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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Black Americans
After watching President-elect Obama's acceptance speech last night, I wrote to some friends, "I imagine that blacks across the country feel more like Americans today than they ever have."

One friend responded that he saw racism in blacks voting for and being overwhelmingly extatic at a black man's rise to the presidency. I responded with the below:

I don't know if it's racISM. It's certainly racIAL. I don't have a problem with it. For most of the country's history, blacks have NOT been part of the game. Blacks were brought to this country against their will, in most cases, and forced to serve their white owners. While that ended in 1865, they continued to be systematically excluded from mainstream Americain in both official and unofficial ways. Until very recently, blacks were still being forced to sit in the backs of buses, drink from different fountains, attend different schools, and use different bathrooms. Institutionalized and ad-hoc racism continued well after the 60s at golf and tennis clubs, in taxi cabs, and at traffic stops across the country.

I'm fully appreciative of the fact that we've come a long way, but blacks of our generation were raised by parents who grew up during segregation (in the
South) or who often experienced similarly hideous treatment in cities across "the North" like Buffalo, NYC and Boston. If your parents grew up with that, your beliefs in the state of your country are going to be forever influenced by their treatment. That's just reality. The fact that subtle (and often not-so-subtle) forms of anti-black racism continue today serves to further solidify the belief among many of our generation that they aren't getting a fair stake in their country; that this is a white man's country, and they're just residents. For their parents' generation and their parents', that feeling is backed up by years of direct experience.

It is also true that men like Jesse Jackson have fought to insure that this attitude persists, even in light of dramatic changes. That's dispicable. But the truth remains that, for many blacks of all generations there has been a feeling of not having a stake. Sometimes this feeling is based on legitimate experience (first and second hand). Sometimes it's based on perception. But it's real.

I believe that the dynamic changed irrevocably last night. A black man will become the leader of this entire country in January. Blacks across the country can now legitimately feel that they have a stake. Maybe that leads to blacks taking a greater interest in their own success and taking greater responsibility for their lives (and that's broadly generalizing/stereotyping the nature of black America in the interests of brevity). That is not a bad thing.

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