Saturday, January 14, 2012

What if the President Were White?

As salaam alaikum,

My last interview was yesterday, alhamdulillah! Now on to the task of making the decision...which is one that I will make very carefully...but I think I already know how it will line up. Me aguarde!

I got this email from my uncle this morning that detailed what the author felt was the racist climate surrounding and somewhat impeding the progress of President Obama and maybe even tarnishing his legacy. It was one of these chain emails, so who knows who the original author is...I don't have a ton of respect for such things. I'd rather see such material in a good op-ed or at least in an established blog with a known author and a voice than forwarded in email chains, but let's face it...this is how a lot of people get their information.

I feel like an op-ed has a greater peer-review factor, but anyway...I also have not written an op-ed, so I guess I can't talk.

Anyway, the chain email brought up some good points about the climate of racism surrounding this administration, and how what's seen in the GOP goes without saying (but is said so many times over)'s its appearance in mainstream media outlets in covert ways and also leftist media outlets that is disturbing to this author.

And, I mean, I'm not at all surprised at the events as they've gone down. Someone can call it playing the race card, but I fully expected overt racism from the right, for sure, and from other places. I expected President Obama to not accomplish all that much in the first four years in terms of making a dent in the economic downturn, in terms of debt, in terms of a lot of the hot-button topics. I must say he exceeded my expectations for health care and disappointed me on the side of civil liberties in terms of the indefinite detention legislation. But I have overall been pleased that I have a President who is, yes, far from perfect but I feel comfortable criticizing, because the criticism is constructive and intelligent after growing up under George W. Bush and a GOP that was growing more and more hateful.

But this author argued that covert racism is coming from the middle ground, and even for the left, for this President. Things like, people being more likely to call him Obama than President, lack of respect, people calling him and the first lady uppity, arrogant...

While I do agree that he could be more gutsy (I respect him enough to leave his gonads out of this discussion), I also recognize what happened to our gutsier young presidents who are no longer with us. I also recognize that GOP governors were foretelling of President Obama's assassination before he was even elected, and apparently still are (sorry, just can't get over that).

It's deep. His election was an exciting time and a scary time for me because I didn't know if he would survive to serve four terms...literally and figuratively. And, even though he's made mistakes on the way and hasn't been as strong as many of us hoped he would be in some of his stances, he did survive, and more than survive, I'd argue.

But what of this racism from the center and from the left? Racism everywhere? The only way that we can analyze it is if we thought for a second, wait a minute...what if the President were white?

What if everything were the same inasmuch as it could be, and he were white? What if his father was Barry O'Brien, a white Kenyan with a Muslim background (haha, okay, stretch, but bear with me!) who met and married his mother, left little Barry behind when the couple divorced. Barry O'Brien. What if he grew up in Hawaii, and all else was the same in terms of his family's multicultural heritage, his mother still on food stamps, he still lived abroad, still had the Muslim step-father, all remained true. Say he still went to Harvard Law... Say he was still a community organizer, still attended church spottily, still was charasmatic and full of ideas and still all the yes-we-can that we knew him to be as he was campaigning, but that instead of a handsome, young black man, he's a handsome young white man.

Say he won the primaries against Hilary Clinton.

Would he have been elected over John McCain? Would Sarah Palin still be chosen as McCain's running mate? Would we still have the surge of the tea party? In office, would he have faces as much opposition from the right? Would we be critical of him in the same ways? Would the GOP be so foretelling of his assassination? What would be different, what would be the same?

I know for one thing, I still would have voted for Barry O'Brien because of his platform. I wouldn't have been excited about the election as I was, no, because I was excited about the history-changing moment when Americans successfully elected a black man into office. Outside of that, I would probably expect less from Barry O'Brien than I do Barack Obama, just because I expect the world out of black people because of in-group affection. I would expect strong opposition from the right in the partisan climate of politics that has been developing over the last several years, but I wouldn't, of course, expect the racism from the GOP that we've seen...

Barry O'Brien, like Barack Obama, I would regard no Kennedy, and that's fine. Kennedy was also killed. I don't need my leaders to be sacrificial lambs for my own political convictions, I need them to be effective in the political climate we have to make some positive change that's realistic in the face of opposition. And I need them to be alive to do that...

So, I don't know. I'm definitely not of the black people who like the President no matter what he does, but I'm also not the pessimist who thinks he's done nothing. I admit, yes, some of my affection for him is precisely because he is black. But I am also more critical of him and have higher hopes for him because he's black.

I can't say that there is definite racism on the left in people's analyses of the President, because I haven't been attentive to that. I just think a worthwhile exercise is to imagine if the President were white, and would any of your feelings about him change...

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