"I intend to proudly vote for Obama," said a caller to a National Public Radio show, "because I want to show the world what America is all about – that a person of color can become president of the United States."
Let's put aside whether the caller would express the same enthusiasm were Obama a tax-cutting, Iraq-war-supporting Republican. And let's put aside what, if anything, America needs to "prove" to the rest of the world.
Obama – bright, sharp, a solid speaker – ran an incredible, come-from-nowhere campaign to topple a front-runner who, at one time, led by some 30 points. But as Obama once said in criticizing his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the caller acts as if America, as regards race, were "static."
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What of the last 40 or so years?
- Today, if black Americans' gross domestic product were measured separately, it would be the 16th-richest country in the world.
- Nearly 80 percent of blacks live above the poverty level, contrasted with 65 percent 40 years ago.
- The greater percentage of blacks live either middle-class or better lives.
- The employment rate for married black men equals the employment rate for married white men.
- The average black woman with a college degree makes more money than the average white woman with a college degree.
- The highest percentage of blacks in American history – 46 percent – own their homes.
- The majority of blacks live in integrated neighborhoods (defined as living with at least 10 percent of neighbors belonging to "other races").
- Black-white interracial marriage has soared – after anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967 – from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 in 2005.
- Los Angeles, a city devastated by the Watts riots in 1965, with a population about 11 percent black, hired back-to-back black police chiefs.
- A black man served as United States ambassador to the United Nations.
- A black man served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- Two blacks have served as members of the United States Supreme Court.
- The largest association of doctors – the predominately white American Medical Association – elected a black physician as leader.
- The largest association of lawyers, the American Bar Association, elected a black president.
- The Ford Foundation, one of America's largest philanthropic private foundations, with 2007 assets valued at $13.7 billion, was led for 12 years by a black man.
- Blacks hold or have held CEO positions at major companies, such as Merrill Lynch, American Express and Time Warner.
- Black-owned businesses grow at a rate faster than white-owned businesses.
- The multiracial Tiger Woods is the world's most famous and wealthiest athlete in earnings and product endorsements.
- Major League Baseball – America's pastime – is composed of 40 percent black, Latino and Asian players.
- The Super Bowl, the most-watched sporting event in America, recently featured two teams headed by black coaches.
- Black females have won the Miss America beauty pageant.
- Black economist and best-selling author Thomas Sowell, based on the number of newspapers that carry his column, is one of the country's top 10 columnists.
- "The Cosby Show," a positive, upbeat sitcom about a black, upper-middle-class family, reigned for years as America's most-watched television program.
- Black faces on television abound – in commercials, as local and national news anchors and in shows playing a variety of characters – from doctors and lawyers up to and including the president of the United States.
- Will Smith, a black actor, tops the list of the nation's movie box-office stars.
- Black actor Samuel L. Jackson appeared in more movies than any other actor of any color during the 1990s.
- Black television host Oprah Winfrey, arguably one of the most powerful television personalities in the history of the medium, has amassed, to date, a fortune estimated at $2.5 billion.
- Blacks serve or have served as mayors in many American cities, including the three largest – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
- The current speaker of the California Assembly is the first black woman to head a statewide legislative body.
- Blacks comprise 10 percent of the House of Representatives, including some from primarily white Southern districts.
- A black man serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee – arguably the most powerful committee in the House.
- A black man served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
- Virginia, one of the states of the original Confederacy, elected a black man governor.
- The Republican Party, in the last election cycle, nominated blacks as candidates for governor of Ohio, governor of Pennsylvania and senator from Maryland.
- Blacks have served the current administration as back-to-back secretaries of State.
So, what does Obama's candidacy mean? His victory shows that America grows ever closer to Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a society that judges people based on content of character, rather than color of skin.
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Obama's victory does not prove this. It confirms it.