Last night I was really moved by the emotions of so many Americans who were overjoyed that our country has crossed a racial threshold by electing Barack Obama president. It occured to me that many African Americans have never felt fully a part of our national experience because so many doors were closed to them. Though Obama’s election does not magically make this a post-racial society, it is a huge psychological breakthrough, one that may help millions of Americans feel empowered and enfranchised at long last.
But I have to admit that I voted for John McCain. I went into the ballot box fully intending to vote for Obama, but in the end I decided that I am closer politically to McCain than Obama, and that, not race, not some sense of history in the making, should be my guiding principle. In a strange way, making the decision on purely political grounds made me realize that, for me, there is no place in politics for consideration of race. It should not be an issue ever again.
However, there is something to be said for being part of something big. My mother once expressed horror that my brother Danny and I said we would gladly have marched with Martin Luther King had we been old enough. It seems incomprehensible to me that people of my parents’ generation not only stood on the sidelines and watched but actually opposed the methods and goals of the Civil Rights movement.
When my grandchildren ask me about the watershed election of 2008, will I feel like I was a mere spectator in a historic moment? No, not really. To me, this was the first election wherein a minority candidate ran, and race was simply not an issue. By taking part in that kind of election, I was part of history, too.