My grandfather, dad's father, was born in 1896 in Baltimore. My dad is fond of saying that his father "grew up on the streets", but that's not exactly true. He *did* have a family, mother and grandparents, and his widowed mother remarried eventually to a good man. But he *did* spend an awful lot of time on the streets of Baltimore, and later in life, he admitted that his life "could have gone either way", to crime or a more honest path. He started working for the B&O Railroad when he was 14. (They had to tell him to go buy some long pants--he still had short pants on, for young boys.) By the time he was 16, he was working upstairs in the President's offices, and learning shorthand at night school.
In those days, all porters on trains (and for decades after that also) were black. In an era when good jobs were few and far between for black men, train porters and similar rail jobs were *plumb* positions. They paid well, especially counting tips. The president had a personal porter in his office, a man by the name of Fearless Williams. Dad told of how Fearless would read the newspaper to my grandfather, my Pop, dictating to him so Pop could practice his shorthand. Because of his help, Pop finished at the top of his class and eventually became the President's secretary.
Despite their differences, Pop and Fearless respected one another and became long time friends. My grandfather went on to law school at night, earning his law degree, and over the years, through Fearless, did a lot of work for the black community in Baltimore: he helped start and incorporate a Savings and Loan by and for the black community, so they could buy houses; he did a lot of legal work for the black hospital; and other various legal things for people.
Dad recounted a conversation Pop told him he had with Fearless once, about the state of 'Negroes' in this country, and why they didn't push for more change. Fearless told him that the general Negro community (not to mention the rest of the culture) was not ready for that level of change and responsibility yet; it would take two more generations, and *then* we'd see wide-spread cultural change.
Fearless was right: here we are, two generations later and a black man has been nominated by the Democrats to run for President. In Fearless' own family, however, change came a lot sooner: he was uncle to future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
I come from a family of color-blind people. Deep-seated prejudice exists in this country, I certainly know--but it tends to dumbfound me when people see only complexion (and other trivial attributes) rather than character. To me, Barak Obama fairly *shines* with the light of integrity, truth, intelligence and compassion. How anyone cannot see that is...truly amazing. But I have to remind myself that people can*not* see what is absent in themselves...and they cannot see what their own internal issues prohibit them from seeing.
I pray that enough good men and women stand up this year and say, "Enough", just like Barak did...and vote like the future of this country hangs in the balance...because it does. We've had eight years of the cuurent incarnation of Republicans raping and pillaging the country, lead by Bush-Cheney. We literally cannot afford four more.
I want the light to shine again in our country, in our politics and in our culture. It's been too dark for too long...and with that 'wrinkly old white man' who's running, it would be even darker for far more than the next four years.