richardmcculloch2web.gif“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.’’
–Robert Frost

I have always appreciated these lines from Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It is the culminating stanza of a lyrical piece in which a traveler stops in mid-journey to take in the serenity of a wooded area as it is blanketed with downy flakes of snow.

Despite the placid feelings of tranquility that transfix the traveler as he admires this wooded winter wonderland, he reminds himself in the final verse that he must press on as he has miles to go before he sleeps.

As we all rest in the wake of arguably this country’s most historic presidential election, and breathe collective sighs of relief as we finally pump reasonably priced gallons of gas, we would do well to heed the sentiments of Frost.

The African-American community has witnessed political progress at the highest level, and much like Frost’s traveler, we stand with our eyes wide open admiring the beauty of progress as it blankets the landscape of this great nation.

In the midst of our well-earned reverie, we must be reminded that while Barack Obama has come to personify the American Dream we, as a people, are not absolved from overcoming our challenges and learning from our past.

The HBO cable network has been showing a great documentary titled “Breaking the Huddle,” The Integration of College Football. Punctuated with first-hand accounts from black athletes who braved the racial slurs, death threats and physical intimidation in order to open the door of opportunity to
African-American football players at predominantly white Southern institutions, the program is a narrative testament to the progress of our country and our people.

While basking in the glow of progress made possible by these athletic pioneers, I was brought stunningly to the realization that we still have miles to go in order to claim real victory.

Though a hot topic seems to be the lack of African-American head coaches at NCAA Division I football programs, my focus was an uncommon name with a too-common story: Plaxico.

Plaxico Burress is the suspended Pro-Bowl wide receiver for the New York Giants. He achieved his current suspended status by having a loaded gun in his pants while he patronized a New York nightclub, and having that gun go off on the dance floor, shooting himself in the thigh.

At the time of this incident, Plaxico was unable to practice due to injury but was clearly able to cut a little rug at the club with teammates.

Despite having just signed a $35 million contract with the Giants at the beginning of the season, Burress has effectually squandered away any opportunity to rejoin the team, even next season.

Though the Plaxico Burress situation may seem like just another tale of a football diva’s self-inflicted career assassination, in contrast to the selfless sacrifice of those black athletes who paved the way for football players such as Burress to sign $35 million contracts, the Burress incident should serve as a reminder that we as a people should always remember that the progress we enjoy today has come on the backs of others.

With 2009 promising to be the beginning of a whole new chapter of progress for this country, let us bask in the beauty of how far we’ve come, but also realize that we still have miles to go before we sleep.