King and Obama


I wonder what King’s legacy and significance is in the midst of “the age of Obama”. In 2009, how do we interpret his words, his courage, his life. It is 40 years since King truly and fully became “Free At Last” leaving this broken world behind. And so as the next generations emerge, we must consider and understand the meaning of his life, as America empowers its first black president.

There has been a lot of disagreement about what the Obama election signifies. Some see it as evidence of America’s ability to move beyond its historic racist past, while others say that it means little given the continued struggles that people of color live with. A term that has emerged in the middle of this historic time is post racial. The idea is that we as a country have actually moved beyond race as we engage one another.

This concept of moving beyond or being above race is nothing new to this land. In slavery times, the majority said that everyone was treated fairly, and that there was no racial problem. After slavery, during the black codes and Jim Crow segregation, the majority said that race was not a problem. When 5,000 blacks were recorded as lynched, (crazy number since many lynchings were not seen as significant enough to record) the majority saw no problems. So now, when black neighborhoods are victims of police brutality, unfair loans, inadequate housing, inferior education, environmental hazards, and of course blatant racism and hate acts, it is no surprise to hear about this post racial america that has been realized.

Nonetheless, Obama’s presidency is significant for me. It does show that although the progress has been slow (400 years of oppression) there has been new ground covered that can’t be ignored. For the next four years (at the least) Obama will become the face of America. He will be a better reflection of America’s diversity, rather than the all white men we have had so far. He repesents the browning of America.

Now we must all wrestle to interpret what it means to have progressed in our racial struggle, while simultaneously keeping aware of the discrimination that continues to erode our society. And so we must continually go back to King as we move forward with Obama

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