Essay / Culture

The Color Line Through This Century

1908 la times negro colony piece Even though it’s a big political week and I’ve been consuming much more news and political analysis than is healthy, I happened to be thinking about something else on Monday. I was browsing century-old Los Angeles Times stories for a project, and found this intriguing little report on an incident of racial unrest in L.A. in January 1908.

The scenario is a bit complex, and it’s hard to tell if the hired guard is legitimate and what the cop was doing when, but the tone of the time emerges clearly: “threats were made… disgusting remarks concerning the race… it has been the fear of the white residents that a regular negro colony might be founded there… his cottage was wrecked… the neighbors deny having had anything to do with the wrecking, but announce they are well pleased with it.” I know I don’t have to go back 100 years to find this stuff, but it’s where I happened to be reading.

Turning from that clipping to today’s headlines, you can’t avoid the stark symbolic meaning of a black president. Especially now that it’s a done deal, I can turn my attention for a moment from Obama’s unconscionably pro-abortion ideology, I can pause for a moment in wondering about his actual economic plans of action, and I can put off my apprehensiveness about his ability to withstand the gravitational pull of the Pelosi congress. President-elect Obama has asked for, and been given by the American people, a job with many more responsibilities than just representing the hopes and dreams of African-Americans. But as he shoulders the dignity and burden of the presidency, he does it as who he is. That’s not identity politics. It’s another milestone on the American road Lincoln called us back to sevenscore and five years ago.

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