If only Martin Luther King could wake from the dead! And his faithful deputy, Ralph Abernathy. And Bayard Rustin, who organised the Great March on Washington in 1963 that roused American public opinion to push for an end to segregation. And the militant Stokley Carmichael who led the students, both black and white, to knock on every black door in the small towns and byways of the South to mobilise them to vote. And, not least, President Lyndon Johnson who, putting his own racist past behind him, used his formidable political energy to push through Congress both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
If only they could rise up now, what would they see? Would they believe that one Barack Hussein Obama, son of an African, educated as a small child in Indonesia where he was registered in school as a Muslim, and brought up later in Hawaii by his 100 per cent white, mainstream grandparents, could be today elected as president of the United States? The “dream” come true when, as Dr King prophesied, “every Negro in this country…. will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the colour of his skin.”
“It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy”, preached Dr King. And it is. Against all expectations, it has come to pass.
It is perhaps America’s greatest achievement since the Declaration of Independence, one that President George W Bush, for all his missteps and misplaced conservatism, must be honored for too. He put two blacks in charge of America’s national security, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, a tremendous step forward that helped pave the way for Obama.
The effect on the rest of the world will be stunning. No European nation, including Russia, that has a part-black national poet, Pushkin, is within sight of electing a man of colour as head of government, yet Europeans will be profoundly thankful that the America they began to hate can now again be admired, and even loved. Africa, needless to say, will be electrified. Asia will nod sagely, recalling that India, in modern times, has had a woman prime minister, a Muslim president and now a Sikh prime minister.
The middle east will rejoice…