I've been puzzled and a little worried about my reaction to Barack Obama's victory. I've seen black people weep openly, choke up in public, and exult in President-elect Obama's accomplishment, yet I've been sober and dry-eyed about it. Yes, I'm intellectually capable of acknowledging the historical and symbolic nature of his election but I'm not emotional about it. I understand why Jesse Jackson wept; he is a warrior of the civil rights movement who witnessed the murder of its spiritual leader. I understand why Condoleeza Rice nearly lost her composure while describing what his victory meant. She lived in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960's and her friend and playmate, Denise McNair, was one of the four girls murdered in 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. I understand why Juan Williams choked up on Fox News while trying to analyze the significance of Obama's victory. He is old enough to remember when the notion of a black man leading a mostly white nation was too incredible to fathom.
There are more irrational expressions of exuberance as well among younger people who somehow think their personal circumstances are going to change overnight because the occupant of the White House is black. There are others who believe incorrectly that his ascendancy to the Presidency means it's payback time. They have some growing up to do.
As I thought it through, however, I figured out why my emotions weren't stirred by this historic event. There are two reasons; the first is environmental, the second is spiritual. As I examine my upbringing as the child of an airman in the U.S. Air Force, I spent most of my life in integrated schools and neighborhoods, far removed from what other black children in America were experiencing. I grew up in a loving home and had all my needs and most of my wants met. Most importantly, my family made me feel special and worthwhile; I never had a moment where I felt devalued or unworthy.
The second and more important reason, however, is I've never believed being black was what primarily defined me and my perspective of the world around me. From the time I was a young boy, I found my validation in Jesus Christ. Even when I strayed from my faith for a time, I never felt inferior to anyone because I knew I was a child of God and "for in Him we live and move and have our being." He gives me dignity, purpose and confidence and I don't need society's approval or another man's achievement to know I'm valued. A thousand black presidents, potentates or kings will never equal the love and grace of the One who died for me because in His eyes, I was worth the sacrifice.