Post-election racial unification a must

Published 5:22 am Monday, December 1, 2008

By By Tray Smith
The most significant opportunity Barack Obama offers our nation is that his election and subsequent inauguration will redeem our nation for its original sin of slavery, finalize the civil rights movement and usher in a post-racial political era. In this era, the fact that Obama has a mixed racial heritage is not significant - what is significant is that nobody cares. Nobody who voted for him cared that he was biracial or thought his race would prevent him from doing his job. With the exception of an increasingly isolated fringe, nobody who voted against Obama disrespects him now that he has been elected - even Republicans skeptical of his incoming administration take pride in seeing the ghost of discrimination vanquished from our national discourse.
This rare opportunity to put our racial divisions behind us may still be sacrificed if Americans refuse to reconcile their differences - racial, political and gender - at the grassroots level. Indeed, if Americans continue to insist upon dividing this country down racial lines, we will send an unmistakable signal that white people can govern, teach, and operate on black people and black people can in turn govern, teach, and operate on white people; but socially, at church and in the home, the two cannot be mixed. We will have effectively ended professional discrimination in politics and the workforce only to allow ourselves to succumb to social discrimination, an evil that prevents friendship and positive discourse.
In order to break this conundrum, Lilly Johnson, a local Democratic activists, invited me to attend church services with her last week at Greater Mount Triumph. I accepted the invitation, and in turn Mrs. Johnson has agreed to attend church with me at Atmore First Presbyterian on a future date. We hope to continue this tradition throughout the remainder of my time in Atmore. Through our example, we also hope to inspire more people to unify with one another and break the viscous cycle of prejudice, discrimination, and the race card.
In this effort, I feel optimistic. My visit to Greater Mount Triumph was a pleasant one. Through two hours of service, I joined the congregation in worshiping the same God I worship every week at First Presbyterian (although Mt. Triumph’s congregation was occasionally more energetic). The Rev. Willy Hawthorne delivered an inspirational message that illustrated the dangers of hypocrisy, responsibility of passing judgment and importance of good works through the story of Jonah. The congregation prayed for God’s blessings on many of its sick members and friends, and it also recognized its teachers as critical instruments of democracy.
I was further emboldened after the visit to Mt. Triumph about the possibility of racial unification than I have been at any point since the election. The faith apparent in Mr. Triumph’s congregation also inspired me with hope in the ability churches across the country have to fight the breakdown occurring in parts of the black community and tying down future Obamas. While our whole nation is struggling terribly with an epidemic of divorce, drug use, out-of-wedlock births and high incarceration rates, such societal decay has been particularly hard on the black community. The only institution capable of solving the challenges posed by such problems is the church, because the church carries a great ability to raise resources and network people. With faithful congregations like Rev. Hawthorne’s, I am confident that Atmore’s churches are capable of meeting this challenge and setting a national example of post-racial political reconciliation.
That’s the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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