Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Conversation That Would Have Been ...

I thought about Dave yesterday.

On the night of November 4, 2008, we watched the returns together. Unlike in elections past, the call, you'll remember, came early in the evening: Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States.

And Dave and I both began to cry, tears of relief and tears of joy.

For me, Obama's election represented the end to a painful past as well as a sense of hope for the future.

And it represented that to Dave, too. But for him, that moment meant more than I will ever be able to understand because I am not a black man.

Dave was many things: "Brilliant in baffling ways – he knew every fact about every movie ever made; how did he do that? – compassionate, funny, and fiercely loyal," I wrote about him the day he died.

Dave was also black, a fact many of my friends didn't know until after his death. I love that his race never came up in other conversations. Dave wasn't my black friend in L.A. Dave was simply my friend in L.A.

And that night, November 4, 2008, my friend was proud. That night, he was a proud black man. He went for a walk after the election had been called and reported later that walking down the street, he felt different. That night, he wrote, he walked a little taller.

The next day, he wrote on his blog, in part: "Let's remember this feeling and allow it to sustain us in the coming months and years - because we're going to need it. But for now, even if just for a bit, let us also celebrate what has been accomplished and what this means in the tapestry of our history."

Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009.

Dave died two weeks later.

But on the day of Obama's inauguration, Dave published a post titled, simply, "Mr. President." It contains Obama's official portrait, and these words: "Now let's get to work."

Dave would have been enormously proud of Obama's first two years in office.

But yesterday, I thought about what our conversation would have been, and I thought that he would have been crestfallen. He would have understood why Obama felt the need to do what he did, but as an American and a supporter and a black man, I think he would have been outraged, too.

I miss my friend every day. But yesterday, for a moment, I was glad that he was gone, glad that he was spared having to witness the ridiculous outcome of a ridiculous non-story that had been fanned into a conflagration of epic conspiratorial proportions.

He was a political scientist, academically though not professionally. Professionally, he was a journalist. And that combination allowed him to thoroughly view and analyze the world and its machinations.

But yesterday was not about politics, at its core. Yesterday was an ugly reminder that equality still has a long, long way to go, that a black man can achieve the most powerful position in the world but will continue to be judged not by the content of his character but by the color of his skin, to paraphrase Dr. King.

One day, and for all who are so judged, may it no longer be a dream.

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