Tomorrow, the first "African-American" (really biracial) President will be sworn into office. Not only that, but the first President younger than I am will be sworn in. I keep seeing it on television. I hear him called the President elect. I watch the inaugural celebrations already taking place. But, somehow, I can't quite take it all in.
I'm a child of the 60s. Born during a time of social upheaval but, a lot of hope. I'm too young to remember much about Martin Luther King, Jr. But, I'm old enough to remember "they" shot him. I didn't grow up under Jim Crow. But, I know people who did. By the time I came along, most systematic, legalized racism had been eliminated. But, we were left with racism in the hearts of many and laws will never change people's hearts. I think most black people wondered if MLK's dream of judging a man based on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin would be actually fulfilled in our lifetimes.
I still remember watching over the web as Obama stood on the steps on a cold February morning almost two years ago and announced his candidacy. I was curious about him at that point, having heard a little about him and one simply amazing speech at the DNC Convention a couple of years earlier. Even though I got caught up in the Obamania and grew more impressed with him the more I learned about him, even thought I worked on his campaign and tried to convince everyone I came into contact wit to vote for him, something in the back of my mind said "This will never happen. 'They' will never allow this man to win the election.". When the Reverend Wright story broke, I thought to myself "That's it. That's the excuse white America needs to dismiss Obama." I knew that, as a black man he had to run a campaign like no other to break through the barriers. I knew that, as a black man (or woman), you don't have to do things as well as your peers to get to the same place, you have to do twice as well. I knew it would take a flawless campaign for Obama to even have a chance of winning and I just knew that would be the end of him. But, I was wrong.
Even today, as I sit here thinking when I wake up 48 hours from now, America will have it's first multi-racial, multi-cultural leader it just hasn't really sunk in yet. It has a very surreal feel to it. I feel like I'm in a dream and any minute I'm going to wake up and have that sinking feeling you have when you've just awakened from a great dream back into plain old reality.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that on Wednesday morning, the economy will be fixed, America will have universal healthcare and we'll have world peace. Quite the contrary. I think Obama will be a good President and I'm confident that, over time, he'll do really good (maybe great) things. But, he's facing some amazing challenges and he's going to have very impatient Obamaphiles criticizing him very soon and the Obama haters criticizing him on day one. Tomorrow, everything will change and nothing will change. To me, this election marked a fundamental shift in our consciousness. I think we had a very clear choice between the politics of fear and the politics of hope. We had one party offering again to "keep us safe" and the other party offering us the opportunity to change the world. I have to say I was pleasantly stunned to see us choose hope over fear and I am hopeful that we will soon reap the fruits of that choice. But, it will not be an easy road. We've got many challenges ahead of us. There will be stumbles and setbacks.
Tomorrow, I plan to go to Champp's and watch the inauguration with the other dreamers in West Chester. If you're there and you see me pinching myself, you'll know why.