A time to be proud: Qualifications matter, not race.
You’ve read about Dart many times in The Saratogian — including Tuesday, in Jeannette Jordan’s writeup about people honored by the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club for outstanding com¬munity service, and last year, when the federal government finally got around to awarding Dart and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A generation ago, in a segre¬gated U.S. army, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves during World War II as true American heroes — yet they came home to racial prejudice.
It took 60 years for the govern¬ment to appropriately recognize their contribution.
Now, in a nation built on slav¬ery, in a country that not long ago openly and legally separated the races and discriminated against people of color, a man of color has been elected president.
Sure, there’s still plenty of racism. But this is a wonderful moment in history.
On Tuesday an extraordinary majority of Americans, in search of change, leadership and hope, chose a candidate who happened to be a black man.
Actually, he is a man of mixed race, the son of a black man and a white woman. That, too, is a sign of changing times.
In my early days as a reporter, a veteran colleague went quietly but audibly ballistic when he saw a mixed-race couple on Broad¬way. He couldn’t stand to see a black man with a white woman.
He found the couple repulsive; I found his intolerance repulsive. The colleague is long gone, but I’ll never forget his bigotry, which left me startled, sad and angry. It was a lesson to me that racism hides in unexpected places.
Happily, times are changing. It’s getting more difficult these days to pigeonhole people by race, and people are less tolerant of intolerance.
Thanks to people like Clarence Dart. Thanks to people, black and white, who lived with, dealt with and fought against prejudice over the years in city halls, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. To couples who chose love over color. To people who broke barri¬ers, opened doors, dared to dream, and raised a new genera¬tion to believe anything is possi¬ble.
Tuesday’s presidential election proved them right. That’s a rea¬son for every American to be proud.
Barbara Lombardo is manag¬ing editor of The Saratogian. Her column is published Saturdays in the Life section. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.