Live

Watch CBSN Live

Column: Obama's Nomination Shouldn't Give False Hope U.S. Free Of Racial Division

This story was written by Ben Rowley, Daily Mississippian


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is perhaps the most well-known civil rights activist in history. Dr. King and his march on Washington descended on U.S.'s capital on August 28, 1963.

Here he delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

In it he said, "The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

"They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."

The ascendancy of blacks to civil and political prominence has been a long journey.

The imminent nomination of Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic party's presidential nominee should not be mistaken as the culmination of this journey.

Obama's nomination should not give us a false sense of hope that we have arrived in an America free of racial division.

Instead, Obama's nomination should be viewed as a sign that racial divisions are receding and should be counted as a great victory for blacks.

A major American political party is on the verge of nominating the son of a Kenyan immigrant father and a Caucasian mother from Kansas.

The struggle to close the racial divide has been perpetuated by the blood, sweat and tears of whites and blacks alike.

Blacks have paid the highest price in their struggle to achieve social, civil and political equality; however, as noted by Dr. King, white Americans have often fought alongside black Americans.

To illustrate this claim, one need look no further than Neshoba County, Miss, where the infamous 1964 civil rights murders of three activists included one black male and two white males who were investigating the burning of a black church.

Dr. King understood a very important fact: "brother" does not denote color.

The rise of Obama to presidential nominee is a great achievement; however, limiting the observance of this achievement to only black Americans detracts from the true significance of this event.

We as individual races do not walk alone. Our existences are intertwined.

Just as Bill Clinton could not have been elected without the support of blacks, Obama could not have secured his party's nomination without the support of white voters, and while this event marks a victory for blacks, it also marks a great step forward for the U.S. regardless of political allegiance.

A June 4 CBS News Poll showed 77 percent of registered voters nationwide said race was not an issue in their choice.

The fact that 77 percent of voters feel that race is a non-issue shows that Dr. King's belief is finally being realized.

People understand our destinies are not only linked but are the same. There can be no black destiny, no white destiny - only our destiny.

The first black presidential nominee could only attain such a notable position in an America that had made great strides since the tumultuous 1960s.

These strides were not limited to the black community - although I hate making that distinction. The American community made great strides as well.

It is not the appearance of color but the connotations of color that are the enemy to progress on the racial front, and 77 percent of Americans say race is a non-issue. Isn't that the goal: for race to be a non-issue?

Given the history of the University of Mississippi, its progress in race relations and its strong desire for equality and diversity, it is only fittin that Obama will arrive on the Ole Miss campus this fall - the same campus James Meredith integrated on Oct. 1, 1962 - to debate the Republican presidential nominee on topics pertinent to the future of our nation.

The quest for not just blacks, but for all Americans, for social, civil and political equality will take its next step forward from our campus.

View CBS News In