Obama's second inauguration a mark of progress in its own right

"He's the epitome of the majority of the black men I'm familiar with in my life," she said.

And that makes her proud.

And the Harris family hears it in suburban Atlanta. Dad is an IT consultant; Mom is a physician. Their son and daughter, William and Naomi, go to school with children of every race. "The are living," their mother said, "the new normal."

I encountered them at Ben's Chili Bowl, the landmark joint in D.C. where Obama ate on the first weekend of his presidency. They hadn't noticed they were seated in the booth he used, marked by the presidential seal.

Sandea Harris said she had seen a shift in attitude among her white patients. Some were once insulted by the mere idea of a black man from the South Side of Chicago aiming to be president.

Now, she said, "patients come to me and say, 'I don't agree with him on everything, but he's really changed my mind.... I've listened to him speak.'"

"They had to get around the packaging," said her husband, Willie. "Obama has taken them outside of what they were raised to believe."

That's harder to quantify than legislative gains: the shifting attitudes among whites, the sense of belonging among blacks. But it's just as real, and maybe just as important.

"He's moved the needle," Willie Harris says. And it's hard to put into words the thrill they feel, seeing a "real family" like theirs in the White House, "instead of what is marketed as a traditional American family."

That's what is drawing their family and Aquil and me to the National Mall for the replay Monday of a moment we never expected to see.

The crowd will be smaller this time, the parties not so grand.

One hundred and fifty years after slavery ended, Obama again will take the oath of office, with his hand on two Bibles — one used by Abraham Lincoln, the other belonging to King.

It's a ritual rendered ordinary; we've been through this before. It's no longer historic, they tell us. And maybe that's the point.

sandy.banks@latimes.com

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