My Three-Year-Old Does Not Notice Obama Is Black Why Should We?

by Steely Dad on January 22, 2009

To be honest, I simply didn’t have the time, or inclination, to watch any of the Obama inauguration, except that butchered oath http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMyPf4qvdbw. That was awkward.

Other than another swearing-in of a president who just so happens to have a higher level of melanin in his skin compared to the previous 43 pasty men who held the office, I guess I just didn’t see the “historical” component for which the entire nation was so obsessed. I know, I know, how unenlightened of me. But my three-year-old doesn’t notice that Obama is black and that John McCain is white (trust me, the boy recognizes both men as well as he can spot an In-N-Out seven miles away). That’s the way it should be, right? Oh, but he simply doesn’t understand, some will say. Doesn’t he, though? Isn’t the definition of being truly enlightened when we no longer say things like, “First black this” or “First brown that?” Aren’t we supposed to live in a color-blind society that judges a person by the content of his or her character rather than the color of his or her skin? If so, then why do the media bombard us with an unrelenting stream of “Obama-is-the-first-black-president” messages? (Technically, he’s the first biracial president because his mother is, yes, I know, how disappointing, white.) Can we simply refer to Obama like all the other presidents: Mr. President? I’m sure even he’s grown tired of the moniker.

Is the United States suddenly enlightened because we elected a biracial man to lead our country or were we ever in need of enlightening in the first place? Will Zimbabwe wallow in the shadows of darkness until it elects a minority to lead the country? Is China a racist nation because it has never had a non-Asian leader? Can Iraq or Iran achieve this new level of enlightenment only if they elect a Jew as leader? What about good ol’ France, the country that believes it is far superior to all other countries and that the world would cease to spin on its axis should France decide it to be so? Is France any less enlightened because it has yet to elect a person of color as its leader? Why is it that all these other countries feel it is within their right to judge us when very few countries, if any, have ever elected a minority person to the highest office?

The message is extremely confusing to me so I can only imagine how confounding it must be for kids. First, we must celebrate this watershed moment in American history that we have finally seen the arrival of a man who isn’t completely white holding the nation’s highest office. Yet, then we are not supposed to treat people differently because they are black or brown or pink or purple. Does anyone think that Obama’s inauguration was any different than the previous presidents’? Was he provided, shall we say, a little more flare? Was he treated any differently by reporters and the media in general? Why? Is it because we are actually unable to see past the color of his skin? Are we supposed to recognize that this man is in fact black, or at least partially black? Should we celebrate it but not too much? Is that what we’re supposed to do? Acknowledge but don’t relish? Seriously, I don’t know.

We teach our kids to be color blind but are we practicing what we preach when, according to Gallop, 43% of whites voted for Obama while only 3% of blacks voted for McCain? www.gallup.com/poll/108040/Candidate-Support-Race.aspx. If that isn’t basing a decision on skin color I’m not sure what qualifies.

I know, I’m a racist for even mentioning such a thing. Can we move on now?

Look, Obama is a man just like any other. We can safely assume he sleeps, eats and breathes in precisely the same manner as the rest of us. Perhaps we should we stop thinking it’s so special because he’s biracial.  The only purpose that serves is to delay the day when we will be truly enlightened and see people in my three-year-old son’s terms: “cool” and “not-so-cool.” Color or race never factor in for this enlightened little boy.

I, for one, plan to treat President Obama as I have all his predecessors: I will make fun of his bloopers, his blunders and his mannerisms. I might go a little easy on Obama, not because he is biracial but because he has that awful stammer. Making fun of the man’s stammer is just mean.

In any case, I think the only time I will really celebrate is when the first gay-black-Hispanic-Asian-Mormon-transgender paraplegic becomes president and no one mentions the fact that the person is the first gay-black-Hispanic-Asian-Mormon-transgender paraplegic president. I’d also celebrate if someone I personally knew called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue his (or her) crib and I was allowed to crash there. I hear the White House crème brulee is something special.

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