This story was written by Jake Meador, Daily Nebraskan
It started with tears of indescribable and heart-wrenching hurt. Forty years and seven months later, it ended with tears of indescribable joy. That's how election night was for Jesse Jackson. Jackson, the much-maligned civil rights leader, had no words after Barack Obama's historic victory Tuesday night.
But he had tears.
These tears came from the same eyes that wept following the death of Martin Luther King in April of 1968. Jackson was present at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when the tireless civil rights activist and courageous American hero was gunned down.
He saw the lifeless body of his friend and mentor crumple to the ground as the bullet exploded through his neck, spraying blood onto the hotel walls and floor of the balcony.
Like King, Jackson has alsobeen the target of countless attacks. But on this night, Nov. 4, 2008 -- exactly 40 years and seven months after King's murder -- he witnessed a black man become president.
It is a beautiful and remarkable event Jackson witnessed and a sign that great progress has been made in advancing the cause of the African-American community.
Sadly, there are still abundant signs that white people possess vestiges of the same old attitudes that King fought 40 years ago.
Consider this: Many (white) voters are bemoaning the fact that 95 percent of black people supported Obama, complaining that such a decision is racist,saying, "If I voted for McCain solely because he was white, that'd be racist, too."
Such statements are profoundly insensitive and historically ignorant in ways that boggle the mind.
The African-American population in the United States has suffered to a degree unimaginable to a typical white voter.
Their ancestors were abducted and taken from their homeland by greedy white merchants with no respect whatsoever for human dignity. They were poked, prodded and sold at markets as chattel.
They were worked like animals on plantations and in homes while being degraded in every imaginable way.
After the Civil War, racist Southerners continued to find ways to propagate their appalling and demonic system by setting up "share cropping," a very clever way to work around the emancipation of the slaves. It was still essentially slavery.
They lynched thousands of black men and women, traumatized millions of black children and taught an entire ethnic group to see themselves as inferior.
When the 1950sandthe Civil Rights movement came,countless white Southerners (most of whom confessed to be Christian, even though their actions were nothing short of blasphemous) set up deals with area police to allow them to beat black activists --activists whose only crime was trying to help all people understand that African-Americans were human beings with inalienable rights.
In the 1960s, these same white people murdered Dr. King as well as countless other activists.
The legacy continues in much of the South today, as well as in racist pieces of legislation like the recently approved Initiative 424.
So forgive me, typical white voter, when I laugh at pathetic statements likening your theoretical act of supporting a white candidate based on race to what many African-Americans did on Tuesday.
Were your ancestors shipped over here against their will in filthy cargo holds and forced to stand in piles of shit and vomit for the duration of their journey?
Were your ancestors sold into a life of beatings and rape at markets?
Were your ancestors victimized by systemic injustices in which the keepers of the law became the oppressors?
Were your ancestors leaders murdered without cause?
Have you ever been the victim of hateful words or actions based upon your skin-tone?
No? Then please stop suggesting that the actions of black voters on Tuesday were racist in nature. They were neither racist nor ignorant. Rather, they were the natural product of 400 years of oppression and marginalization.
Put simply, their votes were the product of endless tears shed over the past 400 years. And when their voices finally prevailed Tuesday night, they also became the cause of tears.
But, like Jackson's, they were no longer tears of grief and deep hurt. They were the tears wept only by those who have known that hurt, conquered it and come out victorious on the other side.