Protests will never be enough to bring about lasting change. To overcome racist thinking, anti-racists must take hold of power – and not let go. By Ibram X Kendi

In his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on 27 July 2004, before 9 million viewers, Barack Obama presented himself as the embodiment of racial reconciliation and American exceptionalism. He had humble beginnings and a lofty ascent, and in him both native and immigrant ancestry and African and European ancestry came together. “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story … and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible,” he declared. “America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country … the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president.”

Kerry lost the election, of course, and Bush seemed poised to embody the future of the Republican party. But Barack Obama seemed poised to embody the future of the Democratic party.

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