More than politics, more than race

This column was first published in the Montgomery Advertiser, Nov. 5, 2009

Indulge me. This is an important moment. I’m still trying to absorb the historical significance of the election of Barack Obama.

This is not just about politics. It isn’t about all the dirty accusations and nasty ads that were on TV for the past few months. In fact, it isn’t even just about race.

This is about pride.

It is about a man with African roots and European heritage, who became the “dream” that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., who fought with many of the other foot soldiers of the civil rights movement, may have said it best in an interview Tuesday night.

“Unreal . . . unbelievable . . . hope,” were the words I heard him say, listening in the newsroom while working with my colleagues to document this history for today’s newspaper.

This is about pride of a nation because of the sacrifices we know had to happen to get us here. This is about the pride of my late grandmother, who told me more than 40 years ago that she didn’t think I could become a journalist and asked me if I had ever seen a “colored woman” working for a newspaper.

No, was my response, but I dared to dream.

This is about the pride of two of my dearest friends in the world, both of whom happen to be white.

Karen called me from Florida the day last summer when Obama got the Democratic nomination. I could hear the emotion in her voice. We had worked together at a newspaper many years ago. We raised our daughters together, we took business trips together, we shopped, dined and had conversations about our different upbringings, but we also celebrated our common personal goals.

“I remember when you used to tell me about your background and you taught me so much about our differences,” Karen told me in the call. “I just wanted to call and say how happy I am to see this day.”

Tuesday night, a few minutes after the networks called the election for Obama, and John McCain conceded in Arizona, the phone rang.

It was my friend, Rexanna, calling from Savannah. We are about as close as two friends can be, having spent many vacations together. A fellow journalist, Rexanna and I met years ago at the White House, at a party for newspaper editors.

Tuesday night she called from an election-watching party.

“I’m on cloud nine. It’s unbelievable how we all feel,” she said. “I’m sitting in here with 15 white people and we are all ecstatic. This is about what we are about, this is who we are.

“I think this says something about our country.”

One of my current newsroom colleagues, a young woman who just graduated from college, had to interrupt her work Tuesday night. Tears were flowing. We hugged. Another colleague came in to point out the historical significance of the upcoming inauguration date for soon-to-be President Obama. It will take place on Jan. 20, one day after the nation celebrates King Day. She asked if I would go to Washington for the celebration.

Others, I’m sure, may not feel the pride.

But indulge me. Give us this moment to be proud.

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