Well, it’s finally just about over.
If I were a betting man, I’d lay money that Barack Obama is going to be the 44th president of the United States of America.
Think about that for just a minute.
In January, a Black man will take the oath of office.
He will become the most powerful politician in a country that, in living memory, killed people who looked like him based on rumor. And people made these killings into picnic events.
Marion, Indiana, 1930.
More recently, people in this country killed other people, who often looked like Obama, because they tried to secure the blessings of liberty for everyone, regardless of color. Put more pithily, people got murdered for trying to get black folks to vote.
There are, of course, lots more examples I could use. But the point is this: In one human lifetime, we will have gone from killing African-American people for trying to vote to voting an African-American into the White House.
That’s quite a change.
It doesn’t mean that things will automatically get better for black people, or white people, or anyone else.
But it does seem like a hell of a moment.
And here’s where I get to looking forward. Electing Obama will not end racism in this country. Not by a long shot. It won’t solve the problems that plague low-income areas in big cities; it won’t solve the problems that plague low-income rural areas, either. President Obama will not have some magic wand he can wave and erase the last eight years of maliciousness and incompetence. He won’t be able, singlehandedly, to reverse the effects of 400 years of racism, or untold millennia of sexism. He won’t have the ability to solve the crises in the housing markets, or to make gas cheap again, or to fix the problems with job creation, or to keep some people from being irresponsible, greedy monsters.
But guess what?
He doesn’t have to.
On top of that, he can’t. And, even if he could, it’s not his responsibility to do all of that.
It’s enough that we’ll have someone in the White House (and, hopefully, enough people who aren’t total jerks in Congress) who isn’t actively trying to make things worse for the majority of us. Someone who understands that, yes, organizing communities is not only noble work, but absolutely vital as well. There will be someone who understands that his job is not to solve all of our problems, but to keep from thwarting us when we try to solve them, and to help us out when we need it.
It’s not just Barack Obama’s job to make this country a better place, and to make sure that we live up to the lofty ideals of our admittedly flawed yet still quite insightful founders. It’s our job. All of us. The work, of course, will never be done. But it’s our job to try, in our own time, to make this place, this life, this country fair and just. To give all of our brothers and sisters the same rights, the same opportunities, and the same respect that we want for ourselves. It’s our job to leave this country and this world a better place than we found it. Our job will never be complete, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
Can we do it?
Yes we can.
Yes. We. Can.