"Why must a vision of a post-racial America be devoid of ordinary black Americans? Why must the story of their struggle be silenced?" Author and Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin helps bring our coverage of the Democratic National Convention to a close.
Come back to News & Views for status updates on the Republican National Convention from Farai Chideya.
Beyond the speech and the spectacle, the celebration and the euphoria, let us stop. Breathe. Reflect upon the magnitude of the moment. Remember the history, the struggles and the lives that brought us to this time.
Barack Obama's glorious night at Invesco Field is not the culmination of our struggle. It is but a stop on the journey. Senator Obama ended his address with a reference to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech." In so doing, he placed his candidacy and presidency at the end of a continuum beginning with Dr. King and the Civil Rights struggle of the late fifties and early sixties.
It was a triumphant narrative, told by a man who aspires to lead the most powerful country on the face of the earth. Dr. King's speech was a jeremiad —- an indictment of America. He addressed the ways the United States strayed from her democratic ideals and focused on the nation's darker children, the descendants of enslaved Africans. He insisted that the dream would be fulfilled only when they and other disenfranchised people had full, unfettered access to the promises of American democracy and to the opportunities that would ensure them access to the American Dream. Only then would America inch closer to the fulfillment of its own promise.
The very image of Barack Obama, his statesman-like manner, his ownership of America and his confidence that he has a right to lead this nation certainly point to the fulfillment of one aspect of Dr. King's dream. And yet much about the night suggests that we still have a distance to travel. Senator Obama acknowledged some of the work that awaits us.
The touching and appropriate presence of Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized how far we have traveled since Dr. King's speech and reminded us that there is still much to be done. And yet, in spite of their presence, there were some glaring absences as well: In the extraordinary parade of ordinary Americans who provided testimony to the way the Bush administration has failed them and who asserted their support for Senator Obama, there was not one African American.
In the inspiring video that preceded his speech there were very, very few black people. And in his speech he made little if any mention of the very specific black freedom struggle that ushered him to this moment, nor did he name the man whose vision he was honoring.
I fully support the candidacy of Barack Obama. I was thrilled to have shared his triumphant acceptance of the Democratic nomination with almost 85,000 others. But I still have to ask, "Why must a vision of a post-racial America be devoid of ordinary black Americans? Why must the story of their struggle be silenced?" Of course, others have struggled and suffered in the United States, but Senator Obama occupies the national stage as the result of the very specific and particular struggle of black people.
I want to close the week of blog posts about this historic 2008 Democratic Convention by naming a small number of those whose legacies and lives brought us here: Phyliss Wheatley, David Walker, Maria Stewart, Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Martin Delaney, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, black Union Soldiers, Northern Yankee teachers, progressive Reconstruction politicians, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Marcus Garvey, the NAACP, the Urban League, the Pullman Car Porters, Langston Hughes, Adam Clayton Powell, Mary McCleod Bethune, A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, the Tuskegee Airmen, Ella Baker, Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, the Montgomery Improvement Association, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, Rosa Parks, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, James Baldwin, Diane Nash, Toni Cade Bambara, Shirley Chisolm ... and the Many Thousands Gone.
This triumph is as much theirs as it is our own.