Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

His was a deeper emotion, one that didn’t originate in shallower levels of his being. His emotion flowed out of a well of experience that included generations of racial oppression, its roots in a terribly dark time in this country’s history, a well marked by an often misunderstood lifetime of working toward civil rights and dignity.

I’ve seen him hundreds of times in pictures and on television but only once, at this close distance, in person. That was a few months ago when we traveled to Selma to participate in the annual Bridge Crossing memorial as part of a course in social justice. I had never seen him cry and I was quite moved last night as I watched tears wet the face of Jesse Jackson in Chicago at what can only be described as one of the most, like it or not, monumental celebrations in the history of American culture – the landslide election of an African-American, Senator Barack Obama, to the highest political office in this country.

It’s going to be especially interesting to watch as this new chapter in the life of American culture is written one page at a time, particularly from an observation seat in what was once the capital of the Confederacy, a place where racism is still very much alive, a place where skin pigmentation and ethnic backgrounds fragment and color personal perception and acceptance more than anything else. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a divine statement being made in the fact that America now has its first non-Caucasian President, and not just any non-Caucasian but an African-American.

Will this heal the racial schisms in this country or will it serve to heighten tension in areas and pockets historically known for racial bias and bigotry? I’m almost afraid to offer an opinion except to say that morality is an essential element in our lives that cannot come though legislation. It arises from the depths of an interior conversion that calls us to Someone other than ourselves, to Someone who does not measure and weigh us according to the color of our skin.

Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow. Black and white.
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

My Sunday school teachers taught me this song before I could read. It’s funny. A sad sort of funny, if there is such a thing. There are still no African-American children, or Hispanic-American children, or Asian-American children … only Caucasian-American children … attending that Sunday school.