Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Been a Long Time Comin'...

There was a subtle yet beautiful moment last night in President Obama's (goddamn does it feel good to write that) victory speech that may have been lost on some spectators.  The man said:

It's been a long time comin', but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.

It was perhaps the most loaded statement--the culmination--of his entire campaign.

You see, after speaking with sit-in demonstrators in 1963, Sam Cooke wrote the first draft of what is now the definitive song of the Civil Rights Movement, "A Change is Gonna Come."  After Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Rosa Parks found solace in the song's painful yet optimistic verses:

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die,
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky, 
It's been a long, a long time comin',
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

I go to the movie, and I go downtown,
But somebody keep telling me don't hang around, 
It's been a long, a long time comin', 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

The brilliance of that line in President Obama's speech then, was his choice to introduce the black-colored elephant in the room as subtly as possible.  He didn't ignore it; I would guess many viewers (blacks and whites alike) picked up on the reference.  But he knew that to claim a victory for his race would be to crumble the mantra upon which his campaign was founded: "Yes we can."

No comments: