The consolation prize of Obama’s win

Since Obama’s election I’ve been seeing blacks on TV who are happy and overjoyed that a black leader has become president. They feel like it is a turning point for this country. I hope it is. That would be wonderful, that at least this symbolic gesture of approval for them will help all to see that skin color is only skin deep. There are cultural and historical differences, and we should not forget them, but what I would hope would happen is that stuff can be background, in the past, and not pervade our present reality. I am happy for these people. In some way though it feels like they are like Sally Field at the Academy Awards yelling with glee coming out of melancholy, “You like me! You really like me!”

I listened to Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd in the clips above, and what I noticed is they said that their parents, family, and friends told them or had the attitude when they were young–somehow they picked it up–that there were limitations on their life as Americans that were insurmountable. There were certain things they felt they would never be able to be, or they felt they were foreigners in a land that didn’t entirely welcome them, because of racism. I thought about racial attitudes I’ve seen in blacks in the past, and it occurred to me that maybe the reason they felt the resentment and anger I saw in them was because of this message of limitations that in some ways were imposed by whites with racist attitudes, but in other ways were self-imposed by the black community itself. This is an opportunity for blacks to look at any walls they may have constructed themselves, and realize they don’t need them anymore.

What I’d like to say to these people is, you know there are a lot of us out here who have not had a problem with you, and who try to look past our differences. We do like you and we have for a while now. I think the next step for these people is for them to get past the walls, the “us and them”, the “my people and your people” stuff. Sure we can still talk in those terms, but again, maybe we can put it in the context of history, not in the now.

I did not vote for Obama, but it was because I believe in a different governing philosophy than he does, and I am concerned about his lack of executive experience. This is the reason I have been critical of him, and worried. All the same he is our president-to-be and I hope our country does well with him, because we’ve made our decision and we should live with it. What I hope is that some sort of blind ambition we had in electing our first black president wasn’t just an end in itself, that we as a country voted for Obama for real leadership and policy issues that need to be dealt with. Obama’s skin color isn’t going to solve any of those problems, in my opinion. Obama the man, the president will have to. I just hope we made the right choice for what really needs to be dealt with in government, because that is what the presidency is all about.

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