Senator and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama made history last night for being the first Black man to be nominated by a major political party to serve as their representative in their quest for the White House. Of course we all knew that despite all the kicking and screaming of the Clinton camp that the freight train of history could not be stopped. I’m just glad that I am alive to witness such an event–an event that seemed like a fairy tale to my grandparents and parents who were born and raised in the Jim Crow south. What may not seem like a big deal to my two children who are under the age of 10 is a huge deal to many of us who thought that it could never happen.
In my lifetime, I have also witnessed other great milestones for Blacks in Federal government. In 2001 Condoleezza Rice became the first Black American to be appointed to the post of National Security Adviser to the President. In the same year, Colin Powell was the first Black American to be appointed as Secretary of State. While some folks will immediately point out that the role of president is much higher that these two positions, the fact remains that both Rice and Powell reached milestones that only a decade or so ago were unimaginable.
Enter the crooked two-way street–
Another thing I witnessed was how these two individuals were consistently flambeyed, barbecued and ridiculed by both the media and armchair critics not so much on policy issues, but simply over the fact that they as Black individuals would work under a Republican. I saw how several Whites in the media as well as the many online would oftentimes characterize them as house niggas or field hands with little or no response from much of the Black community. As far as Clarence Thomas goes, he was even characterized as a lawn jockey in front of the Black owned, now defunct Emerge magazine.
I just shook my head this morning as calls from all over the net proclaim that despite your political persuasion, this is a moment in history for all of us to celebrate. Too bad Powell and Rice were not afforded the same type of courtesy at ANY point in their careers when targeted by Whites in the press who had no problem referring to them as nothing more than house niggas for Bush.
The most interesting thing about all of this? If a person who is not a supporter of Obama comes out and heaps out well-deserved praise on the Senator, that person is considered courageous. If too much praise was given to the likes of Powell, Rice or even Thomas, that person was considered a sell-out.
Over the next few days you are going to hear from some of the most staunchest critics of America begin to acknowledge the fact that as a nation we have come a very long way as it relates to race relations. You’ll also hear about how the proverbial glass ceiling has been shattered, thanks to Obama. But what happens if he doesn’t win? Does America now revert back to the days of Jim Crow and White-only water fountains in the minds of these critics? Will the collective progress of Black folks in this country be forever frozen in time until an new Black candidate from the Democratic party emerges? Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine has already concluded that racism would be the ONLY reason why Obama could lose.
So again, this is a day to be celebrated not just for Black Americans, but for all Americans. Despite our shortcomings as a nation, the dream does work. For Black folks, ANY milestone we reach should be celebrated and not conditional.