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|Tonyaa J Weathersbee||
I almost didn't make it to Charlotte.
True, I reveled in witnessing history in 2008, when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic
nomination for president of the United States. The atmosphere at the stadium in Denver crackled with the excitement of being the place where a significant
barrier had been broken: A black man was now a major party's contender to lead a nation in which black people had originally arrived on its shores in
But after four years of seeing Obama battle lawmakers determined to make him fail,and after seeing how much he had to prove to a short-sighted electorate that likely won't weigh his major accomplishments - like killing Osama bin Laden and saving General Motors - against the backdrop of that opposition and the attempts to paint him as alien and non-American, I wasn't so sure I needed to go to see how people might have soured on a brother who failed to live up to the outsized expectations that they often have of African-Americans.
But so far, no regrets.
I'm glad I got to see the diversity of speakers - ranging from the Alabama-accented Lilly Ledbetter to fiery Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who reminded me of Obama at
the 2004 DNC. (I was there too). And I was especially proud when First Lady Michelle Obama laid out her life with her husband not as some fairy tale or folksy yarn, but as a life filled with the struggles and triumphs experienced by
Americans who aren't born rich, but who understand the importance that opportunity plays in lifting everyone to prosperity.
That, to me, is the real United States.
Not the United States out of a 1950s black-and-white television show where, in real life, the only things black
and white were separate toilets and water fountains. And certainly not the United States that the lily-white crowd at the Republican National Convention longs for; a place ruled by hypocrisy, sanctimony and stinginess.
So by being here, I'm not simply witnessing history. I'm seeing the future.
As it unfolds.
Just four years ago, the United States shook up the world. It elected its first black president.
It happened. In my lifetime. One that began in the years when black people were simply fighting for the right to vote, period.
Barack Obama's 2008 victory wasn't just a reflection of the will of the electorate, but a glimpse into the future; a future in which the U.S. will be browner and blacker. A future that we ought to be preparing for.
Yet it only took three months after Obama's election for the screaming to come from those who want to take the country back to its past.
Way back - back to the 19th century.
Since then we've had:
What's bad is the Republican Party's willingness to stoke such divisiveness in order to
What's worse is that this isn't new.
In his 1995 groundbreaking book, Nixon's Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton, author Kenneth O'Reilly writes about President Richard Nixon entertaining the Gridiron Club, a mostly-white group of media honchos, at the White House in 1970.
Most of the entertainment revolved around a piano routine, with him and Vice President Spiro Agnew singing and trading darky banter that, in essence, celebrated his Southern Strategy.
This racist strategy was one in which he played to southern whites' resentments over desegregation and civil rights - the stuff that was supposed to help black people get an equal shot at the so-called American dream - in order to get them to vote Republican.
According to O'Reilly, the GOP's struggle to capture the Southern white vote and the Democrats' fight to keep it has largely shaped our two-party system.
But again, the country is changing. And the people who O'Reilly speaks of aren't handling it too well.
So now, Obama's GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, is running false ads claiming that Obama gutted work requirements for welfare, apparently hoping that enough white people assume that that the black president is giving their tax money away to lazy black people.
Their strategy now is to demonize Obama enough so that voters who were willing to give him a chance four years ago will blame him for problems that we'd be closer to solving if Republicans were more concerned with building the country rather than breaking him, and to create enough voting barriers to keep Obama's key constituents, blacks and Latinos, away from the ballot box.
In any case, a lot of effort is being put into stopping a man who resembles the people who served former presidents as slaves, or as servants, as fodder for White House minstrelry or as pawns in
placating whites, from resuming his place as the leader of a country that still remains conflicted about race.
And as the 2012 race for the White House heads into the final stretch, I'll be watching to see how often Romney, falls back on this strategy.
The piano plays on. To the same old tune. Even though the future, demographics and decency compels us to find a new one.
What a monstrosity!
The new Duval County Courthouse cost $350 million - more than double the original price tag - and three years to build. It's so sprawling that at first glance, visitors would think it was a museum or cultural center.
But they'd be wrong.
This is a courthouse, a place where the main industry is dispensing punishment and penalties. In many cases, those punishments and penalties add up to justice.
But I don't think that downtown Jacksonville, a place that is already overrun with churches and buildings that represent sternness and sterility, needed a courthouse this massive.
Somehow, we weren't paying close enough attention - because this is downtown, and downtown ought to be filled with clubs and restaurants and shops, and places that are fun and eclectic. Its centerpiece shouldn't be a courthouse. It's so imposing that it looks oppressive, and it makes Jacksonville seem like a place obsessed with order and officialdom; one that eschews creativity and diversity.
Please, don't let this happen anywhere else!
Me and fellow Floridians, former Governor and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, and his wife, Adele.
Graham told me that Florida was going to be a tough state for Obama to win. He managed to pull it off, though.
We'll see what happens this time.
Me and USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, Pulitizer-prize winning Newsday columnist Les Payne and former NAACP president and former U.S. Rep. Kwiesi Mfume. Mfume joined us as we had breakfast to discuss our DNC coverage plans for the day - which turned out to be, like most days, a long one.
Scenes from the Denver stadium...where history was made...