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What Reagan’s legacy is for me

A sixteen-, maybe seventeen-year-old me was cruising around Plymouth, Michigan one Saturday afternoon.  I have no idea why, or if I even had a reason other than experiencing the joy of having my own car to drive at such an age and just seeing where the roads my parents would drive past but never turn off on actually went.

All I remember about that day was what came on the car’s radio.  It was a message from the president of the United States… to me.

Probably it went down in history as just another weekly radio address, but to be it was profound.

President Reagan spoke of a dark aspect of our nation’s history, that of racism. And his message to my generation — to me — was simply: see it out of existence.  Banish it from the thought patterns of this nation.  Live the colorblind society that Martin Luther King dreamed of.

It was all I could do not to literally verbalize a “yes, sir!” at the radio, so meaningful was his call to me.  It was the first time I felt actually addressed as an independent person with a say, or at least future say, in the course of this nation.

Looking back, nearly twenty-five years later, I’m a bit heartbroken to see that in many ways we as a nation seem more obsessed with race than ever. An entire industry exists to combat this mystical advantage that having a paler shade of skin supposedly grants people.

And as hard as I try to hold up my end of the bargain it all seems so hopeless at times. One of my greatest fears is that someday we will get pushed too hard and that there will be a backlash against affirmative action and everything that derives from it, of a kind that will end very poorly.

But I still cling to hope, that somehow — I honestly don’t have any idea how — we can find a way to back down from this national obsession without things swinging back the other way again.  In my life it is only halftime, if that, and there remains much time to see President Reagan’s orders through.

We can still win this one, for the Gipper.

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