Colin Powell's endorsement today of Barack Obama marks a new stage in the ongoing development of this experiment in democracy known as the United States of America.
Powell came out of the Civil Rights generation, even though, as a Republican and high army officer, he could not so be said to be of it. He neither marched nor agitated, and the reason for his nonfeasance was not generational, as it was with Obama -- who was born after the early years of the movement -- but it was rather of choice and culture.
Powell was the child of immigrants from the Caribbean island of Jamaica and, as was true of many first and second generationers from that part of the world, grew up with an inculcation of racial views that were fundamentally different from those of most native-born blacks with roots in the American South.
He was in many ways unimpeded by some of the pyschic baggage that harmed and killed others of darker hue. This explains his seemingly easy rise up the ladder of the conservative establishment, even as he maintained fair bonds with brothers who rose along the more traveled route, that is, of the Democratic Party and liberal activism.
Alexis de Toqueville, the French scholar who visited America in the 1800s and declared that the race problem of this country was likely to remain unsolvable, would perhaps be stunned at the national political developments of the past year.
Colin Powell has joined with Barack Obama to take it to the next level.
Obama is all but being declared the next American President; and while this premature excitement surely overlooks the genius of Karl Rove and his partners in crime, it speaks endless reams about the complexity of the race question as it's been defined till now in the U.S.A.
Obama, like Powell a second generation black immigrant (Obama's father is from Kenya), is the dawning of a new age of black and white. He is in many ways an encapsulation of it. And while Powell has never been called "The One" by Oprah Winfrey, he nevertheless can be said to have foreshadowed Obama, and how one's parents -- and one's demography -- are determinants of character.
Powell, in making his endorsement of Obama during an interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw, called Obama's candidacy, and its incredible political successes, nothing less than transformative.
But Powell did not acknowledge that he, too, in his own way, was transformative.