actuality.log


Sunday, November the 16th, 2008

I am uncertain as to whether this entry has a central point. I’m writing it at few A.M. as a myriad of barely-discernable thoughts from my disturbed sleep just before hastily evanesce. The bed in my new flat isn’t to blame (it’s actually quite comfortable), it’s my nose that’s choosing to be difficult; it appears to be completely blocked, and I am not a happy mouth-breather.

Let me begin with my take on the U.S. political scene, since I followed it religiously (still do) for quite some time, but haven’t talked about it since the presidential election. Like many other people, I’m glad the contest was won by an intelligent man who speaks in complete, coherent sentences; I really am. But I’m not as optimistic as many others regarding the amount of substantive improvements he (or anyone else) can effect. Stylistically, things have already begun to get a lot better, but in realistic terms, how possible is it (for anyone) to break the hold of the corporate interests who make all the rules? I guess only time can answer that question. One can hope, but I amn’t one to.

While we’re on the topic, there is something I need to get off my chest. On the surface, the success of this man rides on the civil rights struggles of the past—the sacrifices of the likes of Martin Luther King. But unlike the Jesse Jacksons and the Al Sharptons or even the Michelle Obamas of the world, Barack Obama doesn’t share their history. He’s probably read about it in books or talked to people around him, but he isn’t a descendant of slaves. He’s the son of a foreigner who happened to impregnate a white woman while in the U.S. to study (and chose to leave her shortly after). If anything, his success answers one question that always nags me in the back of my mind: How well integrated and how far can a first-generation in-country born child of an immigrant go? Pretty far, apparently.

I don’t mean anything racist or negative by this observation, I just wonder why this distinction isn’t made clearer in the media. Especially when they show images of swarms of 106 year-old black ladies crying out in joy that one of them made it. He isn’t really one of you, is he? You guys had it a lot harder. Skin-colour apart, he’s got more in common with the sons and daughters of Mexicans (and Chinese people and Indians and … ) who’ve recently arrived there. I guess what I am trying to say is, he’s had his struggles too, they’re just not yours.

I’ll stop now. It turns out this entry did have something of a theme. I just didn’t plan on it being this one.

This is a printer-friendly version of the journal entry “The exceptional outsider” from actuality.log. Visit http://emphaticallystatic.org/earlier/the-exceptional-outsider/ to read the original entry and follow any responses to it.

3 Responses to “The exceptional outsider”

  1. Anantha says:

    What you say is true, however, I think that the blacks are happy because a guy from minority has been elected. (I guess being a minority, he is one of them) Their pains are no doubt different from Obama’s but they are hoping he would be able to relate to them better than the whitest of whites. Again, whether it will transpire or not, only time will tell.

  2. anita says:

    the thing is, no matter his background and who his parents were, he’s still black. and being black in america is different from being another minority race in america…probably more so when he was growing up than today, but in general, if you’re black, you get treated differently, and you have a different set of issues and hardships to deal with than other minorities.

  3. pundit says:

    Anantha and anita: I ran into a timely article on the beeb that considers the same arguments—and arrives at a anita’s conclusion. I quote the relevant section (emphasis mine) below:

    “We (I have an African American father and an Irish American mother) were raised on the front lines of racial change, where the new rules about interracial intimacy often clashed with the old—both in public and in our own families.

    The affection we were so comfortable showing our white mothers at home drew stares, and worse, from both whites and blacks in public.

    It was in our families where we first felt love and protection as well as the first sting of racial prejudice.

    And many of us forged a black identity, one that was not at odds with being mixed-race, but arose out of our experiences as mixed people: from an awareness that the racial dilemma we were born into has its deepest roots in anti-black prejudice.”


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