“The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America”

I am chilling out on Saturday night reading the Washington Post and listening to experimental electronic music from Iceland. As soon as I post this I am going to watch the pirated copy I downloaded last week of Terms of Endearment.

Point of this post is to comment on Daniqua Allen’s thoughtful article in the Post from a few months back, expressing disappointment that people in the U.S. haven’t been able to use Barack Obama’s election to help ease us into more water cooler-type conversation regarding race. I have had a bunch of thoughts related to Obama and race over the last four years, so I will include those, too.

A) I am also disappointed by this lack of water-cooler discussion.

B) Just because it hasn’t gotten easier to talk about race on a personal level doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still do it. I have been in several circumstances where I talked about race while stammering and blushing and feeling kind of clumsy. But I still did it, because I believe it is important.

C) Once at a party when I still lived in Richmond, I tried to explain to a bunch of white people from Massachusetts in what way Virginia is a swing state. My line was that Virginia was normally just a swing state in state-level elections, that it has not normally swung in federal elections. I went on to suggest that it had swung in 2008 because of higher black turnout. The white people from Massachusetts might as well have thrown their beers at me. I wish a black person had been there.

D) Daniqua may be a “ghetto-sounding name,” but it’s very pretty. Also, if I were a recruiter, anyone from the ghetto applying for a white-collar job would have my respect.

E) When Obama was elected, the Virginia ballot count officially putting his national numbers over McCain’s, I was in a bar with my friend Daniela watching it because neither of us owns a television. When they announced the Virginia result, the bartender started popping champagne bottles, and as the glasses were being handed around, I remember the person on TV saying something like, “And history is being made, America’s first African-American president.” Right when she said it, the thought really only hit me for the first time, but it hit me hard: “He’s not black, he’s bi-racial!” The word “octaroon” started dancing around my head. The whole idea of separate, distinct racial groups suddenly just seemed so irrelevant.

F) I really want to do one of those racial DNA tests. Parts of my family arrived in Virginia in the 1600s. We have had plenty of time to miscegenate. I want to know if I am part black. Or Chickahominee.

G) My theory about why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize: they gave it to him because everyone outside the U.S. viewed a man of African descent getting elected as President of the Free World as a much-needed push to restore global faith in the dignity, fairness, and promise of the United States. Which with the current balance of power is something that could be seen as quite a helpful accomplishment towards peace.

Going to watch Terms of Endearment now.


One response to ““The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America”

  1. Pingback: white like obama’s mom | ILL CAMINO REAL

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