OK so it is clear that i wasn’t very clear in my thoughts in this post damned if you do damned if you don’t. This is not about being politically for Obama or Clinton. It is my observation of how differently we relate to politicians based on their race or gender.
It has been my observation that black men in America are on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the social pecking order. Black men are attached to all kinds of assumptions, preconceptions and cultural scripts. If we are articulate, we are the exception. If we aren’t, we prove “the point”. If we succeed we benefited from affirmative action. If we don’t we prove “the point”. If we get frustrated about how we are perceived, we are the “angry black man.” If we seek compromise and consensus we are “sellouts” and not fighters. If we protest, we aren’t patriotic, loyal, or team players. If we treat women poorly we are “dogs”. If we greet each other as friends we are “dogs”. Our friends actions are reflected on all of us.
In the same way that the way we can recognize that some people view Hillary Clinton through the lens of her gender we need to recognize and admit that some maybe many people view Obama through their of his race and gender. In this culture, despite his biracial international roots he is distilled to simply being a black man. With that comes all the historical and social mental models that we (that is all of us black and white) attach to black men.
We can wish that we can move beyond race but it isn’t going to happen right now. I am curious why some Anglos who support Obama sound like they are patting themselves on the back that they are supporting a “black man”. In a truly character not race oriented society that wouldn’t be. But it is.
I’m not upset that it is. I just then we need to admit it and talk about it. We need to talk about it in the church and not demonize each other when we do. We need to talk about it with friends and be gracious to each other when we do. We need to talk about it in general and ask what if there is something shaping my perspective that I’m not conscious of. We will never get beyond race until we deal with race and its place in the cultural conversation. We readily talk about sexism and but hyper when we try to talk about racism. But we unable to have a real conversation about race.
This morning I read an essay written by my biracial son who sees his mixed heritage as an opportunity and a challenge. He wonders if his black friends see him as black or white; if his white friends see him as black or white. He is wrestling at the ripe old age of 14 with the social perception that young men of his skin color simply “black”. The dream is not yet realized that our children’s character would matter more than their (socially constructed) race.