Racism is a fact of life in the United States. Anyone who denies it is living in a dream world. But, so is anyone who denies the enormous progress made in addressing racism.
In the early 1960s, blacks in parts of the country rode in the back of the bus. Two generations later, a man of African-American descent has a good chance of winning the presidency.
Other races also have seen progress. Three generations ago, racism led to the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans. Before that, racism resulted in passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Today, the average income of Asian-Americans is the highest in the country, significantly exceeding that of white Americans.
Before the Civil War, Florida was a slave state, and afterward a segregated state. Yet, last week the Legislature passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. It was a symbolic gesture, but a significant one given Florida's history.
Remarks by Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, have thrust race into the forefront of the presidential campaign. I can't get too upset with Wright's vitriol. As Obama points out, the remarks were selectively edited, and obscure Wright's broader message that social progress entails individual responsibility in dealing with pathologies like drug use and absentee fatherhood. It's a message Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby also have been delivering. Following it will result in dividends far superior than those of more government programs.
Is America ready for an African-American president? Yes. Colin Powell might have been president today had he run in 2000. And look at Louisiana, a state with a racist past similar to Florida's. It was ready for Bobby Jindal, a governor of East Indian heritage.
If Obama eventually loses to John McCain, racism may play a part, but not as big a one as inexperience, a naive approach toward foreign leaders, and an economic program of taxes and protectionism straight out of Herbert Hoover's playbook.
Race may not matter as much as inexperience
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