Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Godfather

In the historic presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the issue of race has been downplayed with a strong purpose, and rightfully so. The Obama campaign has gone to great lengths to assure all Americans that his is a campign of historic proportion because of the change he wants to bring and the style with which he delivers his message. It's not about his race, for folks shouldn't vote on such a superficial basis. It's not about class, for the American project is one of endless possibilities, not a caste system. And it shouldn't be about gender, or military experience, or familial lineage, or...

Yet, on the 45th anniversary of probably the most American speech, race can't escape us, no matter how much Mr. Obama tries, and that shouldn't be such a bad thing. But what strikes this moment as so special for me is not that today is the 45th anniversary of Revereand Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, but that it falls on the 45th anniversary-plus one day of the death of W.E.B. DuBois.

Dr. DuBois is perhaps my favorite intellectual of any era, because of his keen ability to take in the society he lived in, analyze all that it offered (and systematically neglected), and synthesize that information to come to a conclusion no honest man or woman can refute outright with full intellect. His was the fight that laid the groundwork for the likes of Thurgood Marshall and Rev. King, the former taking the legal route to bring America to its rightful place, while the latter would lead a moral revolution that would cost him his life, a price he was more than willing to pay.

Dr. DuBois wrote: "If the great battle of human right against poverty, against disease, against color prejudice is to be won, it must be won, not in our day, but in the day of our children's children. Ours is the blood and dust of battle". Barack Obama is experiencing the fruits of that fight. He, like myself, has been fortunate to view systematic discrimination only through the memories of past soldiers, those who bared the insult of the back door, the figurative emaciation through the use of "boy" towards men, and the many other humiliating experiences Jim Crow wrought. It's the fight that DuBois, Wells, Malcolm, Woodson, Dunbar, Baldwin, and the many other warriors had to endure, so that I could be privileged enough to not be bothered with the back of the bus.

Of course, Dr. DuBois didn't die in America. In fact, he didn't even die an American. He gave up his fight, assured that the White structure that maintained the "racial caste system" would never yield to the suffering minorities. He moved to Ghana, became a citizen of his host nation, and died peacefully at the age of ninety-five. So while Mr. Obama strategically downplays race, Dr. DuBois, and the like, should never be downplayed, for the freedom of their sons' sons and daughters' daughters is as true a victor as one could be on this night - superdelegates, notwithstanding.

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