Today I wanted to write a dual post about the president and myself.
I know a lot of people did not care as much about the RE-election of Barack Obama as they did about the election. The economy is still poor. We will have wiretapping issues. We still use drone strikes. We’re still in Afghanistan. But watching the president take the oath of office, and deliver what many have considered a bold, hyper-partisan inaugural address, I couldn’t help but feel a little choked up at the idea that this country not only elected, but re-elected the first black president in our history. I read a great Eugene Robinson article today, where he talked about what an amazing statement it makes that through all of the president’s trials and tribulations during his first term, he came through with an electoral victory, and race (at least with regard to the president) has become a muted or non-existent issue. Now that is not to say that we’ve attained that post-racial world, but at least the majority of Americans now accept that it’s not strange for a black man to be occupy the White House and maintain the position as the most powerful man in the world.
It is amazing. Sure, we heard a lot of racist undertones (and overtones) throughout the first four years of Barack’s presidency, but most of that stuff was fallen off to a light din in the radical corners of American political life. The president, for all intents and purposes, has changed the dynamic of American politics by not becoming (in the eyes of prejudice people who don’t consider themselves prejudice) a token black president that we as a country can hang our hat on, and then send packing with the election of a rich old white man, but instead an enduring presence during a period of uncertainty and insecurity. Barack is no longer only the first black president, but he is now a re-elected president; and specifically a president re-elected in the midst of continuing economic turmoil. Good on you President Obama, good on you.
Now onto myself. I’m not perfect. I’m sure that I have prejudices just like everyone else, and I’m sure that from time to time I say things that some people cringe at. However, anyone who knows me knows that I make painstaking efforts to be sensitive in what I say, and am the first to correct someone who I feel has said something insensitive or offensive. Again, I’m not perfect and I’m not bringing this up to say that I’m “holier than thou”, but I at least make an effort.
This brings me to a frustrating point of contention I’ve encountered in American society. I’ve noticed this among white people, but in talking to people of other racial/ethnic groups I know that it occurs there too, that people think that somehow because you’re of the same race that they are free to say whatever they want in front of you. It’s as if because we share the same skin tone it means I automatically agree with your prejudice or outright racism. And then, when I correct the person and let them know that I’m NOT okay with what they’re saying, then I’m questioned as to why I’m so upset about, because “it doesn’t affect me”. And my response is always the same (albeit somewhat trite) – “it affect ALL of us”. I don’t to live in a society where prejudice and racism exist, so I’m offended when it occurs by anyone against anyone. I don’t need to be a member of any particular group to be offended and I shouldn’t have to defend myself for being so. I should be the one (and am) that is questioning the person for thinking that they can “get away with” talking in some loose, effluent manner, just because our skin color looks similar. It just makes me sad and angry.