Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New Stirrings in the South

Our guest contributor, Donald Shriver, is president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. His latest book is Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds.

Elections bring blends of hopes and fears. News to my Yankee friends: my hope for the USA is pinned right now on African American voters, who voted over 90% for Obama in North Carolina and Indiana yesterday.

But even more hopeful for me as a native of Virginia is the fact that in its Democratic Primary a majority of white men voted for Obama. That for me is a very good sign that Obama might in fact lift up this country toward a post-racist future. That he swept the under-44 age groups in both North Carolina and Indiana suggests as much.

During all my adult years in the South, as a Democrat and as a Christian, when an election approached, I checked with my black friends to see which candidate, in their judgment, was the better. Like the criterion, "Is it good for the Jews?", we southerners needed to ask, "Is it good for the blacks?" In Obama, I believe, we have a candidate who will be good for us all.

North Carolina is the state that sent Jesse Helms and Terry Sanford simultaneously to the US Senate. Puzzle on that if you want, but know that things are stirring down South, and the new brew tastes good to me.

Raised in the first 18 of my years in Virginia, having lived for 17 subsequent years in North Carolina, and now having lived 33 years in New York City, I carry in my mind the need of this country to get over its North-South division but not in superficial terms like, 'Let bygones be bygones.' Avoiding that superficiality is the message of my recent book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds.

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