Feature

Editor's Letter

Whatever else history has in store for us over the next four years, old definitions and categories will no longer apply.

When Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses back in January, I wrote in this space that the nation had passed a turning point: White voters were now capable of taking a black presidential candidate seriously, and of judging him solely on his ideas and the content of his character. I’ve wanted to take back that little spasm of naïveté more than once over the past 11 months, even as Obama rolled up primary victories and routinely filled football stadiums with 80,000 weeping admirers. Throughout the primaries and the general election, Barack Hussein Obama’s provenance became a recurring subtext, making him both a symbol of hope and a dangerous Other. Not so long ago, Obama’s chief Democratic rival argued that it was foolish for the party to nominate him, because “hardworking people, white people,” wouldn’t vote for him.

Hillary Clinton might have been right, had history or fate or fortune not conspired against that kind of cynicism. When the financial industry imploded in September and John McCain suddenly looked confused and erratic, working people in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Virginia took a second look at the Democrat. The dynamic young man they saw seemed so composed, so gifted with grace and intelligence—so comfortable in his skin—that his skin’s color no longer mattered much. And so the nation built partly through the sweat of slaves, that in my lifetime still outlawed the miscegenation that produced Barack Obama, has made a biracial man its president. Whatever else history has in store for us over the next four years, old definitions and categories will no longer apply; once-sharp divisions will begin to blur. Hope will get its test.

William Falk

Recommended

Why thousands of Haitians arrived in Texas on Mexican Independence Day
Haitian migrants at southern border
Haitian migrants

Why thousands of Haitians arrived in Texas on Mexican Independence Day

Taliban official says executions will return
A Taliban official in front of a flag.
today's taliban

Taliban official says executions will return

DHS says it 'is not and will not send' Haitian migrants to Guantanamo Bay
Haitian migrants at southern border
Haitian migrants

DHS says it 'is not and will not send' Haitian migrants to Guantanamo Bay

Kabul's holdover mayor says he finds Taliban 'more tolerant'
Taliban fighters.
afghanistan

Kabul's holdover mayor says he finds Taliban 'more tolerant'

Most Popular

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness
Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman
Last Night on Late Night

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness

Democrats are governing like Republicans
A donkey.
Picture of W. James Antle IIIW. James Antle III

Democrats are governing like Republicans

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?
Elizabeth Holmes and James Mattis.
Samuel Goldman

Did Theranos Lose Afghanistan?