Obama – More than the Sum of Our Parts

This is another off topic article.

I have a friend who is the Middle East and Africa correspondent for an Italian newspaper, and she has a friend who works for La Stampa – an Italian national newspaper.

La Stampa are doing an article where a number of bloggers around the world will give their feelings one year on, on the election of President Obama. The bloggers only get to write 100 words, and I’ve been asked for my 100 word contribution.

My feelings about President Obama are very personal ones and no doubt won’t make sense to some.

I was 16 when I came across a thin paperback in our college library, with an intriguing title. It’s an American book and wasn’t well known in the UK. I read it, and over the years I’ve bought many copies of it to give away to deserving souls.

The book is easily the best tool I know capable of bringing the experience of white on black racism in comprehensible chunks, to white people. And it’s the best way I know of explaining why, after all this time, white on black racism is rooted in the past but still matters today. It also enables readers to see that this form of racism is at least a kind of voluntary mass hysteria or at worst a mental illness.

White on black racism can be cured – I know because I’ve been part of the solution for this affliction for at least a score of people and possibly more. People who have been cured of racism with my help have expressed how grateful they are.

Ironically once I realised I was capable of doing this, I actively changed my behaviour. Curing racists as a matter of course, placed me in the uncomfortable position of having to be mentally and morally superior to my “patients”, and worse still, never knowing who my patients were until the big thank you phone call, email or (the worst kind), the “I’m no longer a racist thanks to you” drink down the pub.

Does this make sense to you? I didn’t like being told I was the reason for their freedom from affliction. If you have racism, (like if you have any embarrassing disease), I think the onus for seeking a cure lies with you. And if your cure is brought about by some unsuspecting person, don’t call them in a fit of excitement to thank them. Imagine how you’d feel if people contacted you with the life changing news that you’d cured them of the clap. You’d just want to get out of there.

So what’s this got to do with Obama? When he won the US Presidential Election, it proved to me that the US was a little less racist than it used to be. I mean let’s face it Rosa Parks had a valid point, but it took too long and too many people suffered, and too many generations grew up discovering their second class citizenship before arriving in kindergarten (that’s a bummer by the way). But finally, in 2008 we get some real, if symbolic progress with a mixed heritage man occupying the White House.

Of course this doesn’t work for everyone. Certainly not for many of our friends in the BNP, and sadly not for one of my closest friends. My friend, a white American complained to me recently about Obama. She said he’d organised a bunch of school children to go to the White House to see him, and I think they all happened to be black and brown children (could have been due to the area the school was in?).

Whatever – she said she was worried for her own son. Why???!! I asked. She said her son had watched it on the TV with great interest, but she’d been concerned he might be thinking “there’s no-one there that looks like me”. I didn’t say anything. But I felt another copy of the book I mentioned, coming on.

I was a child of the era of the Civil Rights Movement. As is anyone in their 40s now. I’ve been campaigning, educating, reading, thinking and worrying my whole life whilst waiting for a significant change, to be judged for who I am, not the colour of my skin. And Obama with his mixed skin half black, half white, just like mine, makes me feel better about everything. Just by being.

Now – how do I compress this into 100 words.

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