Hip, hip hooray, the man who makes the rules said. Hip, hip hooray. Just a week or so remains until Barack Obama will become the first presumed Black man with a white mother, or any other kind of mother, to be elected president of the United States and inaugurated presumably a day or two from the time you read this editorial on the 20th of January 2009. The right description for this was probably used many years ago as the title of a book called “Great Expectations.” Isn’t it surely true that this is an expectation that I and my kin have been waiting for but never predicting that it would happen at the dawn of the 21st century?
Watching the news reports of Mr. Barack Obama meeting with all of these important people, all the living past presidents, and him looking more important than all of them warms the cockles of our heart. Our word to our son from both sides of the rainbow is, “You don good, baby,” referring of course to Mr. Obama. But you see, I can speak to him in this fashion. I’m Black and so is he, but never while there is the light of day will I disrespect him by being familiar. He is far too important for me to dismiss lightly or dismiss as we dismissed President Bush. Bush was not a terrible man. He was just stupid and stupid is dangerous–so dangerous that his misunderstanding of the way an economy works got us as a country, and Blacks in particular, in more trouble than this economy has ever been in with the exception of the Depression of the 1930s.
Bless Jehovah and everybody else, our ship has come in. I’ve been interested in how Blacks felt about the ascension to the American throne of one of our own, not really inquiring but asking what Black folks expected because another Black who has a speck or two of white is now the leader of the land. No one was specific about wanting a house, a car, a refrigerator, a football or a hospital wing named after one of his ancestors. They really asked for nothing except that this election become real for all of us who happen to be Black and worthy and for all the whites who supported Mr. Obama. No one said, “Do I be free then?” Or “Am I free… at last?” The answer came back in rapid fire, saying yes, you are free, and you have to make something of your freedom. There are no impediments except small ones.
Do you remember what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said? He said, “We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day.” That some day, my brothers and sisters, is now. We are on the precipice of an opportunity offered to man. From slavery to freedom in a few hundred years, but greater than that–from real slavery in America to becoming president and chief operating officer of the largest economy in the world in a year when there were those still alive who could vividly remember slavery. That’s quite an accomplishment, old boy, that’s quite an accomplishment and nobody gave it to us. There are those who helped, but no one gave us anything.
As I look up at the ceiling of the living room of my house, I see one of the reasons why we overcame. Our house, in lower Manhattan, a step or two outside the financial center and the New York City ports, was built in 1842.Though rough-hewn are these approximately 2-by-10 or 11-by-3 beams they have supported this structure for more than 150 years–a century and a half plus 10 or so for good measure; the lifetime of a house that still looks new, the beginning of the end of racism, the hope that springs eternal, of coming of age some day,all of the dreams and aspirations we had for ourselves and for our children. Isn’t it wonderful to be on the cusp of being alive on that great getting-up morning when the first Black-and-a-little-bit-white president of the United States is inaugurated. It will be a wonderful time for all of us but then it already is because the prospect of it happening was real. A few more days, a few more hours and a lot of minutes from when you read this newspaper, it will happen, and it is important–the most important thing that has happened in the history of this country until now. Make the best of it, my friends, and make it happen again. Forward on to Inauguration Day.