Obama's Victory: Where Is My Amazement?

Submitted by Bill Lucas on Fri, 11/07/2008 - 18:00

Barack Obama's election has many people talking about how historic it is for a black man to be elected president of the United States.  I share the feeling of this being an historic occasion.

However, I have to struggle to find in myself the feeling of surprise or amazement that it has happened.  Perhaps it is because I am white and just cannot appreciate the pessimism that would have naturally evolved in blacks after living through the discrimination and prejudice they have endured.  (That is, "I just don't get it because I'm white.")  That's probably part of it, but I have another theory.

My background is the public schools of Detroit.  I was fortunate to grow up with talented and confident black peers at most stages of my own development.  That these friends could be my betters and have highly successful careers was something I took for granted.  The satisfaction felt by the larger population of minorities and liberals today at the election of Mr. Obama is what I imagined my schoolmates' parents might have felt in seeing their children being so smart and successful.

When over many years you are part of a population of talented people who have differences in skin color, you are more likely to be able to blank out skin color when evaluating their actions.  I think it leads to then being able to blank out skin color in evaluating people you have never even met.  If that leads to matter-of-factly accepting an occurance that many thought would never happen, perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

I wonder if Mr. Obama's classmates are similarly not surprised at such a success for a black man on the national stage.