President Obama and race

My mother tells a story about my first day in first grade (and sadly, I’m more likely to remember stories of my childhood than the actual childhood).  I go off to school, probably all 70s style – plaid pants, mop haircut, etc., and when I come home she asks me about school.  In particular, how did I like my new teacher (Mrs. Smith?)?  I told my mom that she would like the teacher, that Mrs. Smith was just like her.

At a certain point, the first parent-teacher conferences occur and my mother goes in expecting to meet someone just like her: a blonde haired, blue eyed woman in her late twenties or early thirties.  So it’s a bit of a surprise when Mrs. Smith is a 50-ish black woman.

There are two morals to the story:

  1. I’m definitely a Myers-Briggs intuitive (N) type as opposed to sensing (S).  😉
  2. As a child, race didn’t even enter my mind.  A person’s race was so completely irrelevant that it’s not clear that I even noticed it.

Over the years, I’ve tried to live up to the example set by my five year old self.  I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve always tried.

In spite of that, I never did expect that the U.S. would elect a black president – at least not this soon.  I didn’t think that we would be able to look past race until, at least, the baby boomer generation died off.  Not that the baby boomers are racists, they made enormous strides toward equality.  But at the same time, they grew up in a world where there were segregated lunch counters, segregated water fountains, segregated bathrooms and schools.  They grew up in a world where the lynching of a black man was considered acceptable to many people.  That’s a kind of ingrained experience that’s hard to grow out of.

But yet, Obama did win.  Sure, he didn’t win the majority of white voters, but he won more of them than did John Kerry four years ago.  The electorate looked past Obama’s race and voted for the man they thought would take the country in the right direction.

My inner five year old wouldn’t have thought a black president was that surprising, but with thirty-plus years of experience, I’m amazed and thrilled that there might be some part of that five year old in everyone.

1 Comment

  1. ElectionGazer said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    Relevantly, as many influential experts and publications have repeatedly pointed out, Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Xers.

    Here’s a recent 5 minute GenJones video which features many top pundits specifically talking about Obama’s membership in Generation Jones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ta_Du5K0jk

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