October 16th, 2008

I Miss America

I'll never understand the English concept of "middle class guilt"

Meanwhile back in the US of A, we've got a great article about how Americans see race ... and Obama.

God, I want him to win. I want him to be president of my country, so I can be proud about my president again. And, you know, I'm sure I'll be disappointed in him in the end, but ... I want to hear the end of stuff like these quotes from the article.

Anyway, here's the article from the New York Times. Who's got time to fuss about what class you define as when race is what's driving my society? Some quotes:

“He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. “He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.”

Whether Mr. Obama is black, half-black or half-white often seemed to overshadow the question of his exact stand on particular issues, and rough-edged comments on the subject flowed easily even from voters who said race should not be an issue in the campaign. Many voters seemed to have no difficulty criticizing the mixing of the races — and thus the product of such mixtures — even as they indignantly said a candidate’s color held no importance for them.

“I would think of him as I would of another of mixed race,” said Glenn Reynolds, 74, a retired textile worker in Martinsville, Va., and a former supervisor at a Goodyear plant. “God taught the children of Israel not to intermarry. You should be proud of what you are, and not intermarry.”

Mr. Reynolds, standing outside a Kroger grocery store, described Mr. Obama as a “real charismatic person, in that he’s the type of person you can’t really hate, but you don’t really trust.”

Other voters swept past such ambiguities into old-fashioned racist gibes.

“He’s going to tear up the rose bushes and plant a watermelon patch,” said James Halsey, chuckling, while standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot with fellow workers in the environmental cleanup business. “I just don’t think we’ll ever have a black president.”

There is nothing unusual about mixed-race people in the South, although in decades past there was no ambiguity about the subject. Legally and socially, a person with any black blood was considered black when segregation was the law.
For those who care, I don't think most Americans see Obama as biracial, because most people don't even know the word. He looks like an American "black" (an "African American," which is kind of funny because Obama is very much African and American, while Africans who've moved to America define themselves as Africans and not as American blacks - see this great article by Charles Mudede for clarity - so Obama looks like what people in America call black, which is a culture of mixed race people, even though he doesn't come from that culture), and thus people see him as black. And that, I hope, is how I hope he looks to the rest of the world, and to black Americans - as a representative of America's black community.

And I want him to be the face of America to the rest of the world. I would be happy of him and proud, for the first time in nearly a decade, of my country.

Oh yeah, my ballot came in the mail two days ago. Time to mail it off and get this man in the White House.

PS: I have a hard time using the word African Americans at all these days, because after living among so many African immigrants in Seattle, it seemed like not really the right term to define native born Americans with a history of 150 - 200 years in the US. Thus I use "black," even though I know it doesn't mean the same thing in the UK as it does in the US.