Friday, February 15, 2008

Race and BHO (Barack H. Obama)

One issue that keeps coming up in this race for the top job in the most racially charged country in the world is race. If Senator Barack Obama left the race now, we know he has already traversed uncharted territory. No black person has ever done this well (Yes, Jesse, this includes you. Come on, man...Hymietown? What in the hell were you thinking? But, hey, you weren't presidential material anyway...) in a race for the presidency. As of this post, Senator Barack Obama, including pledged superdelegates (that's another story entirely) is LEADING Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton by 42 delegates (Source: CNN ).

But, there is one refrain that I hear from some black people...

...Barack's not black or Barack's not black enough.

Legendary NBA coach (and former Cavaliers coach) Lenny Wilkens said in his autobiography that he recognized that America will see him as a black man but he knows as well that he is the sum of his black father and Irish Catholic mother and both are inextricable parts of who he is. Barack's boat is similar, being of similar lineage. But, what Barack has that many of us black Americans don't have is a direct and distinct tie to the motherland. Let's not forget his father is African while many African-Americans who claim to have two black parents are more racially diluted than they know -- or care to admit. So whether he's biologically black enough
is moot.

Socially, I believe that many black people put restrictions on who they are and what they can be because they simply think "Oh, black people just don't do that." What if Willie O'Ree (the first black player in the NHL - 50 years this year, as a matter of fact) said hockey isn't for black people? What if Shani Davis said speedskating isn't for Black people? What if Ben Carson said being a surgeon isn't for Black people? What if Mae Jemison said being an astronaut isn't for Black people?

Sen. Obama, like the people previously mentioned, are expanding Black people's expectations of their own abilities. They are showing young kids in general, and young black kids in particular that your only limit to what you can be is your willingness to work and your drive to find who you are. Others' preconceived notions about the limitations about black people (even from black people) don't matter.

This isn't why I am supporting Barack for president but it is part of why I always liked him as a man.


Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

What if Arthur Ashe had said a black man doesn't play professional tennis (he is one of my heroes)? Thoughtfully written, Derek.

derek said...

Good call, Carole. I appreciate Arthur Ashe because he didn't have to speak loudly to prove his skill and power. A great man and a great athlete gone too soon..

I tried to limit the sports figures though because I wanted to touch on black folks outside of sports and entertainment.