Quest for an equal America never ends

Published 10:54 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

In a story that appeared in The Tribune last week, Douglas Carter told about an ordeal he went through in Alabama in the mid-1950s.

Carter, now the pastor of First Baptist Church of Burlington, talked about a confrontation when he took a seat beside a white woman on a bus.

He was slapped in the face by a good ol’ boy and told that blacks must find a seat in the back of the bus.

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Some 50-plus years later, Carter still hasn’t forgotten the rage that came over him and the wisdom to keep a cool head.

Oh no, he hasn’t forgotten, and countless other blacks have not forgotten the various forms of discrimination they have been subjected to along the path to equality.

Those aren’t the sort of things that easily escape one’s memory.

Much has been made, of course, about the historic victory by president-elect Barack Obama, but it goes way beyond a victory for a party, an ideology or one man.

No, this victory was about taking another stride toward the finish line.

And it’s important to note that this was not just a victory for blacks across America. It was a victory for anyone who believes in the fundamental principles of fairness toward one another.

This was a victory for not just blacks, not just minorities, not just whites, and (very importantly) not just Democrats.

Reasonable people who voted for John McCain did so for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was his positions on various social issues, his past sacrifices or his leadership abilities. But even though they voted against Obama, they also have reason to celebrate the moment despite their political differences with the victor.

As for those who voted for McCain just because his opponent was black, well, there’s no longer a welcomed place for them in the public square.

And maybe that’s the handle when trying to come to terms about what this victory really means in the context of progress.

That arguably for the first time, the nation was truly able to look past race and focus on the things that matter.

Perhaps it’s sad that it’s taken a whopping 232 years of American history for that to occur on such a dramatic platform. Is it any wonder black communities throughout this land were standing up, cheering, and in some cases, dancing?

Yes, I’m talking about you, Susan Taylor.

But Obama’s victory is perhaps a microcosm of the civil rights struggle.

There were those who recognized the significance of the moment, those who fought it because of racial prejudice and a step being taken because of participation from people of all races, which is the true mark of progress.

But there should be a recognition that Obama’s victory was not by any means the finish line. Certainly, there is more work to be done to make sure this place we live is ridded of injustice for every single American regardless of their background.

Perhaps then we can all revel in having a seat at the front of the bus.