Change Has Come, for Most People

Jan. 20, 2009

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Our housekeeper arrived early this morning, beaming, bearing gifts for my wife and me. Two brightly colored T-shirts with big pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, the words “I Have a Dream” emblazoned across the front. We hugged, and I wore it all day with pride and joy.

I took a walk on the beach before watching the Inauguration ceremonies with friends. Passing joggers raised fists, calling out, “Like your shirt!”

Then I met a neighbor who stopped to say hello. He looked at my shirt and blurted out, “Hey, you got more niggers on your shirt than we have in Mississippi.” Stunned, a moment passed while I decided — punch him in the mouth, or walk away in silence; which he will translate accurately? I concluded, after wondering, “What would Barack Obama counsel here, now?” to turn and walk away.

The vibes all day were palpable — remarkably happy, here and everywhere. But for some people, fewer than when I stood at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous, prescient words in 1963, change comes painfully slow; for some, perhaps not at all.


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