Tuesday, 20 January 2009

In our lifetime

For older generations of Deep South travellers, there are tangible souvenirs of their journeys tucked away in drawers and boxes.

There are also indelible mental souvenirs that have lingered since their journeys well into the 1960s - signs reading "whites only" and "coloreds only."

We saw a few of those signs outside service station washrooms during an early '60s journey through Tennessee to visit Graceland in Memphis, with slim hopes of catching a glimpse of The King.

The South also had segregated water fountains, segregated schools, segregated restaurants, restricted seating in buses and movie theatres.

Anything segregated was foreign to Canadians, but seeing the signs up close and all too personal drew the civil rights movement closer to our hearts.

Throughout the 60s, we were deeply saddened by news of lynchings, church bombings, police with their batons, dogs and fire hoses, burning crosses and KKK murders in the dark of night. All of this in the United States of America.

It was a painfully slow struggle, but the civil rights movement, heroic blacks refusing to accept the status quo, outspoken black and white celebrities speaking out along with print and broadcast media and politicians, all made a difference.

The United States has been cleansed of segregation since our first 1960s visit, and today, almost five decades later, Barack Obama becomes the first black president.

It seems surreal, given the history of racism in the United States, but it is so welcomed.

And it happened in our lifetime.

President Obama. Eloquent speaker. Excellent communicator. Internet savvy. Source of inspiration and hope. A happily married family man.

The day after the most depressing day of the year is looking much more positive.


  1. In the tank for Obama. What a typical journalist.

  2. What a charming comment.

    As I read the original post, it makes no judgment whatsoever about whether Obama will be a good, bad or indifferent president. It simply comments on the huge historical significance of America's first president of African descent -- which can hardly be denied by anyone who knows even a smattering of US history.

    Indeed, both George W. Bush and John McCain made exactly the same point right after Obama's election.