Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama is sometimes black

In reading the headlines in Australian newspapers, it's easy to get the impression that the only notable feature of Barack Obama as president is that he is black. Never mind his ethics, intelligence, insight, vision, coherency - and praxis. As a letter-writer took glee in pointing out in two Australian papers, Martin Luthor King said "[I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where] they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." That writer didn't notice anything particular about Obama; he had already missed the boat.

But Obama is sometimes black. Meaning, there is sometimes some particular significance [beyond what his experiences have fed into his character]. This even apart from those around the world who are now infusing his ethics and asking themselves in a given situation "what would Obama do?"

BBC World Service radio recorded and reported some personal experiences from some people who had made the trek to Washington to experience the inaugeration in person. One African American woman expressed how he was a personal inspiration to her, his example encouraging her to a greater level of personal responsibility in her life. (Not that she, from her discourse, seemed to lack any particular sense of responsibility. It seemed, more, that she felt that connection, and felt duty-bound to take her sense of responsibility to a higher level.)

It is not my intention to purvey any sort of condescension here, but rather to convey a sense of the inspiration he has provided to so many people that would not have otherwise been engaged were he not African American.

Obama is black when it has particular significance. But for the most part, he is more than that.

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