I hesitate to attribute my success in middle-class America strictly to my character or intellect. I have to attribute a significant portion of it to my being a white man in a white man’s society enjoying white privilege.

I grew up in a diverse, middle class neighborhood. Both my parents worked hard, have college educations and raised my brothers and me with strong values and emphasized the importance of our own education. Growing up I didn’t face any particular societal challenges and moved through primary and secondary school with average success. My parents were able to send my brothers and me to college and now we each enjoy a comfortable living in professional careers. The opportunities afforded to me from the beginning came not only from the hard work of my parents (although it was substantial.) It also came from being male and being white.

Being a white man in our society afforded me with a set of unspoken privileges that I only recently came to consciously acknowledge. Until recently they were taken for granted. Not anymore.

The election of Barack Obama is significant. I understand this is an understandment. President Obama represents a different kind of hope and future to me than it does to a black man. The pride I feel for America in electing a black president is still coursing through me. I literally still get chills when I see his beaming smile and intelligent eyes glossing the cover of a magazine.

For me, the hope for a better future was grounded in the belief that this man shares my values and will represent to the world my generation and the future generations of my children better than any other person.

What I can’t imagine is what this moment must feel like for a black man. A man for whom the road might not have been so smooth. A man who had to work harder and prove himself more just because of the color of his skin. My hope is that for this man’s children the road ahead is paved a bit smoother by the bravery of past generations and the symbol of hope and opportunity for which President Obama stands.

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