Barack Obama's Second Term: The Chutzpah to say Civil Rights

A Black Civil Rights Activist.

A White American Idol.

A Gay Latino Poet.

And Beyonce.

A short time ago, this would have been the setup to a joke.  They walked into a bar.  The bartender would ask who was paying.  Everyone would say in unison, “Blue Ivy!”  The crowd would erupt in laughter.   The notion of these different types of people being together under any circumstance was restricted to Hollywood, our imaginations, and bad jokes around the dinner table.

two terms

Yet, as I viewed the events around the second Inauguration for President Barack Obama, I could not help but think that his ability to exalt and promote the true diversity of America would be his true legacy.  Beyond his rhetoric, no one can deny his intentional efforts to insure that the faces looking down on the crowd on the National Mall (and within his administration) were as diverse as the faces looking up at him (and of those he represents).   Further, no one can deny that his speech prioritized civil rights in a far more sweeping manner than many are comfortable perceiving it (as he included mentions of gay rights, immigration, and those in poverty).  His message was clear:   An America that accepts a permanent second class system for anyone will never be the America that our forefathers envisioned or that our ancestors dreamed it could become.

Yet, as poetic as it sounded and as warm as it made me feel on the inside, I couldn’t help but think of a quote I had heard once upon a time:

“People seldom walk bravely through the doors of change, they are often dragged through it, kicking and screaming.”

As a newly reelected Democratic President who just reaffirmed his fervor for civil rights amid a deeply divided Congress, I am uncertain whether to temper my expectations for the President or to make up “Fight the Power 2.0” t-shirts for myself and my rainbow coalition of comrades.  Whether his intentions will come to fruition is yet to be seen.  However - true equality for all - to say it, to hope for it, and to strive for it is no small feat and it takes Chutzpah for the person willing to walk the path towards it.  It's been far too long since someone has done that.

Regardless of whether he is fully successful or not, I believe that his most powerful gift to us (as a nation) is that he has replanted a seed.  Whether it takes root is now up to us.

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    Kay S

    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at kaywillsmith@gmail.com.

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