Look at me.
I’m there on the right, in that tiny picture — short brown hair, dark shirt, wire-framed glasses. I’m smiling.
It’s hard to tell in the picture, but I’m also short and skinny.
And I’m white.
Quite white. I have white parents, white grandparents, white great-grandparents. My family is white all the way back to Scotland on the one side, and as far back as I can figure on the other.
So it is with some hesitation that I offer this: I am also very, very proud that my country has elected a black man to lead it.
The election of Barack Obama does not temper our shameful history of slavery, nor erase our shocking decades of racism, nor solve the racial problems that continue to plague us.
But Obama’s election does make a statement that can never be reversed — a black man has been elected to the highest office in the land.
It is a symbolically powerful, groundbreaking act.
We have overcome. Not for good, no way, but for now.
I have a former reporter friend who now attends law school at Columbia University.
The day after Obama’s election, my friend walked into his human rights law class, where his professor compared the election to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
While Obama’s election certainly does not signal an end to racism the way the Berlin Wall’s collapse did for communism, the professor told my friend’s class, his election is something the world can never forget.
“The world can’t go back,” the professor said. “We might not go that far forward, but the world can’t go back.”
As a white person, and an American, my heart soars.
But my joy over Obama’s victory has little to do with Obama’s policies, some of which I support fully, and others which I am downright concerned about.
Civil liberties are important to me, for instance, and Obama’s support on some issues like amendments to the Foreign Surveillance Act intimidate me.
But the “issues” really aren’t the issue here. Not immediately, anyway.
You figure a president does, what, two or three really historic things in his presidency?
Obama’s already done one.
We would be wrong to stop the needed fight against racism and prejudice and bigotry, but we could do worse than to rejoice in the history and power of this moment.
American voters shattered a remarkable barrier.
Chris Fyall is editor of the Edmonds Enterprise.