I'm listening to Obama's speech on Race in America right now and I'm pretty damn excited that there's a leader on the scene who will be able to initiate and encourage this discussion.
I feel like I have been very fortunate to have a particular window into African American culture through my participation in poetry slam. Slam is an arena where marginalized voices are welcomed and their talents nurtured by like minded artists. As many glowing things as I can say about it, I can also say that as a white poet in the scene, at event after event, I feel challenged to confront my own assumptions and (I'll be generous to myself here and put it in quotes) "racist" habits of thinking. I describe myself as anti-racist, which is really almost the opposite of trying to argue that I'm "not racist." I interact with people of color constantly. I see my own internal thought processes playing out all the time. I wish I could be free of racism. Since I'm not, I am anti-racist, beginning with myself.
Obama is a leader for the anti-racists among us. He can confidently address race and the still unhealed wounds of race in America, apparently without laying blame at the feet of one side or another. As a white person, I'm well aware of the culpability of my ancestors and those like them in past racism. I fight my own culpability in the present, however imperfectly. It looks like those of us who do that with consciousness and awareness are about to be able to point to the White House and say, "Yeah, that guy: He gets us."