Ms. Gwen is promoting her new book and adapted this article from The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. I’m increasingly intrigued. Gwen – I hear you’re a fan of JJP. Go on and send us a copy and we’ll be happy to review it.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from her article over on WSJ (thanks to my friend Sarah for sending). I see it in my own family where I see opportunities where my mother sometimes sees limitation. And that’s because the segregated world she grew up in was shaped so differently – blacks of that generation and those before them could take nothing for granted and had to fight for everything, even the dubious privilege of being able to grab an ordinary sandwich at a lunch joint.

Those of us born in the 60s, 70s & 80s who are now adults grew up with a higher ceiling to crash, to be sure. We are different people in some ways from the generations behind us and while we are grateful that they opened doors for us, during the election of 2008, it became  readily apparent that the old civil rights guard would follow and not lead African-Americans through those very doors to full citizenship. It’s time for the old guard to start mentoring the new leaders who are emerging or get left in our wake. From Ifill’s article:

“I’d like Barack Obama to be president,” Mr. Young said, to a burst of applause from a small hometown audience in 2007. But then he added: “In 2016.” The applauders were caught up short. A few booed. At that point, Mr. Young was still supporting his old friend Hillary Clinton. Mr. Obama, he decided, wasn’t even close to ready. “It’s not a matter of being inexperienced,” Mr. Young said in a matter-of-fact tone. “It’s a matter of being young.”

What Mr. Young exposed that night in Atlanta was a rift between black politicians born in the 1930s and 1940s and those born in the 1960s and 1970s. “I had a hard time believing the Obama phenomenon,” he admitted a year later. The world view of the older politicians, many of them preachers like Mr. Young, was defined by limitation. They couldn’t eat at lunch counters. They couldn’t sit where they liked on buses or vote how and for whom they liked. They couldn’t attend the schools they preferred or aspire to the jobs they believed they were qualified to hold. Every time one of those barriers fell, it was power seized, not given. They marched, they preached, and they protested.

Their children, however, walked freely down the streets where their parents marched. Their schools were integrated, and Ivy League colleges came looking for them. They didn’t grow up with Jim Crow laws or lynching trials, and they lived in a world shaped by access instead of denial.

“The prior generation that they replaced defined their position, their mission, their program, in opposition to whites,” said Christopher Edley Jr., a former Carter and Clinton administration official. “And in that sense, the new generation defined their position, their vision, their program in a way that is — again that word we’re looking for; it’s not nonracial, it’s not postracial — supraracial.”

This newly expansive view is what Obama tapped into, treating his elders with careful respect, but lavishing his attention on a generation that sees race, but considers it a complement rather than a constraint.

I don’t really know exactly what “supraracial” means and I know for sure that while my race is certainly a complement — I’m proud of my heritage — it has also sometimes acted as a constraint that I’ve had to work around. Racism is still very much out there – a recent study showed that (many) white people are actually more racist than they think consciously. And I’m pretty sure that before he got all famous and beloved and what not that brother Barack has had trouble getting a cab. But it’s true — racism is less likely to be a destiny for the post-segregation generations than an inconvenience at times. Racism is so tired and annoying, ain’t it? So unfashionable, really. Not fresh at all.

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