I have been thinking non-stop, as have many of you, about the Inauguration and coming Presidency of Barack Obama. Leaving behind for a moment all the political arguments from the left and right, from those who voted for him and those who did not, this is just an amazing moment. I look at the Obama family and can’t keep from breaking out into a smile. We are facing the worst of times yet hope is the operative emotion that is coursing through the veins of this nation. You can read it in the latest polls but more importantly you can feel it when you listen to people, talk to your friends or when people of all stripes discuss this moment. I have never experienced anything close to this in political annals of our nation. The closest was JFK, maybe RFK but still, this moment is different.
Over the weekend I could not get Mack Parker out of my head. Who is Mack Parker? Fifty years ago he was lynched. He had been accused of raping a white woman. Subsequent investigations revealed he was most likely innocent. But that is not important. He was lynched by a white mob. White judges in Mississippi who were part of the White Citizen’s Councils (a refined version of the KKK) refused to do anything about the crime. His brutalized chained body was found floating on the Pearl River ten days after the mob dragged him from his cell. I can only imagine the fear and pain he suffered.
When I was almost thirteen years old I opened a Life Magazine. The picture in the center of the Magazine was of a pair of work boots neatly placed under a cot in a prison cell. They were Mack Parker’s boots left behind where he put them before a mob dragged him out to be tortured, mutilated and murdered.
I kept that picture on my wall for years. It haunted me. It reminded me why I fight for a new America that belongs to all of her citizens, breathing in, and living, the same air of equality.
Now Barack Obama is standing there fifty years later, an African American man about to become President of the United States of America. Many people have written that just because we have elected an African American President of the United States of America does not mean that racism will end. They are right, but I deeply believe that it is having and will have a profound effect on American consciousness.
It is an amazing time. I can’t believe we are here. The hope is palpable. Let it be real.
What are you feeling now?