A Dream Comes True, With a Little Magic Thrown In: Maybe America Has Really Changed
By Courtland Milloy
WASHINGTON ~ Obamacans, parade rest.
Obamaites, stand down.
White America, at ease.
Black America, fall out.
The presidential war of 2008 is over. We won. Take a breather. America has a new commander in chief: a black man.
Prayer warriors, stay alert.
A spiritual revival is under way in this big tent of a nation. It’s a lift-every-voice-and-sing moment, a time of chill bumps and warm hearts.
With the colors of states on national TV turning from red to blue, the racial mapping of my mind is simultaneously redrawn. Old lines of demarcation are being erased, new markings made based on recent sightings:
All along U Street here, part of the African American Heritage Trail, a diverse sea of humanity spilling into the streets in jubilation. Barack Obama being cheered at Grant Park in Chicago by blacks and whites as if for a hometown team in the Super Bowl.
“Is there anybody out there who still doubts that in America all things are possible?” President-elect Obama asked. “This is your answer.”
Obama supporters in my neighborhood began storming the voting precincts at sunup Tuesday, some waiting for more than two hours to vote. It didn’t take that long for me to enter the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. But, people, this is no fairy tale.
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed that people would not be judged by their color but by the content of their character, and “to me, it’s like King’s dream becoming reality,” said James Isley Sr., 56, a retired D.C. government employee.
He and his wife, Jacqueline, had just voted for Obama and were walking hand in hand from the polls at Oxon Hill (Md.) Middle School. “I just think Obama is on a mission from God,” she said.
The young and gifted Obama waged a campaign that appealed to hearts and souls. By transcending race, he led America to break through its most formidable racial barrier.
“I feel great about having the opportunity to vote for a black presidential nominee,” said Easter Gowen, 67, a program analyst for the U.S. Government Printing Office. “I’m also happy to cast a vote of confidence in our society and what America stands for.”
There was something divine about Obama’s run. For a candidate to appear not too black for whites and not too white for blacks was phenomenal if not miraculous.
“Having the first black president may be historic, but it’s more important for me to have a president who shares my values,” said Sharisse Felton, 23, an African American electrical engineering student at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. “I’m for Obama because of his economic policies, not his race.”
And beyond all that, the promise of — the symbolism of — a black president was irresistible.
“It now takes away the excuses that young black men use to justify not trying hard enough,” said Grover Carson, 62, a retired D.C. police officer. “You can’t say that the white man is holding you back when you got a black man in the White House.”
Henry Saunders, a 50-year-old federal contractor, put it this way: “As an African American, even though Obama has no special agenda for black people, as he goes up in stature, so do the rest of us. We are now more inclined to challenge ourselves, to try to improve and empower ourselves because he has raised our expectations.”
But what about Obama’s astounding support among white Americans? Many blacks found that mystifying.
“I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see America vote for a black president,” said Truth Omole, a 38-year-old teacher. By “America,” she meant white people.
“Maybe America has really changed,” she said. “I didn’t live through the civil rights movement, but I did grow up with an expectation that certain things just couldn’t happen for black people.”
A younger generation of black and white Americans spearheaded the change. Unified by political hip-hop music, more concerned with an inheritance of debt and war than with superficial matters of skin color, they rallied for Obama throughout the nation.
Politics of racial divisiveness, dismissed.
Barack Obama, salute.
America, take a bow.
Milloy is a columnist for The Washington Post’s Metro section.