The plane had just landed in Cape Town, South Africa, a week before Christmas 2006. My wife and I had flown halfway around the world to visit our daughter, Michelle. She had gone to South Africa as a volunteer at an orphanage near Durban. She met us at the airport and would be our guide for the next couple of weeks in South Africa. Along with spending Christmas with Michelle, I was doing research on Steve Biko and the apartheid period.
After hugs and kisses, we went to a restaurant to catch up on nearly a year of Michelle being away. There were the regular questions about the flight and how everyone was. We talked about our schedule while in South Africa and our celebrating Christmas at the orphanage.
It seemed that Michelle was impatient to dispense with the chitchat. There seemed to be something that she wanted to ask me. I felt like she had taken charge of the conversation and had verbally swept everything else off the table, and then looked at me. "Dad, I've been out of the States for almost a year, and I haven't heard what's been happening with Barack Obama. What do think about him and do you think he has a chance to become president?"
The conversation in that Cape Town restaurant gives one an insight into my family. Michelle knows that I am the family liberal and proud of it. However, I gave a non-committal response. She responded that my terse and reserved reply wasn't like me. She assumed that I would be out there beating the bushes for Barack. Again, she pressed her inquiry.
I looked at her and said, "Michelle, I've been there and done that and don't have the heart to do it again. Bobby Kennedy was my dream when I was your age, and that dream was dashed. Politics hasn't been the same since. Either they are crooks and liars or well-meaning and inept." Then I went into one of my counterfactuals lectures...what if Bobby hadn't been assassinated. Look what we could have avoided...Nixon, Clinton, and the Bushes to name just a few. Just imagine how the world would have been different.
Christmas 2007 is nearly here, and Michelle is back home. What a difference a year makes. A year ago, I wasn't sure that America had dealt with its racial malignancy that has nearly destroyed this country on several occasions and has destroyed hundreds of thousands of blacks. It is obvious that America has come further than I thought possible.
I am here to say that I have also changed. I believe that it is
possible for a black to become president. I'm embarrassed that I
didn't get emotionally on board before, but better late than never.
I believe that Barack Obama can win in Iowa, New Hampshire, and
South Carolina-and run the tables. I believe that he can win in
I have traveled and studied in over three dozen countries of the world. Whether I am talking to a guide in Soweto or a Tibetan refugee official in India or felucca captain on the Nile, they all want to know what is wrong with America. Invariably, they will say that they like Americans but wonder why we don't do something about Bush, the war in particular, and our foreign policy in general.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a new and honest face representing America to the world come this time next year? What would happen if Obama became president, and we treated the world, as we would want to be treated by a superpower? What would happen if we went to countries that we have made into adversaries and said that we were there to find a common ground rather than sticking our thumb in their eye? What would happen if we joined the community of nations rather than attempting to rule them? What would happen if we ridded ourselves of our national hubris and hypocrisy and really did practiced what we preached?
Yes, there are still sick and racist people out there. I guess that we will have to take our chances with them, but there are still sick people in Washington-and we have lived through that nightmare long enough.
Therefore, this aging white liberal has regained the old fire in his belly again. It has been gone for too long, but it is back. And won't it be a hoot that the deliverance of America will come from a black? Talk about poetic and political justice!
As Bobby Kennedy often said during his campaign four decades ago, "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not."
Article on Steve Biko.
Myinterview about Steve Biko on