Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On a nominee for all of us:

It’s a bizarre irony that in this age of political correctness, tolerance and supposed acceptance, the latest excuse for why we can’t have a black president is that the candidate is a member of the elite. They used to tell us that black people were too dumb or backward to even vote, never mind run for office. Black people were portrayed as dirty, poorly dressed, slang-spewing monkeys. Now we’re presented with a guy whose intelligence can’t be denied, and he’s too smart?

The idea that Barack Obama is an elite who is out of touch with what real Americans face is a non-starter. (Compared to Dubya, who is seen as an everyman, despite the silver spoon in his mouth since birth, only because he sticks his foot in beside it constantly??) The fact that this is the only objection offered is proof that those who oppose a non-white president are fresh out of arguments. (I’m not sure it’s even possible to be black and elite in America. Blacks who have amassed wealth or been educated are just not entitled in the same way as white elites—but that’s another post.)

I’ve been quiet till now. We do need to be careful about this issue of race in America-- we are most certainly not past it. I have to say that it has been my experience that biracial people have a special ability to transcend race and understand it at the same time. My dad—who is looking down from up there somewhere smiling in giddy disbelief tonight-- made sure I understood, despite my lily white skin, the challenges of being black in our society. But he also lived his life in mainstream America and he did pretty damn well despite having to work twice as hard as any white person to get half as far. That taught me more than any bitter words he could have uttered-- though he uttered quite a few.

The next generation in mixed families—Barack and I—have a somewhat different perspective. The clothes and the degrees and the positions of power have come a little easier to us thanks to those who have come before. We haven’t forgotten the pain of our fathers (and mothers) but perhaps since its not our own, we can see it, give it its proper weight, and also manage to look past it to see the pain that defines and shapes the experience of others. Because we can "pass" in both worlds, we can see the racism and also know (and even love) the people behind it: the fears, the misconceptions, as well as the commonalities. That’s what Barack was talking about in his speech a while back.

Barack Obama looks at the same battlefield as the Reverend Wright and he refuses to take sides, ignore the problem or surrender to the difficult task of working it out.

Our nominee is mixed. It’s not his only feature, but it’s not something I think we should ignore because I believe it’s the reason he might actually—finally—offer Americans of all races, colors and creeds reconciliation.

(Dare we hope that he’ll offer the same to America the world actor and its enemies?)

We’re ready. Let’s elect a president for all of us.

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