Jun. 3rd, 2008

slyvermont: (Resistance)
Barack Obama clinches the Democratic nomination for president tonight. As you know, I was torn about the voting decision between him and Clinton in the Vermont primary. I am disappointed she isn’t the nominee – I would love to see a woman president, and I do like her. I am happy with Obama, but I am particularly struck with the historical significance of his nomination, that a black man is receiving a major party nomination as president.

This is what I mean:

I am reading a book called “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I knew Lincoln fought the Civil War to preserve the union, and that his original goal was to prevent the spread of slavery rather than its abolition. But it still amazed me to read his words.

Said Lincoln as he ran for office: he had “no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races” and he was not in favor “of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry.”

The black man, said Lincoln, “is not my equal in many respects – certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral and intellectual endowment.” Lincoln conceded that the black man is only equal to the white man in “the right to eat the bread which his own hand earns.”

150 years ago, this attitude was commonplace, and most Americans weren’t even willing to grant the black man the right to earn money, as Lincoln was. We think of Lincoln today as the Great Emancipator, but in reality, he didn’t consider the black man his equal.

I am disheartened by the prejudice still expressed by many voters who say that they will never vote for a black man for president. I hope that if Lincoln were alive today he would vote for Obama. And I hope many Americans can overcome their prejudice and not cast a vote based on race. That a black man could be president was inconceivable 150 years ago; but it is a real possibility today.   


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