Sunday, November 9, 2008

Black and white, or colour

The other day Crushed did a post about the election of President Elect Obama. Now some times I agree with some things he posts, sometimes I don’t… and sometimes he makes me mad. But most times he also makes me think.

As sometimes happens I had some slightly out of the box thoughts on that post and commented, but I thought on it some more and figured they might make a post on their own, so hat tip to Crushed.

It’s a controversial subject, so hard hat time ^_^

Before anyone tries to misinterpret me, while I might not necessarily agree with all of Mr Obama’s politics, I am truly profoundly pleased that it was possible for him to be elected. I think that says something very positive about the US, a country I am familiar with and am, on balance, fond of.

I think the English speaking nations generally work quite hard to be fair and not be racist. Maybe even more than some non-English speaking nations judging by what you see from time to time. But I do think there are some underlying ways of thinking and assumptions that everyone seems to accept, black or white that could do with actually being thought about.

Examined rationally... And I don’t mean politically correct stupidities like banning the word "blackboard".

I figure sometimes it is good to look at stuff, fresh, from scratch.

For a start there is the words “black” and “white” being applied to people. Black people aren’t really black. They range from pink/tan/very light brown through to very dark brown. Also white people aren’t really white either. They range from pink/tan/very light brown through to dark brown.

Still I figure it is mostly arbitrary. If you graphed it, the height of the bell curve for “blacks” would probably be slightly towards one end and for ‘whites’ slightly towards the other.

But simply put there are lots of “white” people who are darker than some "black" people.

Now Take President Elect Obama. A black president everyone says, but why is he black?

I mean that seriously. His father is African and black, his mother is American and white, so why is he black and not white?

After all he is as much white as he is black when you think about it isn’t he? Yet It seems even he sees himself as black

Now suppose his father had had one white parent and one black parent. That would make him three quarters white instead, but many, possibly also including himself, would still see him as black.

This sort of thinking seems to me far too horribly close the old US “one drop rule” used in slave days to decide if a person was black. Basically a black person was anyone with any known African ancestry.

You can’t help thinking the one drop rule might have been a lot to do with increasing the number of slaves.

More to the point surely it’s what sort of a person he is that really matters. Is he a good man and a good husband, good father, good neighbour, and for most of the world, will he be a good president? It ought to be.

It seems that electing any politician with such a landslide is, as they say about second marriages ^_^ rather a triumph of optimism over experience. It would be lovely to think he will turn out to be another George Washington, Abe Lincoln or Nelson Mandela and maybe he will be, but I still remember the sense of optimism in the UK when Tony Blair was elected with a similar landslide. Ultimately Blair was a terrible disillusionment.

When he is President Obama he will have his work cut out for him indeed, he will have to be very good indeed to even mark time. I am sure we all wish him every success, the better job he does the better, safer, world we will all have.

Though I figure if the only thing he ever manages to accomplish is to make people stop thinking colour and race matters so much by example, then it will be a job well done. Maybe a little colour blindness might do us all some good.


19 comments:

Ruthie said...

"It seems that electing any politician with such a landslide is, as they say about second marriages ^_^ rather a triumph of optimism over experience. "

Hahaha... I love that.

A triumph of optimism it is.... you should have seen it on Election night in my liberal district of my liberal city... people were setting off fireworks, running through the streets. College students were shouting outside all night. It was such a jubilant atmosphere.

I don't think he's the Messiah, but I'm hopeful too--not least for the sake of my biracial son with his Arabic middle name, for whom all the aphorisms about being "whatever you want to be" aren't quite so trite anymore.

Dragonstar said...

I'm sure he has a great deal more intelligence than Blair. I hope he uses it well.

Cathy said...

I think it was a great day for American history. I can promise you racism is still quite alive in America. I read it every day on blogs. Oh, they don't say it is racism and they always have a million and one other things they call it, but it is racism and the ones doing it knows it.

I think he is walking into a job that most of us cannot even imagine. I hope he surrounds himself with those just as intelligent as what he is.

Eurodog said...

In French, he is café au lait.

Carver said...

I was so happy that Obama won. I was also thrilled that my home state of North Carolina's vote went to him (even if it is a slight margin). I was happy first and foremost because I am far closer in agreement with his positions than I was with the opponent. However, being born in 1957 in North Carolina, and growing up during the civil rights era, it means a lot to me that a candidate whose father was from Kenya, and mother was from the U.S. could have a chance to run and win. I wouldn't have voted on him based on that but I am so happy that he could win with that background in 2008. I voted for him because I think he was the best candidate.

To me, African American would in Obama's case be a particularly accurate definition. His father was Kenyan, his mother American. Much as some Americans from many different continents and countries use dual countries to designate their background (even second and third and fourth generation).

Vic Grace said...

It is weird the definitions of race. Like you I questioned the definition of black, as if his white mother didn't count. We have the same idea in Canada, one only has to have an tinge of First Nation in them and they get all sorts of benefits. I see blue eyed blondes pulling out their status cards because some where down the line there was an aboriginal in their blood line. It really ticks me off.

Crushed said...

I'm amazed how all my friends are agreed on how good his election is.

I think your last line sums it up- simply by being elected, it's a wondrous thing.

But I also think he'll change the way the world looks at itself.

Ian Lidster said...

Oh, you wax wondrous wise, dear friend. I, of course, as befits my curmudgeonly sentiments, think all politicians are knaves or they wouldn't be in the business. But, I must also confess to a sense of elation when Mr. Obama was elected so convincingly.
Oh, and Ruthie, what you write about 2nd marriages is through. But third marriages are the charm.

Dr.John said...

The task he has is impossible. But other Presidents have done the impossible. This is the time for a triumph of optimism. This is the time to believe it can be done and he can do it.

The Lakelander said...

T-O-T:

What is your Westie called?

jmb said...

Miss Moggs, a very interesting post. Why indeed is he considered black as if his white mother never existed? I guess because his coloured ancestry is visible.

Let us indeed hope that he will not be like Tony Blair and he will be able to find solutions to the problems the USA and consequently the rest of the world is facing

sally said...

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lady macleod said...

I'm hopeful.

Smalltown RN said...

So my mom was born in England of parents from Ireland..my father is from Croatia...I was born in Canada....what am I then? A white tanned Irish/Croat Canadian? Gosh I don't know...I have never understood the term Black American....so am I white Canadian.....and if they were black born in Canada are they Black Canadians? Why is it so important to distiguish to such extent...I know my parents heritage...and I am proud of it...but I was born in Canada as were 7 of my other brothers and sisters...I consider myself Canadian....

I too was happy when Obama won...I truly hope he can make the social change that is necessary....and personally I wouldn't care if he were white, yellow , pink or blue...as long as he can pull off what he said he would do....

Janice Thomson said...

One of the greatest failings of humanity as a whole is its need to always label things and people. As soon as you label something it becomes an item for debate with those opposed and those in accordance. Whether Obama chooses to call himself black or white should have no bearing on anything - that is his problem alone. It becomes our problem if we choose to question or disagree. He is first and foremost simply a human being who is now going to govern one of the world's largest nations - let his laurels rest on that and that alone.

mutleythedog said...

Do you know what colour I am ? Did you ever wonder or care? Aint the interweb great?

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Thank you for all your comments.

Ruthie, I forgot you have a personal stake. I think you see it all well.

Dragonstar, Fingers crossed…

Cathy, Yes he really has his work cut out for him. Not sure about what comments you read. I am not too sure I would have voted for him, but if not I hope I am not fooling myself and it would be for political reasons only.

Eurodog, Sounds sort of sophisticated and positive to my ear.

Carver, Yes for him I guess it is accurate. Not sure it should hold for his children’s children though.

Vic. I think I am suspicious of so-called positive discrimination. What’s positive for one group of people in relation to another must be negative for the other. You may as well say segregation in the south was positive discrimination in favour of whites. Also people will take advantage of such things.

Fairness demands equality of opportunity and equality before the law, Everyone is different and not everyone can be a President or a football star, or a stockbroker, etc… All should have the chance to try, but the system should not be deliberately skewed to give advantage.

Crushed, Yes, I think many feel like you in that, including me.

Ian, ^_^ Generally if a politicians lips are moving you can tell they are fibbing. There are one or two rare exceptions, Hope this is one…

JMB, TY, You had better answer the Westie question…

Smalltown, Good comment.

Janice, Absolutely, except maybe none of us should be so concerned about what colour people are I guess that was what I was saying in the post. We collectively build it into our assumptions and let them influence us, when it really does not and should not matter.

Mutley, Absolutely, I didn’t give it a thought. I don’t care. Though now I think about it I see you more as a black and white bitzer with a waggy tail, quirky ears and a black patch round one eye… ^_^

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Excellent post, full of good sense. I so agree with your last sentence here.

Colin Campbell said...

My dog would be better than the era of Bush. Such a depressing period in American history. At least he would surround himself by people who knew what they were doing.