I woke up this morning and the world looked different.
I live less than two miles from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's church and the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. It was on my street, in front of my home, forty years ago, housekeepers and gardeners walked towards equality, ignoring the empty city buses as they drove past. I wonder who lived in my house then, how they responded to the boycott. Were they part of the car pooling system that made the bus boycott plausible? Or did they join a more sinister crowd in response?
I would love to say that my grandparents were part of the change that began in Alabama in the 1950's. They weren't. They were among the silent majority, watching and whispering, lack both malice towards African Americans and inspiration to join their cause. My grandfather was a kind bigot, if such a thing there be, believing black people were not morally or intellectually capable of independence. I wish he were here today. I wish he could have heard President Elect Obama's acceptance speech last night, seen how much he resembles his beloved John Kennedy. I wish he could witness how wrong he was, see how his patronization back then was just as acrid as the violence it did not prevent. I wish he could see us now.
I woke up this morning, and the memory of last night brought tears to my eyes. I did not see this coming. I expected Barack Obama to win, but it had not occurred to me, until this moment, what such a victory would mean for race and equality in America. And maybe that is the most profound aspect of all. I didn't realize it because I never saw him as a black candidate. Dr. King said, in his famous speech in 1968, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Yesterday his dream was realized, as people voted, not for a black candidate or white candidate, but for the person who best represented their hope for the future of the United States.
This morning, I am proud to be an American.