Today's post is from Sherrilyn Ifill, author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century. Ifill is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. She is also a civil rights lawyer and a regular speaker on race, public policy, and law. She blogs regularly at BlackProf.com, where a version of this post originally appeared.
Sometimes, you just can't be cynical. Sometimes – even though you know that we still have a long way to go, that the work of achieving a racially just society is far from over, even though you don't subscribe to the messianic fervor that sometimes surrounds talk of about this presidential campaign – sometimes you just have to stop for a moment, and acknowledge the extraordinariness of this moment in American history.
Sometimes, as the old spiritual goes, "my soul looks back and wonders, how I got over." And so I'm taking a moment to reflect on an event that I wished my father had lived to see. I've watched conventions since 1968. I consider myself politically savvy, intellectually gifted, skeptical and pragmatic. But when Michelle Obama and her daughters were standing up on that stage with fresh perms, looking like my sister and her daughters, and when Barack Obama was nominated to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party by acclamation Wednesday night, I got a little emotional.
Unlike so many others, I'm not thinking so much about 1963 and King's "I Have a Dream" speech today. Instead, today I'm thinking about 1964. Forty-four years ago, the Democratic Party refused to seat that great voting rights activist, leader and former sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer on the floor of the convention.