Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The politics of racial unity

I wonder if we have seen a tipping point in the political expression of race in America. At one level, there is the very fact that Barack Obama is now the President of these United States. As he remarked himself, 60 years ago his father would not have been served at many eating places in America. One commentator said that he grew up knowing, really knowing that no black child would ever become President. Now, his grand children will never think that way again.

At another level, though, was the way that Obama asked America to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. So many in my county have celebrated the day by taking a train to San Francisco and participating in celebration event there. This year was no exception. A Santa Clara County Green blogged about the 24th annual Freedom Train.
At the end of the train ride in San Francisco until 2 years ago used to be a march from the Caltrain station at 4th and Townsend to the SF Civic Center. The official line was that with the election of Obama the dream has now been 'realized'. Setting aside the debatability of what I take to be a vast overstatement of today's reality (ie. does an election of yet another Duopoly candidate to lead the Amurikkkan Empire, biracial or not really fully 'realize' Dr. King's dream -- No, I certainly don't think so -- one of our guides on the Freedom Train intimated that the politically impolite reality was that paying for the police to line the march and to seal off the route was too expensive at this time for the volunteer organization NorCalMLK to be able to pull off.
Let me contrast that perception to the reality that Obama had issued a call to celebrate the day by turning it into a National Day of Service, volunteering to help your community as a way of honoring not only the Dream of Dr. King, but also the knowledge that this dream can only be achieved by hard work.

To me, this feels like we have taken step beyond the old politics of racial divide and identity. Alex Walker was right to question the need for any people of color caucus.

The ground is shifting and we had better learn to dance to a new tune.

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