I am proud and excited by the fact that we are inaugurating the first black president of the United States. He wasn't my first choice for president, but he is nonetheless my president. And if ever there were a wonderful consolation prize in politics, shattering the race barrier in the White House is surely it.Well done.
Conservatives who try too hard to belittle the importance of this milestone are foolish on several fronts. First, this is simply a wonderful -- and wonderfully American -- story. Any political movement that is joyless about what this represents risks succumbing to bitter political crankery.
For instance, you will not soon see a German chancellor of Turkish descent. Nor will a child of North African immigrants soon take the reins of power in France. It will be a long time before a Pakistani or Indian last name appears on the mailbox at 10 Downing St. And yet these countries bubble over with haughty finger-waggers eager to lecture backward and provincial America about race and tolerance. Why not enjoy rubbing Barack Obama in their faces?
...opponents of racial quotas and other champions of colorblindness on the right should be popping champagne nearly as much as racial liberals are. Yes, yes, Obama's a passionate defender of affirmative action and the like, but the symbolism of his presidency cannot be contained within narrow liberal agendas.Now, let's get that idea into the CNO's nogg'n.
"There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African American," he told the Washington Post last week. "I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves. It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that."
Neither would I. The media understandably, if tediously, focus on how Obama's presidency is a death blow to the legacy of official discrimination and racism. True enough. But the fact that a black man can become president of the United States may well also be transgressive to all sorts of more relevant racial orthodoxies on the left and in the black community.
Obama's personal example is only part of the equation. He has voiced an admirable disdain for the notion that academic excellence is nothing more than "acting white." His famous Father's Day speech in 2008, although hardly novel in its content, nonetheless showed that Obama was willing to lend his voice to the effort to fight black illegitimacy and absentee fatherhood.
This puts Obama behind the two most important ingredients for black success, at least according to most conservatives: a rededication to the importance of education at an individual level, and the restoration of the black nuclear family.
At a more political level, a black president surely undermines the argument that American racism is so endemic that a system of racial quotas must remain a permanent fixture of the political and legal landscape.