Repaint the White House

Diverse city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  January 9, 2008

With the Iowa caucuses having just steamrolled our national headlines with a check in the “win” column for Barack Obama, and the New Hampshire primaries a day away as I write this, I’ve gotta talk about the political scene. Normally, I’d leave that stuff to someone like Al Diamon, but how can I resist this time? We have a slate of Democratic contenders that includes someone of African-American ancestry (Obama, of course), a woman (Hillary Clinton...yes, she’s a ball-buster but she lacks the anatomy herself, despite what some people may say), and a Hispanic (yeah, it surprised me that Bill Richardson is half Mexican until I saw a few photos — that name of his is like racial stealth technology).

Even for the Democratic Party, which has toyed with diversity now and again, that is serious stuff. Because they’re all viable candidates, in a broad sense (even though it almost certainly boils down to Obama vs. Clinton in the finals — sorry, Mr. Richardson). This is a country whose leaders have always been white, male, and generally Protestant. And speaking of religion, even on the Republican side we have diversity, with Mitt Romney offering the possibility of a Mormon in the White House.

After the Iowa caucus, Obama is riding strong into New Hampshire, surging ahead of Clinton in the polls; it’s just too bad that I couldn’t hand this column in a day or so late, once we know how he does there. Many times I have said I don't expect to see a Black man in the White House, but it looks like there’s a real chance of that. Sure, we’re not over with primaries, and netting the Democratic nomination is a far cry from winning the general election, but man! Iowa, one of the whitest states, gave him the first round of the game.

We may finally turn a corner on race in this country, perhaps the biggest corner since the Civil Rights Era hit its stride.

For so many years the issue of diversity has been a “warm and fuzzy” notion. People talked about being racially enlightened, but didn't practice what they preached and instead tried to cram political correctness down other people’s throats.

But now, many people are truly considering voting for a man of color as the possible leader of this nation. And it’s not because we all want to feel good about race. No, it’s because we want change. After eight years of chaos, I suspect many don’t care what color that change comes in, as long as it means a chance for stability and better lives.

When we as a people reach the place where we can look for the best man or woman to lead us and it goes deeper than those surface traits such as race or gender, then we have reached the place where we are beyond mere diversity initiatives and empty talk. We shouldn't roll up Black History Month or Women’s History Month, because let’s face it: Ignorance and hate run deep in many places and turn up in insidious ways.

But I’m so damned encouraged. This election cycle is saying to the youth of America that change may be not only desirable but inevitable. Even my 15-year-old son is stoked about this election season and wishing he could vote. Regardless of who wins, the fact that we have seen this level of diversity in the people legitimately vying to be president signals serious change is on the horizon with race in this nation. And the fact that it isn’t happening in some warm, fuzzy way makes me feel all the warmer and fuzzier.

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