This story was written by Shay Maunz, The Daily Athenaeum
On the heels of the historic 2008 presidential election, Leonard Pitts, a syndicated columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, visited West Virginia University to speak about the publics reaction to President-elect Barack Obamas victory.He spoke to a nearly full auditorium in 202 Brooks Hall about the role of race on the road to the White House and the impact that Obamas success will have on the United States.Of course it is not immaterial that a black man has taken the presidency; on the contrary, it is breathtaking and paradigm shaking, Pitts said. The issue is not that they see him or me as a black man it is that they only see him as a black man.He added that it is impossible to examine Obamas candidacy without taking his race into consideration, and that a white voter was not racist for choosing Sen. McCain over Obama, just as a black voter was not racist for choosing Obama.Pitts only took issue with an individuals choice when their vote was solely aimed at keeping an individual of another race out of the White House.Obama has often been cited as the affirmative action candidate.To counter claims that the color of Obamas skin actually helped him during the election, Pitts argued that white men have enjoyed political advantages for centuries.If affirmative action is defined as giving preferential treatment based on race and gender, who has benefitted more from it than the white male? he said.Pitts stressed that Americans should not be too swift to congratulate the nation for the progress that Obamas election signifies.People of all races need to realize that we have both come very far and have a long way to go, Pitts said. Each threshold we cross comes with its potential problems and also potential greatness.Still, Pitts was undeniably celebratory at this milestone for the African American community.His attitude echoed the sentiments of a community of people concerned with civil rights in America today.Ive lived a long time, and Ive always known America is a place where anything can happen. I just didnt know I would live to see it, said Marjorie Fuller, director of the Center for Black Culture and Research at WVU.Fuller has supported Obama since she heard him speak as a young senator in Illinois. She hopes that he will cross racial lines, if not partisan ones, to equalize the U.S. citizens of all races.He is not an African American President. He is a president who happens to be African American, Fuller said.