History marches on and another brick in a very old wall has fallen to the ground and crumbled to dust.
This is a rather odd sensation. As I sit here typing, Obama having finished his acceptance speech a few minutes ago, I can’t help but wonder if my father felt like this once. I am looking at a new world. I am looking at a country forever and irreversibly different from the one I grew up in for the last 37 (actually, 38 in one week) years or that I lived in even just yesterday that will be the only world that Ian will have ever known.
This is the first Presidential election of Ian’s life even if, at a mere 16 months old, he will not remember it. This election is our man on the moon. This election is our Berlin Wall crumbling. A world that many did not think that they would ever live to see even ten years ago will be the norm for him.
It doesn’t matter if you agree with Obama or even if you hate him. He has by his election to the office of President of the United States changed our world. When L. Douglas Wilder became the first black Governor of Virginia he decided to test the national waters and found them to be mostly indifferent of his accomplishments here. But he also found disbelief. My father’s family was having a huge family reunion at the time and I remember a number of us talking about the prospects of Wilder running for the highest office in the land. The general line of thought expressed by many was that he would never make it. America would not elect a black man to that office, and certainly not a black Democrat, and if America did he would be run out of the country by the Klan or Old South.
My view wasn’t quite that pessimistic, but I certainly didn’t believe that I would see a black man elected POTUS in my lifetime. And I surely did not think the first black POTUS would be a Democrat. I knew it would happen one day, I was just resigned to the fact that, like my father’s generation likely thought about men on the moon or the fall of the Berlin Wall, I would never actually see it.
And now I will.
And my son, my 16 month old son who lies quietly sleeping not far from me will never know in any way other than academic what this moment in our country means. For him a black POTUS will be a fact of history. It will be the way things were for as long as he could remember and he’ll likely never fully understand what his mother and father and their friends are talking about when they look back on their lives and discuss the day our country kicked over one more domino and removed one more brick from the wall of racial inequity and injustice.
This is no longer an optimistic fiction or a hopeful pipedream. This is now the reality of our world. This is the only reality that many of our children shall ever know. I wonder if I will be able to impress upon Ian the true meaning of what the last twelve hours in this country meant and what tomorrow morning will mean. I wonder if my father thought these things and felt these things when his world changed and he looked at the sleeping child that he would one day be explaining the changes of his world to.