It is generally agreed among all sides that this year’s presidential election will find its place in history as one of the most talked-about elections in the annals of American history. And for African Americans, it could prove to be the most meaningful event since the Emancipation Proclamation.
At this writing, I have no idea who the winner will be, whether Senator John McCain or Senator Barrack Obama. Either way, it will have historical significance, so I decided to envision a scenario for both sides.
If Obama wins
The immediate effect will be jubilation among many diverse supporters throughout the country. They will celebrate the victory as being their own, a visualization of America living up to its promise of a land of equal opportunity for all.
There will be a renewal of the feeling among young Blacks that, if they are willing to prepare themselves, it is possible for them to reach the top in their chosen profession. It will rejuvenate hope for many who have felt that their ethnicity, place of birth, or other intrinsic factors were absolute barriers to ever reaching their goals.
Then there will be the remaining veterans of the civil rights battles of the ’50s and ’60s who will see this as a fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream in this 45th anniversary of that historic moment, and say: “Thank God. I never thought that I’d live to see the day.”
On the other hand, there will be those who will absolutely refuse to accept the reality of the election and will use every tool at their disposal (and probably invent a few more) in an attempt to nullify the election results.
If McCain wins
This can only happen with the aid of the “Bradley Factor” — that is, Whites who are genuine supporters of Obama, yet when they get in the secrecy of the booth find it impossible to keep the faith and mark their “X” in the right place.
This situation got its name from the candidacy of Tom Bradley of California. By every indicator known in modern technology for predicting voter results, he was slated to become the runaway winner; but the voting booth gave a different answer.
If such should be the fate of Obama’s brilliant campaign, it will certainly be a sad commentary on the state of America regarding civil rights and equal opportunity for all of its citizens. We must not forget that the rest of the world is watching, too. If we lay claim to being the leader of the free world, our actions must fortify that claim.
On the other hand, the fact that Obama was able to defy the odds and engineer such a spirited campaign for the highest office in the land is certain to inspire other young, talented African Americans to continue the fight until one is elected.
A famous man, Patrick Henry, once made this statement: “I know no way to judge of the future but by the past.” In our history, each time one of us becomes a pioneer in breaking the color line, others have quickly followed.
Conclusion: November will be a new page in history for African Americans regardless of the election’s outcome.
Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.