'How far we have come'
By Robert Robinson, journalist, Nov. 07, 2008
As I watched the election results on the big screen with my family Tuesday night and heard
the announcement that the 44th president of the United States would be Barack Obama, I
found myself fighting back tears as I thought of just how far we have come as a country.
I thought about growing up in the Deep South and about my grandparents, who lived in a George
I thought about traveling to visit them from our home in the Florida Panhandle and how my
Uncle George always had a .38 pistol under his car seat for protection as we drove the
lonely dark Southern roads from our home to Alabama. I thought about how we always had
to pack dinner in brown paper bags because we couldn't stop at restaurants. I thought
about how we had to stop alongside the road because we could not use public bathrooms.
I thought about being born in 1955 and growing up in a city that was clearly black and
white. I thought about how we'd go to the movies on Saturday, pay at the front box-office
window and then have to go around to the side of the building and up the long iron steps
to the balcony where the blacks had to sit. That was just the way it was.
I thought about never having a school textbook on the first day of the new school year
that didn't already have someone else's name written in it. I thought about how it wasn't
until I was bused across town to an all-white junior high school when schools were
integrated in 1968 that I received a brand new school book.
I thought about that day in seventh grade world history class when a white classmate
shouted, "I'm glad they got that King guy," on the morning after the Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr. was assassinated. That was the only fight I was ever involved in.
I thought about all the racial fights that interrupted my freshmen year of high school
because people still had not accepted integration. I can still see the rebel flags
flying to this day.
I thought about the NAACP1 "mass meetings" as they were called by black radio broadcasters
that seemingly were held weekly in the city to plan protest marches or boycotts to combat
unfair treatment of blacks.
I thought about nearly being run over by a white man who was apparently upset because I
was walking across the parking lot of my high school football stadium where a George
Wallace presidential campaign rally was being held.
I thought about at the age of 17 driving my granddad to his county commissioner's2 home
near Selma, Ala., pulling into the long driveway and watching my granddad walk all the
way to the back of the house because even in 1972, he understood the unspoken rule that
blacks did not go to the front door of a white person's home.
I thought about my single-parent mom working as a maid for most of her life, leaving her
home to clean other people's homes and wash their clothes just to feed her six children.
I thought about in the early years of my journalism career being sent to cover a city council
meeting and having to explain why I was there that I was a part of the news media.
I thought about all the wonderful opportunities that I have been afforded in my 53 years.
I thought about how blessed I've been to travel to nearly every state of the union and to
travel abroad. I thought about how far we have come, but how far we yet have to go.
But Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008, showed me that if you persevere3, anything is possible.
That things can change and will change if we would work together as one, believe in each
other and look beyond our differences. Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, said that it is our
differences that make us who we are and what we can be as a people and as a nation.
I didn't think about the war, job layoffs, the sinking economy, the high cost of gas or
the rising cost of food. None of that seemed to matter.
Instead, I thought about what a great time it is to be alive and living in America.
By Robert Robinson who is a deputy managing editor of Sports at USA TODAY.
1. NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
2. county commissioner - Bezirksbeauftragter
3. to persevere - durchhalten, aushalten
1. What does Mr Robinson mean by living 'in a George Wallace-governed Alabama?
2. What was it like for a black person traveling from Florida to Alabama by 1960?
3. The author writes about 'busing'. What was it supposed to achieve and did it finally succeed?
4. What do you know about protest marches and boycotts organized by the NAACP?
5. How has life eventually changed for Robert Robinson?
6. What was more important for Mr Robinson than the Iraq war or the rising cost of food when he leant that B. Obama became president-elect?
7. What or who do you think helped B. Obama become the first African-American president-elect of the Unites States?
Source: USA TODAY, Nov. 07, 2008
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