It just occurred to me this morning that any American who was ten years old in 2008 will be 18 when President Obama leaves office. The only President they will have really known will be an African American President. That is astounding.
Even though Barack Obama has been our President for four years, I still sometimes pause and think about the historical significance of that. That we have our first African American President still seems unbelievable to me after so many decades of institutionalized racism, brutal racial conflict, divisive segregation, pernicious stereotyping, etc. My eyes still get misty when I pause and think about all the ugly past that America had to "shake off" to be able to elect Barack Obama. But in 2016, when Obama's eight years as President comes to an end and those ten year-old children turn 18, their view of an African American President will be something along the lines of "meh".
I imagine the difference in perception between that generation and us older Americans will be similar to the difference between those who can remember when baseball and other sports were segregated and those of us who can't. When I started watching baseball in the late sixties and early seventies it was already integrated and although I was aware of the struggles of African Americans to break through the color barrier, for me that was something to read about in history books. The idea of segregated baseball in the seventies seemed laughably absurd to me. Not having lived through that struggle, I could not fully appreciate it.
And so in 2016, for those 18 year-old young adults and for others close to that age, the idea that an African American can't be elected President will seem absurd. The idea that race would disqualify a candidate will be laughable. Those will be worn-out ideas contained in history books. And what a wonderful thing that will be! That having an African American President will - for that generation and all generations that follow - be normal, is an astoundingly, unexpectedly, wonderful change in American society. I am so incredibly thankful to be living through this transformative era. We will never be the same again.