Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Can we Just say President Barack Obama?

For the sake of fairness and full disclosure, I did not vote for Barack Obama. Still, I wish him well and pray he will be guided to make the right decisions for the security and benefit of us all, supporters and critics alike. I am grateful this election ended with none of the doubts, the hanging chads for example, that caused dispute in the past two. We as Americans owe the man a chance to prove to the nearly half of us who voted for that other fellow that we were wrong. I will certainly give him his opportunity, despite my many misgivings.

But this post is not about politics. I have a question. When you look at the photo on the left, what do you see (never mind where you stand on his politics)? How would you describe these people if you knew only a little about them?

In this picture I see an apparently cohesive family looking happy together. They look younger than their actually age (the parents, not the children). Knowing a bit about them, I would describe them as a successful, highly educated couple. She obtained a vice-presidency in a major hospital complex and he achieved the Presidency of the United States. They look friendly, a family you might like living next door. 

When I look at some recent photos in the press how do they describe these people? He as the first African-American President. She as the first African-American First Lady.  I understand the historic importance of that, but that is not what they are. They are the President-Elect of the United States and she is the First Lady in Waiting.

You know something, I live in a "mixed" neighborhood, I go to a church with a "mixed" congregation, I work in a place with a "mixed" staff, my wife's best friend is in a "mixed" marriage, my friends have been a "mixed" lot.  

Oh, how all my life I have wanted to see those hyphenated modifiers and descriptors such as mixed disappear. 

It can get silly. My father's parents were Welsh and Scotch-German. My mother's parents were Irish and Scotch. My wife's mother's parents were German with a bit of French. Her father's parents were Irish and Native American. My oldest daughter's boyfriend's father is African-America and his mother is Japanese. If my daughter and he marry and have a child, will it be listed as a Welsh-Scotch-Irish-German-French-African-Asian-Native American? 

I live in a nice neighborhood full of good people who are nice to know. a place anyone would enjoy living. That's all. It is ridiculous I should need justify myself by saying I am in the center of a "mixed" anything before I speak about race in any context. But somehow this seems to be a requirement.  I want to see the day it doesn't matter.

As I writer, I committed a few years ago that I would not describe characters by plopping some modifier like "Black" or any other such descriptors. You don't see stories where a character is introduced as the "White" something or other. Unless it is a necessity to the story, why should a character be labeled a "Black" something or other? Don't tell, show.

There are legitimate purposes when a person's physical characteristic are necessary.  If a child has been lost and a description is needed for the searchers, certainly, White or Black or Asian or whatever is an important aid. If the child is being recognized for winning a spelling bee, why is "Black" or "African-American" necessary? I know the same report would not say the "White" child or the "European-American" Child.

There is something demeaning in sticking a label on certain people and not others. It immediately puts them in a box.  It is time we got over skin color or other such superficial differences and recognize a person as a person...period.  When God looks at a person, it is not at the outside wrapping, it is at the heart. We should look at every individual's character, not their wrapping.

If we persist in tagging on a modifier of "Black" or "African-American" to Barack Obama we are unfair to him. We have established he is the first African-American to obtain this highest office. It had been duly noted, so for now on let it be only Barack Obama, President of the United States.

Originally written on November 6, 2008

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...

First, I have a hard time comprehending why anyone would vote for four more years of Bush policies that have driven this country into a ditch. However, that said, I know that with the election of Barack Obama, this nation is entering a new era of hope and revitialization for our country and ALL of it citizens, not just a select few who proscribe to the Bush-Cheney-Rove definition of who are REAL Americans. White, black, old, young, conservative, liberal, straight, gay. We are all Americans. Our country can only be stronger by the inclusion rather than the divisive politics that put the Bush-Cheney regime into power. I have no doubt that President Elect Barack Obama will succeed. No doubt.