This morning, I woke up early (too early, according to my body), showered quickly, and dressed. A short walk over to my polling place, and then I saw something I will never, ever forget.
To preface my remarks, I should say that I live in a very racially and economically integrated neighborhood, and I vote at a historically black college. As I walked towards the building, I saw a line extending out the door. I joined in, and then realized that the line went down the stairs, down the long corridor, into the lobby of the voting area, and into the voting area to the tables. And there were FOUR different lines.
The people in line to vote were by and large all African-American. Young, old, rich, poor…and then it struck me…Many of them had probably been prevented from voting in their younger days. Many had struggled with the indignity of being someone’s maid or hired help, of being called “boy,” of being forced to go to poorly equipped schools and sit at the back of bus, simply because of the skin color God gave them. And yet here they were, at one of the first institutes of higher learning created for black students after the Civil War, voting for a man who even as recently as thirty years ago could only dream of being president.
This is not to say that we are in a “post-racial” society or that we’ve fixed our problems with race that our country surely has. But seeing the mass of people with hope in their eyes and determination in their souls was an absolutely incredible, life changing experience. Within a 100 mile radius of my home lies the sites of the Birmingham bombings, the bus boycotts of Montgomery, and the march on the bridge at Selma. Yet here we’ve done what most thought was impossible. That means something. Nobody in the civil rights movement suffered, sacrificed,fought, or died in vain. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. There is infinite potential in the American people, and we’ve seen a sliver of that tonight.