Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I was born in the Deep South near the middle of the last century. Racism was the norm in the segregated culture of my childhood. The doctor’s office had a “colored” waiting room. The drugstore was segregated. So were drinking fountains.
I remember the segregated swimming pool, the segregated movie theater, a segregated amusement park. Unspoken, but always everywhere was the dominant belief that the races were so different that they must be kept from one another. Blackness was irreducibly other.
Our family moved to suburban Dallas in 1959 where I attended segregated schools till my graduation in the late 60s. The school district wasn’t officially segregated, mind you. Brown v Board of Education held separate schools unjust and unequal back in 1954. We had “neighborhood schools” which just happened to be either all white or all black. Nothing was said about the segregated neighborhoods.
I spent several weeks each summer of my childhood with my grandparents in a small town outside Baton Rouge. This was during the Civil Rights struggle. I remember arguments about Freedom Riders “stirring up trouble” and rumors of race-motivated beatings and efforts to suppress voting rights. The arguments were based on premises like states’ rights and “preserving our way of life.” I remember when the local public swimming pool closed rather than obey a court order to desegregate. I remember James Meredith being admitted to Ole Miss. I remember CORE and SNCC. I remember finding Klan leaflets on the street and George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama.
And yesterday I voted for the son of a man from Kenya and a woman from Kansas to be president. My state went against Obama, but my vote was counted as part of his national majority. I am one of more than 52 million Americans responsible for electing the right man, and it just so happens that he's an African American.
How much has the world changed during my life. How grateful I am to have witnessed its changing.
Of course, he's also all American.