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Dec 27, 2008

Barack Obama is Different

. Dec 27, 2008

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I am spending the evening around some of my favorite friends: books. Whether I enter a big box bookseller like Barnes and Noble or a small cramped hole in the wall with stacks and stacks of dusty books, I feel excited and anxious at once. All the possibilities of new worlds and amazing characters between these covers excite me, while looking at the stacks or shelves of books makes me anxious because I'll never have time to read them all.

Tonight I'm navigating around big tables piled high with coffee table books deeply discounted at Barnes and Noble. I look at one called The Complete History of the World, which keeps sliding on the slick glossy covers of the books underneath it because it's nearly two feet tall.

The table also has a selection of books about President Elect Barack Obama - his two bestsellers, a political pundit's analysis of him and a giant picture book of his campaign. Soon two female seniors approach the table. One of them opens the Obama picture book and stops at a double-page spread capturing close-up photos of three black women in the crowd at Obama's victory speech. Tears stream down all three black womens' faces and two of them grip tiny American flags in their clasped hands.

The older white women looking at the book pause at this photo, one smiles softly and the other utters a barely audible 'hhmm':

Smiles: My, my. It must be something to see one of your own finally make it this far.
Hhmm: Yes, well, Obama's not your average black. He's different.
Smiles: How do you mean?

Hhmm: Well, he's not on welfare, a thief or a gang member, is he? And he went to college. And got a job.
Smiles: Ohhh, shhh! Don't say that!

Hhmm: Why? I don't hear you disagreeing with me.

11 Whispers:

Anonymous said...

That is so totally ignorant and vile. What a dumb rude person. I rarely comment on blogs but this was just too much to pass up.

Celeste R. said...

Wow. I am simultaneously speechless and full of angry things to shout at that woman. And yet there's something else. If you take the emotion out of it, the bigotry (love your photo association) and the fear, there are crime, financial and education data that support her sentiment.

Yes, it's an ugly thing to say. No, I don't condone it and no, I am not a racist. I am an African American woman who faces this kind of stereotyping every day.

But this is the world we live in. This is why Obama's victory is such a personal one for so many people. This is why I myself cried on election day and many moments after while watching him on tv.

I'm a high school sociology teacher. I stumbled upon your blog and I would love to make it required reading for my students be it not for some parents probably suing me for it. You should share your blog with colleges and university social science departments. It's a fascinating snapshot of social norms and taboos.

I'll be back.

Caf said...

i love your blog so freakin much!

stupid people are so hilarious when they're being offensive!

Francisco said...

good!!

Vivienne said...

Celeste, yours is probably the most personal comment posted on this blog and I thank you for it. I delayed responding in hopes that other readers might want to discuss your observations without my input possibly influencing anything.

Not being a racial minority myself, I can say that I am 'offended' or 'shocked' at these kinds of statements, but it's not personal for me as it must be for you. I imagine living with stereotyping can be a constant challenge to your self worth. How one responds, I suppose, is heavily influenced by what is already in the heart and mind. Do you fight harder to prove them wrong, or is the fight gone because their minds are already made up?

From your comments, it's clear that you have defined your own reality, which I think is not as easy as it sounds, for anyone, let alone someone from a racial group more commonly judged by society than others.

I love your suggestion to share my blog with students. I would be so curious about their reactions. Something for me to think about...

Thanks for sharing your views and hope to see you again.

Hi Caf, I'm so glad to see someone using the word 'freakin' besides me! I'm happy to know you enjoy your visits here. Thanks for taking a moment to tell me so.

Hello Francisco, glad you liked the post.

RobRoy said...

Just goes to show you that racism is alive and well. It may be a little more politically correct, but it's here.

obamafans@pinoy2.com said...

i like your post featuring obama, he must be good as a president from now on.. protect his race...

anigalla said...

read the other post "Barack's Been Good, ..." and this one. Liked the way of presentation as well as the info.. will be reading this blog regularly.. nice.

anigalla said...

read the other post "Barack's Been Good ..." and this one.. nicely written. hope you may like this too.. nothing is impossible

Cyn said...

I like reading this....his a good man....and a good leader....

peter said...

:)

 

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