Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Well, hell, maybe we CAN.

If you didn't listen to Obama talk to Americans about race as if we were grownups for 45 short minutes--as Jon Stewart put it last night--it's an experience.

So, yes, we can.

I can't prove we can't, anyhow.

I had such a good time reading that speech that I watched it with my second-grader. Who was rapt. For 38 minutes. It's a special occasion to watch adult TV, and an even more special one to get to listen to adult ideas addressing the concerns that are on her mind.

During February, and around MLK Day, she learned about the civil rights movement at school and had to come home and reality check: Mama, Ms. Teacher said that back when Gramma was little, people with different color skin couldn't ride on the same part of the bus. That can't be true. Can it? She said that this lady Rosa Parks went to jail for sitting in the wrong part of the bus. That didn't really happen, did it?

My 8 year old lives in a reality in which legal segregation, and therefore the violence and struggle surrounding its end, are literally senseless. And that's good.

But I have never, in my adult life, heard a politician who had a shot at winning the race for dog-catcher make the claim: Economic desperation and habit, rather than malice, are driving the train around the loop of racism, racial thinking and acts of prejudice that keep us all in our own cars on that train, with our own kind.

And to stop that train we need to stop fueling it, and discuss the hell out of why the tracks seem to keep us going in circles.

I was amazed by the speech. I assumed that Pam Spaulding shared writers' credit with Tim Wise, because everyone knows that professional politicians can't think this stuff through let alone speak it aloud.

It was a relief and a triumph. Long overdue.

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