Friday, January 23, 2009

“No Excuses”

I am a white man, raised in a small town that only had one black family when I was growing up. So I don’t pretend to understand the black experience. But I do work in place where most of my coworkers are black men from an urban environment. So, if I I have a question, I ask.

Back in the early fall, I noticed that my coworkers were expecting that something would go wrong, and Barack Obama would not be elected. Some could not accept the idea that enough whites would vote for a black man to put him in the White House, no matter what they told pollsters. Others felt that John McCain and the Republicans would resort to some kind of dirty trick, and steal the election. When Obama won, they became convinced that he would never live to take office; an angry white man would surely assassinate him. Of course, none of that happened, and Obama is now our president. But it almost seemed that the notion of a black man becoming the most powerful man in America scared them, like they were resisting believing in it.

So asked my friends at work, given all of this, how did they feel? What had changed? And one answer surprised me. “Now, there are no excuses”.

My friend explained that, before, they were used to thinking that there was a limit to how far they could go in life. The white man would always find a way to keep them down. But now, they could no longer lean on that. They had to learn to accept that the only limits would be self-imposed ones. This thought carries with it great responsibility. And for some, that is quite frightening.

I told another friend about this conversation. He is an older man. What a momentous change! But he said that there will be those who simply refuse to get it, and will carry on as though nothing happened. I can see his point. but I think we both hope he is wrong.

I don’t pretend that this is the last word on this subject. In fact, I hope this starts a conversation in the comments. Let your voice be heard.

This is a music blog, so there has to be a song here somewhere. This was the most appropriate selection I could think of.

The Staple Singers: Respect Yourself