Someday, Bill Finlator used to tell me, it will happen. Maybe not in my lifetime, he said, but in yours. It may not seem like it will, but when it does, what a day that will be. Brother Bill departed this Earth in 2006, after a life in faith of 93 years, 26 of them as pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, where he dunked me in the baptismal font when I was 13.
But about that day of which he spoke. It happened two days ago, when Barack Obama, a man of color, was elected president of the United States. It was something I really didn't think would happen while I walked the planet, but as he was about so many things, Finlator was right. And in some ways, he and others like him, who dared to fight the good fight for racial equality at a time when putting on those gloves would get you jeered or ostracized or beaten up or arrested, had something to do with it.
He more than most. Time and again over the years of his ministry and for long years thereafter, he stood out front, morally outraged by the injustice before him. He led marches. He stood in vigils. And when he saw the wrong of racial discrimination, as he did again and again, he spoke. When a church denied entrance to black worshippers, he cried from the pulpit. When Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, his church overflowed with people who wanted to hear his message. He was profound and passionate that day.
Race was the defining issue of his time, and remains for many people the defining issue of our time.
But on Tuesday, a step was taken. A hill was climbed. The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya will be president of the United States. President of all the people.
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