A few months back I was standing in line for coffee at the Mad City Coffee stand in the main lobby of the Howard County General Hospital. In front of me in line was an African American male who appeared to be in his late sixties or early seventies. Unprompted, he turned to me and asked “So who do you think is going to be our next president?”
“If I were a betting man I’d put my money on Barak Obama,” I replied.
“Never gonna happen,” he shot back.
I think about that response quite a bit these days. Keep in mind that this coffee line conversation occurred before the Iowa caucuses. Obamamania had not yet taken off. To this gentleman, the notion that our nation could embrace an African American as president was just too farfetched.
I initially believed that this was a generational thing. His generation had experienced the hard edge of race relations and discrimination for too long. His cynicism was well entrenched. My generation, though not that far behind him, grew up a bit more enlightened in this area, particularly in Columbia. For me, an African American president is very conceivable.
Columbia has always been a little ahead of the national curve in this regard. My first realization of this came when I went away to college in Cleveland. The campus was primarily white with very few minority students. It was a bit of a culture shock for a kid raised in Columbia. Today, John Carroll University is much more diverse than it was in 1973.
While we may live in an area that is progressive in race relations we are behind the times in how our primaries work. Maryland is a closed primary state meaning that participation in the primaries is largely limited to registered voters of the two parties. As a registered independent the only vote I can cast in the election on Tuesday is for the school board. It is time for Maryland to get with the program and open up its primaries to independents.