Positive spirits of revolution and amelioration were present at Barack Obama’s celebration on the day he defeated Hillary Clinton. However, these positive spirits were mixed with bad winds that carried racist demons into the air. There was a sense of fear out there: When you say “black president” in America, this is immediately associated with another word – “assassination.”
On the day Barack Obama made history and became the first black presidential candidate on behalf of a major party, he was surrounded by alert Secret Service agents, who formed several rings around the stage on which he delivered his victory speech. These rings had no spaces between them.
In the early stages of his campaign already, Barack Obama was assigned the kind of security usually granted to a serving president - an unprecedented move in the history of America’s primaries. On Monday, the FBI announced
that it detained a group of neo-Nazis who planned to assassinate Obama, and also kill another 102 blacks by shooting or beheading them. Even if this plot was far from being executed, the fears nonetheless grew.
On the night Obama defeated Clinton, America erased the question mark that always accompanied the words “black president” from its public discourse. That notion turned into something tangible, close, and possible. However, despite this, and perhaps because of this, Obama was able to stir all the racist demons in America’s conservative districts, mostly in southern states.
Only years ago, the myth that generations will pass before America can have a black president was still well established. Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state, and before that as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, considered running in the 1992 elections, yet his wife vetoed the notion. She told him that they won’t let a black person become president. They will assassinate him before this happens, she said. Reverend Jesse Jackson also competed in the Democratic presidential primaries, but quickly dropped out.
The wounds separating blacks and whites are not of the type that can be healed quickly. Indeed, slavery was annulled by President Lincoln in 1865, yet about 100 years later, in the 1950s and 1960s, blacks were not yet equal citizens. They rode on segregated buses, their children studied at isolated schools, and the freedom accorded to them was merely technical: in the ‘60s they were reduced to an inferior status, lacking basic human rights and individual liberties.
However, when Obama decided to run for president, he seized on the spirit of our times: He felt that America was ready, that it was eager for reconciliation and correction, and that it was willing to accept a black person not only as a basketball star or a soul singer. He then announced that he intends to become America’s president, and for almost two years proved to the American public that he means it seriously and that he has a chance to win.
Yet at the end of every work day on the campaign trail, when Obama enters his hotel room and closes the door behind him, his security personnel breathe a sigh of relief: Another day ended peacefully.