IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Matthews: Country's racial division 'won't go away, but it can be narrowed'

Let me finish tonight with this.

Monday night at 10 p.m. eastern, MSNBC will air my hour-long documentary Barack Obama: Making History. It conveys what I think is vital, important, and, yes, historic in this American presidency.

As someone who grew up in this country, watched its politics, loved its democracy, I wanted to talk about the significance of us electing our first African-American president. I believe that racial division has been this country's great scourge. It won't go away, but it can be narrowed. It can be. I know that because we acted to narrow it four years ago. In the privacy of the voting booth, white Americans did what they thought was right for their country. They went where this country had, in the words of Star Trek, never gone before, and it resounded throughout the world. 

I know, as you do, that racial division is the San Andreas Fault of this country. People who dance on it, exploit it, enjoy it risk widening that divide, and opening it up back to where it was so recently. 

Nothing is simpler. Nothing is more primitive than to beat the drums of tribal grievance, stir up resentment that someone's grabbing something from the other side, someone's threatening the other side, someone's cheating on the peace treaty we've been working on for all these decades.

Welfare cheating and food stamp grabbing are all part of the lingo along with the old calls for "law and order" and "states rights" and all the rest. Say what you want, the message is familiar, deeply redolent of the old demagoguery that stirs up the working white people against the black.

My favorite picture in politics is of the dirty-faced white father standing with his son along the tracks in New Jersey as Bobby, Kennedy's funeral train rode by, standing there with their arms, father and son, raised in patriotic, respectful salute. 

That is the legacy of a great leader, uniting us with pride and love of this nation which holds so many of God's good children. It's a model we should spend each election trying to match because it is the only alternative to the old, dirty, shameful ploys who every once in while show their ugly head.