An Unexpected Leap Forward
As I write this in late March 2009, I still find it almost surreal that I now live in a country that has elected a person of color to the highest office in the land and, let’s face it, into the most important, influential and powerful position on the planet. I actually remember when I first began to realize that there was something very wrong with the concept of racism. Maybe not the very day, but I certainly can recall to consciousness my mindset at that moment of clarity. And I know it was brought to light by “Star Trek”.
I’m ashamed to say I was in my early 20s at the time but as an excuse, I was raised in Roanoke and while we did have a “colored” person living in town (a Haitian woman married to a local), I was never really exposed to the hatred that I would see in later years. So when I saw the 23rd century vision of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe, one of racial and ethnic acceptance, if not blindness, my young mind grasped the concept and I began to question why we didn’t live in that world today.
Over the years then, that question deepened within me, but with the wisdom and cynicism I would gain by aging, any expectations I may have had as a naïve 20-something withered and died.
The hope that I could cling to was the same hope that Lincoln had of slavery -- that racism would collapse under its own weight -- that in maybe my grandchildren’s lifetime, a concept so ridiculous and senseless would simply go away. But as I watched my own generation pass the torch of bigotry to the next, what little hope I retained began to disappear. I wondered if it really would take until the 23rd century before this shadow would be removed from us.
I’ve never been accused of being a Pollyanna. I know that racism continues and that the unexplainable hatred that is caused by the simple pigmentation of one’s skin still dominates many of my fellow American’s psyches. And I’m not blind to the progress either. We’re a long way from 1963 and Selma in many ways. But to think that this country, that is still over 70% white Anglo-Saxon, could elect a black -- no, a bi-racial individual in 2008 -- in my lifetime -- well, it’s touched me in a way so profound, I can’t really express it. Not yet anyway.
On January 20, 2009, Carol and I opened this bottle of Shiraz and toasted our wonderful country. We toasted the millions of people who made this happen by looking beyond their own innate prejudices to pull the lever for Barack Obama. We also toasted the millions of those who did not, in hopes that they will some day wish they had.
And for me personally, this peek through a small crack into what our future must surely hold provided perhaps the most significant reason to raise my glass. I’m so glad I lived long enough to see this.