It’s probably difficult for me, a white man raised after the Civil Rights movement in the enlightened bubble of the educated elite, to really comprehend the incredible symbolism that Obama’s election has seared into the minds of millions of Americans. But though I can’t gauge its significance as well as others, I can understand the basic beauty of the moment. In electing a black man as President, America has repudiated the darkest chapter of its history and, as David Bernstein notes, utterly rejected the vile doctrine of white supremacy.
Absentee ballots are still being counted, and it may be a while before we know the exact margin of Obama’s victory in the popular vote. But as the tally now stands, CNN has given Obama 53% of the vote, very close to the 53.8% I suggested were indicated in the polls. The Bradley Effect is dead.
This is not the last word in the American conversation on race. That end will be, well, our having stopped caring about it. The goal is not simply rejection of White Supremacy, but a truly color-blind society. In that world, someday, a black man will be elected president, and no one will notice.
In the meantime, Obama is more than a message to our past. He is President of the United States. Now that a shameful past has been repudiated, I hope that America can see past the symbolism to the issues. I have faith that the majority of Americans believe, as I do, in a freer society where individuals have the right to work towards their own ends, not those assigned them by the state or demanded by their fellow citizens. Obama believes in a more redistributive society. If we reject Obama in 2012 because of this, it will not be an embrace of racism, but of liberty and justice.