It’s been some 17 years since I came to this country. Almost immediately after landing I realized for the first time I was black. Not because the lights were brighter (even if they were), not because the mirrors were clearer, not because all of a sudden I developed a RGB-256 sight. Because I looked in the eyes of people I interacted with and saw what they saw covering my body. I was black and lazy, black and poor, black and violent, black and less intelligent, less motivated, less trust worthy, less of everything that could be good in a man, and more of all that should be loathed, feared and suspected.
Over the years, as they got to know me, I thought I saw the cataract peeling from their eyes. But I was not sure. When I moved to Minnesota, I saw smiles, but I was never too sure whether they were nice or just Minnesota.
All this changed one November 4 th evening in 2008.
I must echo the sentiment Michele Obama expressed a while back, I’m so proud of this country right now. America has proven to me what I suspected all along, a truth I hold on to no matter the depth of darkness she sometimes throws me in: America as a whole has left behind the dark days of slavery, waded through the floods of Jim Crow and segregation, and gallantly marched to these days Dr. Martin Luther King saw from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: days when his “four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
Apparently in America dreams do come true. Three Fifth of a man could be “that one” who becomes The One. Children of slaves can be masters…of their own destiny. In fifty years you could go from the back of the bus to the front of the White House. “Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” can sing together in a symphony of hope and bring about a revolution without a single drop of blood. As Obama said in his acceptance speech, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” As on point as this may be, I think he left out a line he couldn’t say. So I will say it for him: If there is anyone out there who still believes America as a whole is racist, tonight is your answer.
I have no doubt that there are still those Americans who will discount and hate their fellow citizens solely on the bases of skin color. That is not unique to America. In every country, African included, hateful people will hate for any reason; the kink of the hair, the size of the nose, the cloths we wear, the shade of black or the shade of white. But I can finally say (and show proof of) that as a nation America has risen above herself. If there ever was any doubt (God knows there had to be), here is proof that the driver of this vehicle is no longer the likes of Andrew Jackson, George Wallace or Trett Lott for that matter. The good has prevailed.
By no means is my definition of good meaning voting for Obama, and bad meaning voting for McCain. It is about proof. With the Obama victory I can equivocally say the majority of Americans stood in the voting booth with only their conscience as witness and voted for the candidate they thought was the best qualified for the job. An Obama defeat would not have necessarily been proof to the contrary, but I couldn’t (and I don’t think anyone could) say for certain his skin color didn’t play a role. We just wouldn’t know. On the other hand, with the victory, we can say with certainty that to the majority of Americans the color of a man’s skin is no liability to his quest to be president of the United States of America.
Likewise I can now speculate 52 percent of Americans, (54 percent of my fellow Minnesotans) will not hold my being Black against me. Since the post of the president is one of (if not the) most important positions in the nation, the majority of Americans will give me the job if I’m the most qualified, will let me marry their daughter if they thought I were the best suitor, wouldn’t object to me living next door if I am the best neighbor, if I have the grades and money I can go to any school of my choosing. Again I will not automatically assume the contrary for the 48 percent that didn’t vote for Obama. However, with these, we are still today where we were yesterday: I just don’t know.
An Obama presidency is not an end-all in America’s battle to shake herself from the dark days of history. But what a giant leap in the right direction. Indeed, “the road ahead will be long, the climb steep,” but today we can celebrate knowing that Americans will look at eachother in a slightly different light.
Read more of Ibe on his website http://www.atlanticrock.com