99.9 percent of the time, “making history” is bullshit.

A team wins the World Series—an event that takes place annually—and it “makes history.”

Someone climbs a very large mountain, and he “makes history.”

Entertainment Tonight launches HD programing, and it “makes history.”

Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Tonight, history is actually made. The first African-American major presidential candidate. Amazing. Truly, truly amazing. I grew up in a town where—20 years ago—this idea would have been laughed at. Forget the two crosses burning in my friend’s front yard or the casualness with which many of my classmates used the n-word. Forget the neighbor who once complained of “all the city people” moving into our area. What we had back then was a far-reaching and highly addictive mistrust of black people. They were the ones from the city; the ones of welfare; the ones who stole; the ones who wanted to sleep with our women; the ones who just weren’t as smart … as hard working … as decent. That was the attitude of many people I knew, who—based on ignorance, I believe, not true hatred—refused to open their minds and hearts to black Americans. When I was a kid, I had a huuuuge crush on Whitney Houston (pre-Bobby days), and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “She’s pretty good looking—for a black girl.” Again, not mean-spirited. Just naive and sheltered.

So tonight, the idea that my old neighbors and friends will be watching Barack Obama accept the nomination—and that some of them might even vote for him—brings me much joy. 

People tend to say of others, “Oh, he’ll never change” or “She’ll never change,” and it’s pure, 100 percent garbage. People do change—with exposure and experience. It happened with African-Americans, and it’s in the process of happening with gay Americans. Hatred is powerful and strong, but it’s not omnipotent.

In the end, I believe what we strive for, sometimes in spite of ourselves, is unity.