Watching the president at the Democratic convention, I was surprised by an emotional reaction I did not expect – not to the speech itself, but to the simple fact that there on my tv screen, a black man spoke to me as the president of the United States.
In my lifetime, James Meredith had to be escorted by US marshalls, just to be able to attend his first day of classes at Mississippi State. In my lifetime, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated for leading a movement to codify into law the simple notion that color of skin could not dictate the degree to which people would be treated as people.
In my lifetime, the town of Skokie, Illinois had to go to court to keep the KKK from parading their hatred along Skokie’s streets.
And in my lifetime, people who had been intentionally and systemically disempowered for centuries created a movement for change that still stands as a model of what we can accomplish together that none of us can accomplish on our own.
And there on my screen, with no mention of the momentousness of the scene, so matter-of-fact that one would assume it simply always was that way – a black man was speaking as president of my country.
That powerful image will rekindle my writing in this last week of sabbatical. Because a mere 50 years ago – within my lifetime – everyone would have thought that simply impossible. Turns out that yes indeed, unless something is physically impossible, it really is absolutely possible…