In The Souls of Black Folks, published in 1903, W.E. B. Du Bois, an African American author/educator, prophetically declared that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line. More than 100 years later, the problem of the color line continues to fester.
The lynchings of innocent black people and the bombings of black churches are distant memories, as is the government-supported separate water fountains, movie theatres, churches and schools. And for many years the dream was deferred for brilliant black students – some of whom might have discovered a cure for cancer – because many of Americaâ€™s colleges and universities automatically denied them admittance, and thus the opportunity to strive to be the best that they could be.
Such memories remain strong, especially among black Americans whose relatives were sent to early graves and who still carry emotional and psychological scars because of the way we were as a nation when we championed slavery and supported racial segregation. Much of white America, however, seems ill-prepared or unwilling to confront the racially-tinged sins of its past. Some talk show pundits tell us that though Barack Obama did the country a great service by seizing the time on the issue of race in his recent speech, his words wonâ€™t change the hearts or minds of those â€“ as MSNBCâ€™s Joe Scarborough said Wednesday, who live in â€œtrailer parksâ€ and wonder why Obama continued to listen to controversial sermons delivered by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obamaâ€™s former pastor.
Far right conservative pundits in search of any excuse to oppose Obamaâ€™s audacity to seek the presidency will use Rev. Wrightâ€™s sermons to sully Obamaâ€™s image and derail his candidacy. Seeking any opening available, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obamaâ€™s rival for the Democratic Partyâ€™s nomination, said Tuesday that she would have left the church. Earlier, her husband offered a more troubling solution: why bother with the issue of race at all. Former president Bill Clinton said last week that the American people would prefer to see two patriots, his wife, of course, and Republican Party nominee John McClain vie for his old job to avoid ancillary issues such as race and religion.
With that said, the Clintons surely cannot be called the candidates of change. Nothing seems more important to them right now than snuffing out that movement for change, led by Obama, that has brought millions of new voters to the Democratic Party.
Two things are certain: If the Clintons become the nominee(s), the surge for dramatic change in America surely will die, and, of course, the problem of the color line will fester more than a bit longer.