Muliticulturalism and Obama
In following the spirited debates concerning the two presumptive presidential contenders, I can’t help but notice that some refer to Mr. Obama as “black.” Unless I am mistaken, the color of his skin is more brownish than black, and a fairly light shade of brown at that. In thinking about how much of a role race plays in our politics, I offer two anecdotal recollections. The first involves Halle Berry’s acceptance speech for her academy award for best female actor a few seasons ago. She referred to herself as a “woman of color.”
The second involved a conversation with my father when I returned home one weekend from my first year at college. I grew up in the segregated South and migrated to New York City when I was 10, growing up in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood in eastern Queens, one of New York’s two Long Island boroughs. I was attending New York University in the Village where a melting pot of minds and races made any thought of segregation ridiculous. In discussing the events of the civil rights movement at that time with him, my father, a well-educated Greek immigrant with a strong accent he never lost, noted his approval when I referred to people of color as “blacks” rather than as “negros,” the latter having been in common usage up to that time. I accepted my father’s compliment and realized that while I still suffered some effects from growing up in the racially charged environment of the 1950s and ’60s, I was at least beginning to appreciate the intelligence and humanity of a group of citizens who, unlike me, had to earn their place in the line for the basics our society offered.
Those of us who continue to refer to Mr. Obama as black, or a Muslim, or whatever, and fail to refer to Mr. McCain in the same fashion do the former an intended, though perhaps unconscious, injustice.
Mr. Obama reflects America today. He is the product of our finest public and private educational institutions and the best our multicultural society was able to offer its citizens at the time.
That he has preserved and honored his roots and refused to pander or equivocate to those who would prefer that our next American president match his skin color to his predecessors’ as a primary qualification for the office is to his credit and we, as the fair-minded Americans we say we are, ought to recognize him for it.