Technicolor

Even if you don't like Barack Obama, I think you should be happy that the country has, with really very little fuss, nominated a black man with a very good shot at the presidency. (I didn't support Clinton, but I would have been glad to know that we could nominate a woman--not that I'm saying this is the reason we didn't nominate her.) Ezra Klein puts it rather better:

Towards the end of the 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Dr. John Wane Prentice, played by Sydney Poitier, sits down with his fiance's white father, played by Spencer Tracy. "Have you given any thought to the problems your children will have?" Tracy asks. "Yes, and they'll have some...[But] Joey feels that all of our children will be President of the United States," replies Poitier. "How do you feel about that?" asks Tracy, looking skeptically at the black man in front of him. "I'd settle for Secretary of State," Poitier laughs.

Written in the late-1960s, the exchange was, indeed, laughable. The Civil Rights Act had been passed three years prior. Two years before, the Watts riots had broken out, killing 35. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated a year later. But here we are, almost exactly 40 years after theatergoers heard that exchange. The last two Secretaries of State were African-American and, as of tonight, the next president may well be a black man. John Prentice's children would probably still be in their late-30s. They could still grow up to be cabinet officials or even presidents, but they would not necessarily be trailblazers.

I think we're still, though perhaps asymptotically, moving towards a time when worrying about someone's race will seem almost charmingly quaint, like debating how many petticoats a decent woman wears to church. Until then, it's a happy improvement that people seriously wonder whether Obama's race gave him an unfair advantage in many quarters.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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