Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama and Race

When Barack Obama was elected, I was disappointed with all the chatter about the fact that he's an African American. For me, that was a minor issue by comparison. The key issue was that a grown-up was going to be president. I don't think Obama is some kind of savior who can work miracles. As I've mentioned before, I think we're in a depression that's going to last years. And I have no idea what's going to happen in Iraq or Afghanistan. Still, Obama is articulate and has the right kind of intelligence to lead. When he talks, he doesn't make me to throw a shoe at the television.

Yesterday, while watching the inauguration, I finally started thinking about the significance of race. When Wendy mentioned that Obama was the first black president, Luke thought it was hilarious that she called him black. "He's brown!" That got me wondering how Luke and Max are going to think about race in general and black people in particular.

I grew up with racist notions. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an extreme skinhead-type racist. Still, if a black person were running for president in the 70s, there is no way I would have wanted him to win, and as sad as it sounds nowadays, the idea of a black person being in the white house would have bothered me.

As our society and I have became more liberal-minded in terms of race, I've tried to check my racist notions. While political correctness causes resentment, knowing that I have unfair racist tendencies makes me suspicious of any thought I have about race. For example, I genuinely believe that a disproportionate number of Asians are terrible drivers. I'm fairly certain I arrived at that conclusion on my own, and laughed when I heard someone else mention it. (Of course, it's also possible that I heard it first, and the notion worked its way into my system without my realizing it. The brain is a tricky organ.)

So when I see a car half parked and backing up into an intersection with the wrong blinker on, is it racist for me to say, "Yup, Asian"? Probably. Would insurance companies raise the rates of Asian drivers if they could? I dunno. I digress.

The point I want to get at is that we've come a long way in overcoming racism. The fact that a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama was elected president is a powerful symbol. And for me, the fact that I've worked out my racist issues enough to root for, caucus for, donate to, and vote for Barack Obama is a sign of progress.

Or maybe I just hate Texans.