Sometimes when you are in the midst of watching an historic event unfold, you don’t know what or how to feel, such was the case for me as I watched the culmination of what was nothing short of miraculous, an African-American male became the 44th president of the United States. As the build up to the election approached I could not help but think of how men like D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) must be turning in their graves at what is taking place in their beloved country, while the restless souls of the thousands of nameless people who lost their lives during the middle passage to this country in cargo ships, discarded overboard like trash, those souls of individuals who did nothing wrong except be born with the wrong skin color and were hung from trees or the internal and external wounds inflicted on the freedom riders, how they must have danced and shouted at this monumental occurrence.
In between answering the barrage of text messages I received from my athletes, friends, and family my feelings were put on ice, I wish there was something in me that could produce tears of gladness, but alas there were none, there was just this sense of surreal numbness and a discreet pessimistic eye watching the TV screen as the poll numbers kept streaming by, I was anticipating something or someone to come in and pull the plug on the entire festive moment, any moment someone was going to come on the air and say” wait a minute we have a recall or large numbers of voter fraud have been discovered” the next president elect is not Barack but John McCain.
As a black man in my forties, I grew up hearing and thinking there will never be a black person as president of the United States in this lifetime, and until recently that statement was true, outside of the fictitious characters in television and movies, even then I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that an African-American president was something that could actually happen, so what changed? I’ll tell you; the young people of this generation changed, they said enough is enough, they asked the question that many of us never did, if not my generation then when? And they answered the bell, this helped to propel Obama over the top, given his credentials if he were a white male, this race would not have been a race at all, but a large segment of the population could not get past his race, leave it to the youth to show us the way, this generation for all of its criticism stepped up and got to work. “Yes we can” was not just a catchy slogan on a button or t-shirt it was a blue print of how to roll up your sleeves and integrate the small parts into the larger sum. They didn’t want to listen to another sermon, speech or lecture about the pie in the sky fallacy of how one day this country will rise up and come together or how they should be change agents, they made it happen now. Also while I’m at it lets give a loud round of applause to the women of this country who refused to have the Republicans insult their intelligence, by simply placing any woman on the ticket.
As a coach I know there is always a defining moment for any team during the season, the point in the season that reveals the true character of the individuals in the room and determines if we’ll accomplish our goals by sticking together or just play the string out, looking forward to the end. For the country that defining moment will forever be marked as November 4, 2008. Barack’s transition to the white house will be met with great challenges, fear for his safety and skepticism that you can be sure, but this country has finally come to the realization that there is nothing inferior about black leadership, and the sports world with the success of the black athlete set the tone for this truth. The recent accomplishments of men like Tony Dungy, and Doc Rivers, showed us all that if given a fair opportunity and the resources needed we can get the job done, and the same will hold true for President Obama.