Forty years ago, my family was getting to know my new sister, five days old and the center of attention. Forty years ago, I was in kindergarten at Catholic school, miserable and alone, the only black child in a class of children and teachers who wanted nothing to do with black kids. Forty years ago I was discovering that books were friends, saviors. I could disappear into one at recess and not have to deal with the parroted-from-their-parents slurs my classmates flung at me. Forty years ago, I was too young for assassination news to mean anything to me. I have a hazy memory of my mother crying, but that’s all.
And now it’s forty years later. It’s today. It’s 2008, and there’s the utter surprise of a black man as a serious contender for the presidency of these United States. My students never really got why that’s such a big deal. And sometimes even I don’t get it. But then I do. Forty years gone.
(The lyric up top — my poetic posting for the night — is from Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up,” one of my favorites.)