Friday, 6 June 2008

Race Doesn't Matter. OK, It Does a Little

The fact that Barack Obama is African American (in the most literal sense, half African and half Kansan) has always been incidental to my persona support for him. Like many, I see him as primarily an excellent politician, a strong candidate and a purveyor of good ideas about policy (especially foreign policy). Although I don't think I completely agree with the crowds in South Carolina who chanted "race doesn't matter" - I thought it mattered in the same way his time in Indonesia mattered. As just one part of his story.

So why then do I find myself constantly getting choked up when I read articles like this?

Yet the amazing thing isn't that there were instances of overt, old-style racism
during this campaign, it's that there were so few. The amazing thing is that so
many Americans have been willing to accept -- or, indeed, reject -- Obama based
on his qualifications and his ideas, not on his race. I'll never forget visiting
Iowa in December and witnessing all-white crowds file into high school
gymnasiums to take the measure of a black man -- and, ultimately, decide that he
was someone who expressed their hopes and dreams.

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when "all gods children" would be judged "not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character."

The idea that we live in that day - that farmers in Iowa and steelworkers in Missouri and ranchers in Texas looked at this man and asked not "can I vote for someone who looks like this?" but rather, "does this man have the vision, the judgement, the talent and the dedication to represent me?" is amazing. That they answered, "Yes he does" has shaken me up a little.

It doesn't matter that he is black for how good a president he would be. But that it doesn't matter, matters enormously.

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