The issue whether Obama's forthcoming nomination as America's first black president can end racial divides in contemporary politics is a contentious one. An extremely interesting anecdote I ran into today sparked what I hope is not just a random entry here. It is definitely a powerful reminder of the fact that in any community shadowed by oppression, pride and bitteness can be hard to untangle.
For black Americans born in the 20th century, the chasms of experience that separate one generation from the next— those who came of age before the movement, those who lived it, those who came along after — have always been hard to traverse. Elijah Cummings, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an early Obama supporter, told me a story about watching his father, a South Carolina sharecropper with a fourth-grade education, weep uncontrollably when Cummings was sworn in as a representative in 1996. Afterward, Cummings asked his dad if he had been crying tears of joy. “Oh, you know, I’m happy,” his father replied. “But now I realize, had I been given the opportunity, what I could have been. And I’m about to die.”