I realize how crazy that sounds and it reads even crazier when I actually type the words. I was surfing the news today when the first sentence of an AP story on the election read, “Counting down to Election Day, Barack Obama appears within reach of becoming the nation’s first black president as the epic campaign draws to a close against a backdrop of economic crisis and lingering war.” My first thought was, “oh yeah, he is black.” It dawned on me that I have been so focused on a Democrat winning the election that Obama’s race had receded in importance.

I’m not trying to be self-congratulatory about not being racist. Be skeptical of anyone who tells you he/she isn’t racist. I don’t think there’s anyone in this country who doesn’t struggle with racism from time to time, and that includes me. We live in a country that has always had fault lines between haves and have-nots, whites and people of color, Jews and gentiles, gays and straights, and of course, those of us who prefer the Stones to the Beatles.

I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who did not tolerate intolerance. There was little point in racism in our house, as we had black and Latino relatives up and down the family tree. In the 1960s this was remarkable to others but seemed pretty normal to us. Still, my parents had their prejudices, mostly around religion. My father’s current prejudice involves “the Muslims” and he spends much of his time researching Islam and writing letters to his local paper, which he dutifully sends to me. He is convinced that all Muslims are part of a terrorist plot to crush the West. Mind you, there are few Muslims in West Texas and I’d be shocked if my father had ever actually met someone who was Muslim. And if Muslims want West Texas, my father is ready.

I decline to engage him in a debate on this.  At 82 he’s entitled to believe what he wants and I see no point in trying to persuade him to think differently although I’ve made it clear that he and I agree on almost nothing politically.  I can’t help but roll my eyes every time I receive a fat envelope from him. Ironically, my father refuses to buy a computer and surf the Internet. This is a good thing. There are a lot of angry, hateful, paranoid people out there publishing all kinds of bilious crap and my father is better off not being exposed to it.  No doubt he’d believe everything he read that conformed to his skewed views and even worse, he’d email it to me.

So here we are on the cusp of a likely victory by a very smart, well-organized, politically astute man who happens to be African American. That the Democratic Party is about to emerge the victor is remarkable, that the victory has been engineered by a black American is nothing short of stunning. And yet in some ways I find myself thinking, “well of course. Why not?”

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