From Michael Eric Dyson's "Race, post raceBarack Obama's historic victory represents a quantum leap in the racial progress of the United States."
Please read the full text here.
"Contrary to many critics, his [Obama's] election does not, nor should it, herald a post-racial future. But it may help usher in a post-racist future. A post-racial outlook seeks to delete crucial strands of our identity; a post-racist outlook seeks to delete oppression that rests on hate and fear, that exploits cultural and political vulnerability. Obama need not cease being a black man to effectively govern, but America must overcome its brutal racist past to permit his gifts, and those of other blacks, to shine.
Our belief in Obama must become contagious; it must spread and become a belief in other blacks who have been quarantined in racial stereotype. Regarding Obama as an exceptional black man -- when he is in fact an exceptional American -- hampers our whole nation's desire to clear the path to success for more like him. Obama is not the first black American capable of being president; he's the first black American who got the chance to prove it.
We should not be seduced by the notion that Obama's presidency signals the end of racism, the civil rights movement, the struggle for black equality or the careers of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. A President Obama would not have come to be without the groundbreaking efforts of Shirley Chisholm, [black woman who sought the Democratic nomination in 1972, first black woman elected to Congress] and especially Jackson. Obama is able to be cool and calm because leaders like Sharpton, at least in the past, got angry.
Obama is likewise the beneficiary of Frederick Douglass' eloquence and sense of struggle, Booker T. Washington's self-reliant uplift, W.E.B. Du Bois' brilliant unmasking of racial hierarchy, Mary McLeod Bethune's imperishable desire for education, Ella Baker's tactical and strategic energy, Malcolm X's will to literary reinvention and Martin Luther King Jr.'s soaring oratory and ultimate sacrifice.
Obama is the latest link in the chain of progress they all forged in the struggle to improve the U.S. by improving the condition of black folk. Obama will move in exactly the opposite direction: As president, he will improve the condition of black folk because he improves the nation. That is a sign of his calling as a national leader, not a black leader. Or, in the adjectival way we measure racial progress, Obama is not a black president, but a president who's black.
As a black man, I feel indescribable elation and pride to be an American on this day. Black folk have told our children a useful lie in the past: They could be anything their minds and talents permitted them to be, even president. Now we can stop lying and start working to make sure that Obama is only the first of many more -- presidents, astronauts, governors, senators, theoretical physicists, baseball commissioners, NASCAR drivers, Olympic swimmers or whatever other pursuit we can dare to imagine.
One of the greatest effects of Obama's becoming the most powerful man in the world is the incalculable psychic boost it gives young black egos that take shape in the glare of TV screens that project his face and words around the globe. But the real miracle may be that Obama's presidency persuades Americans to take for granted that a talented black person, if trusted, can do a great deal of good for the country. Even before he swears his oath of office, Obama has served the nation in heroic fashion."
Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, is the author of many books, including "Holler If You Hear Me," "Is Bill Cosby Right?" and "I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr."