Now that Obama has won the election, we see a number of narratives emerging as to what it means in terms of race in America:
- Some folks are just stunned that a "black man" could get elected president. They had always hoped, but hadn’t dared to expect it, what with white people being so wicked and all, but all is right with the world. Our long national nightmare is over.
- Others are equally shocked and pleasantly surprised, but caution us not to think that we’ve put racism behind us, so don’t let your guard down, folks.
- Then there are those who say, Of course we elected a black man president; we could have done it sooner given such a well-qualified choice. No one should be a bit surprised, and this proves that racism is something we don’t have to wring our hands about any more, so can we talk about something else now?
- Finally, there’s me and a couple of other people who say, "What do you mean, ‘black man’?" This is a guy whose white American mother married a foreign student — someone who came to this country to avail himself of its great store of educational opportunity, NOT someone brought here from the OTHER side of the African continent as a slave. Yeah, he decided to self-identify as a black man, but does that make him one? So does this prove anything? Maybe it does since so many people, black and white, seem to have accepted his self-identification, and he was elected because of/in spite of that. But given his anomalous background (and since I share some points of commonality with him in terms of my own peripatetic childhood — things that make me think that just maybe there are things about him I understand that your average black or white voter does not — I feel some entitlement to speak on this point), does it REALLY mean what people say it means? This is a very, very talented young politician who, if anything, personally transcends race — so maybe THAT means something. But I don’t know.
Those are the strains I’ve identified so far. Y’all see any others?