The Common Good

Post-racial? No, Not Yet -- So Let's Get to Work

I shed tears last night as I stood with thousands in Chicago's Grant Park cheering our new President-elect Obama, contrasting that with crowds' hatred and bigotry I experiences more than 40 years ago marching in Chicago behind King and Mahalia Jackson. But last week I heard angry, shouting, hate-filled voices phoning the Obama national call center. Post-racial? No, not yet; racism and bigotry are still alive. We gloss over remaining racial attitudes with peril. But we now have opportunity to move beyond bigotry, with the younger generation leading the way.

The mantle of leadership has now passed from the giants of my time to a younger generation. They will use different tools, different ways, different words, but the core values of faith, justice, and community are still there. Hopefully we can move from self-centered me-ism into a new and exciting focus on community and what's good for us all.

Obama's campaign offices estimate that more than 10 million people were involved, many first-timers, making calls, going door to door, giving donations of $5 and $10 at a time: Seniors who donated $5 and made phone calls. Young people who took semesters off, time out of jobs to concentrate on the grassroots campaign. Middle-aged people who manned phone lines, made calls, housed volunteers, went door to door. We now have a participation bonus that can be encouraged and built on to tackle the challenges of our communities, of people left out, of the environment of peace. Let's get to work.

Mary NelsonMary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.

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