Omnivore - Of racism, food, memory and Obama's victory

I spent 2.5 hours waiting to vote yesterday. I was surprised to see that my Grant Park polling place was selling an assortment of processed junk food and soft drinks Although, I saw nobody buying the stuff, I was glad to know that if my blood sugar fell during the wait, help was nearby.

I voted for Obama – surprise! — and seeing a black man actually win the presidency has been extremely moving to me. I'm old enough that I remember segregation, which endured long after the Civil Rights Act's adoption, in many areas of the country.

I spent my first five years out of undergrad working for newspapers in rural Georgia. Yesterday, seeing the spread of junk food at the polls and watching Obama win so definitively, caused me to flash back to those years in the sticks and recall how the ritual of dining was central then, and now, to our political life. I remember, time and again, dining with ordinary people who spouted racism as if it were a common value among all white people. And, of course, all public dining was segregated. Dining itself, so much an expression of community, was strictly controlled by the protocols of racism.

I remember, for example, that I frequently had to cover the weekly Rotary Club meeting, where lunch, prepared by black women, was usually followed by a talk by a politician. I'm not sure why, but I always recall the moment when lunch was being finished. Conversation died away and the introduction of the speaker began. Cigars and cigarettes were lit as the small-town white power brokers prepared to have their asses licked. There were smiles all around and the occasional clinking of a fork on a dessert plate.

Besides the cooks and service staff, there was not a black face in the room and it was not unusual — not remotely so — to hear a speaker prattle about states' rights, private property rights, the value of private education and many other euphemisms for continuation of a racist society. During these speeches I often watched the black women cleaning up the dining room. Their faces did not betray any emotion....

(This post is excerpted from a much longer post on my personal blog. Click here to read the entire post.)

(Photo from BarackObama.com.)