For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.
~~Michelle Obama

We are on the precipice of electing the least-qualified and, based on experience and resume, the most unlikely president in the 220-year history of the United States. Barack Obama is a man about whom we know almost nothing--but upon whom we find it easy to project our most optimistic collective aspirations. He is part philosopher king and part American Idol.

The most important element in the Obama fairytale?

Race. Yes. He is handsome. He is tall. He is a mesmerizer. He is a good family man. He is evidently extraordinarily virtuous. But let us be honest. We are about to elect this darkest of dark horses not in spite of his race--but because of it.

For a whole host of white folks in America (many of whom are conservative) Obama personifies racial reconciliation. To be even more precise, for many, he represents a form of racial redemption, even reparation. If we as a people can elect a person of color to the highest, most cherished, and most respected office in the land, we finally fulfill, in a demonstrably practical way, our national creed: all men created equal.

In a way, I agree with Michelle Obama that this is a generation of Americans of whom we should be rightfully proud; they desperately want to bury the ghosts of the past. However, this fact should come as no surprise to any fair-minded observer; this collective desire for racial salvation has been a long time coming, and the manifestations of this "hunger" have been all around us for decades.

An Aside: Americans are a good people on so many levels. Some other time we can discuss the basic goodness of America at length. In short, I am slightly offended and greatly saddened by Michelle Obama's facile declaration.

What is our racial future?

Historian Joseph Ellis recently asserted with some judgmental sadness that the founders, for all their glorious vision, could not imagine a biracial society. In truth, history has not proven them wrong. They thought the transition from a slave culture to a racially harmonious society impossible. For the most part, they believed (see Jefferson for the most famous example of this thinking) that African Americans could never forgive white America for "thousands of provocations" during the long dark period of violent subjugation. Jefferson feared black-on-white reprisals and a "race war." Even more importantly, Jefferson and his generation could not foresee a day in which whites ever fully accepted blacks as equal citizens. Jefferson (and later Lincoln) predicted a humiliating and ultimately unsatisfactory second-class citizenship status in a white-controlled world for the sons and grandsons of freed slaves.

Were they wrong? How long after emancipation did white America hold back full citizenship from black America? Has black America forgiven white America for the injustices of the past?

Michelle Obama's comments betray this remaining fissure in the American family. While a huge segment (perhaps a vast majority) of white America desires a new day of racial equality and common cause, too many black opinion makers continue to dwell on the inequities of the recent past. Barack Obama's decision to embrace the black side of his inheritance and virtually ignore the white family that raised him is also significant. Of course, it is important to note, as many commentators have done already, that persons with "black blood," historically, have not had the luxury of choosing which race to embrace.

On the other hand, what the founders may not have considered, and what Barack Obama seems to personify (if not always articulate), is the future of America as a multi-racial and mixed-race society rather than a bi-racial one.