is this the day, the day when our country’s little children – and their little children and their little children – have been judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters? When suddenly what wasn’t even considered a possibility becomes a reality? When we turn our backs on what’s come before and look to the future and understand, reminding ourselves of the failures behind us, that we can all make a difference, that we can form, after all, a more perfect union?
He spoke and we listened and in turn, we spoke louder, together and fully. A generation that never had a voice has suddenly bellowed.
How could we have possibly seen this, even four short years ago? Could we have imagined a black man, even in these times, not only winning this election, but defeating a war hero opponent by a landslide?
On this night, we see ourselves atop one of our history’s highest peaks. Of all of the mythologies that galvanize this great continent, few have enjoyed more staying power than the intertwined ideas of the Melting Pot and infinite opportunity, that this country was founded on diversity and possibility, and all it took to ascend indefinitely was a sharp and shrewd mind and a tireless effort.
But before tonight, those allegories have been nothing but words and simple fantasies, tethered to the sad fragments of our past, dark and damning ghosts like Jim Crow, the notion of three-fifths, the bullet inside Martin Luther King, Jr. Over time, the increase of blacks in the workforce and the influx of blacks with college degrees chipped away at racism, while the integration of sports and the importance of blacks in music, from blues to hip-hop sanded more of it away.
But then the Fortune 500 would come out, and as of 2006, blacks occupied only four of the CEO spots. At the end of the same year, median household income for whites stood at $50,673; for blacks, it was $31,969. The stats go on and on, and yes, stats only tell part of the story, but the most glaring message behind these statistics is that, outside of the thin avenues of entertainment and athletics, blacks rose to prominence in so few ways. Terribly few ways.
That mythology of equality, of all men being created equal, had such little resonance under the harsh glare of these facts. Tonight, that idea has roots. Tonight, it is no longer mere floating, hollow words, the preserve of rhetoricians.
We’d be fools to assume that this will change everything. But we’d be missing out on the moment if we don’t think that we just witnessed a moment that will irrevocably change the course of American life.