It’s All In Black & White

It’s All In Black & White

By Katrina Taylor

President Barack Hussein Obama has been celebrated as the first African American president and rightly so. In a way, he is the quintessential African American in that his father was an African and his mother, American, bringing together two continents united by a troubled history. That his was the genesis of this shift in American politics is profound.Through self-discipline, study and an insatiable hunger to understand people and what makes them tick, Barack Obama has forged an exemplary life.

The mantel of “first Black President” stands as fact, shown in the response from racists who couldn’t handle it any worse than if President Obama actually was a beret-wearing, fist-pumping militant negro. But Barack was raised by his White mother and family and they played the greatest role in his development. We know that the President is biracial but we don’t talk about it much. But it was his mother who kept his academic nose to the grindstone and taught him to respect others as he would himself.

Barack’s White grandparents joined the ranks of grandparents caring for their grandchildren and furthered his growth through their love and commitment as their daughter sought to make her own way. Living abroad in Indonesia  and the multicultural landscape of Hawaii expanded his horizons, informing his sense of humanity and helped him to overcome personal boundaries limited by black & white lines.

The President’s father, though largely absent, played an invaluable role, his genetic blueprint adding potency to Barack’s makeup as evidenced by the similarities in both their social and academic prowess. President Obama’s distinct and charming appeal is an undeniable gift from his father.

We can see throughout President Obama’s rise over the years to now, his focus on unity has never wavered and, in the face of all kinds of divisions and conflicts, he does his best to remain the steady hand that leads the nation. He serves as a reminder to be easier with each other through all the turmoil since, in reality, we’re all doing the best we can.

The President has talked about his own soul-searching as he traversed the race-tinged landscape of American communities in order to find a way out of the chaos. For me, he lives the words in don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements: 1) Be impeccable with your word. 2) Take nothing personally. 3) Don’t assume. 4) Always do your best. Words to live by and what true leadership is all about. The kind that inspires and has us searching for our own inner leader rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. Regardless of political leanings, the masses have become more involved and informed about their democracy since the election of President Obama.

But we still have a long way to go before we have a factually informed electorate. That takes effort on the part of individuals which many find boring and unnecessary. I hope the tide continues to turn towards personal responsibility as people wake up to what’s happening around them and see that they have a part to play.

This is not a dress rehearsal. We are live, folks!

There have been arguments from Black pundits & theologians that President Obama isn’t “Black enough”. This is a limited perspective and many of these people are “experts” who should understand that the President is president for the nation, not just Black people. He’s not “Reverend Obama” he’s President Obama and the legislation he has passed and seeks to pass on behalf of the disenfranchised, overwhelmingly helps the Black community. This is the bigger picture.

When issues of race come up I can almost feel a collective glazing over of  rolling eyeballs. My mother used to say, “Black folks think about race all the time. White folks think about race when they see a Black person.” There’s a lot of truth in that but it’s not completely true. Neither I nor other Black people think about race all the time. I think most would rather not think about it. It’s hard enough just being human in this world. In my own life, I’m reminded and still at times caught off guard by the random musings and behavior of my White, Southern neighbors, that my hue matters a lot to them.

Though Blacks are often accused of whining and “bringing up the race card” whenever anyone calls ignorant racists out, it’s Whites who have the biggest problem with race which is the reason we’re talking about it. If the races were healed and racism was over with the election of the first Black President then Black folks wouldn’t feel so victimized & unsung and White folks wouldn’t feel so guilty & afraid that they might someday meet the same fate still inflicted on others.

The institutional racism that still exists in governmental structures can only change in a democracy where the electorate is informed and educated on the facts. Reading, studying, stretching your mind are vital if we’re going to move forward. Fighting only keeps us in this place of partisanship when there are so many far more gratifying options. Since the election of Barack Obama, in spite of the obvious bigotry, there’s also been an effort on the part of individuals to open up the space for real talk and communication and an appreciation of diversity.

It’s an old habit, this knee-jerk reaction that exists between Black and White. Our tragic history colors just about everything as we can see in the insane behavior exemplified by those still stuck in a false sense of superiority. Though this insanity transcends the political left and right and tugs at generational beliefs and values, it’s the “conservatives” who pose the greatest danger. In a democracy where people get to choose their own lives it doesn’t matter whether I agree with you or not. But the terrorist behavior that comes from such thinking is a problem for the nation as a whole.

Now the inmates have taken over the asylum. While many Americans were getting on with life, forgetting that democracy is interactive, blinded by all the shiny objects & reality tv, the fearful and terrorist-minded were busy filling up local state houses and national offices with their loony, fringe believers. It’s the price we pay when reading becomes too big a haul and sound-bites are the chosen fare for understanding how democracy works.

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” ~ JFK

Here in Georgia, there are plenty of rednecks and racists, gleefully misinformed by the 24/7 batshit forum on Fox News. But in my personal relationships it’s a weird blend of goodness and this ugly shadow. I guess that’s everybody’s struggle in life, balancing between good & evil, but seeing the heart in friends who still celebrate the Civil War twists my mind in all kinds of knots. Their genuine kindness, authentic humanness, boggles the brain when considering their delight in the war that ended slavery. For the side that lost!

It makes no sense to me but when the heart comes into play, the mind can take a backseat, a chattering box to be guided, not left to run amok, allowing us to get on with the things that really matter.

The past has to be reckoned with in order to get past the divisions.  In the midst of troubles there is opportunity for celebration. Black and White, and everybody else in this collective mix of tribe, clan and blurry-lined boundaries. We’ve come through some extraordinary battles as a nation just to maintain this democracy and though we still struggle today, look how far we’ve come.

When I passed a young, White mother of two little girls at the supermarket the other day, her gawking stare at my happily-nappy hairdo could have easily been offensive. But when I smiled at her and her wide-eyed girls she felt comfortable enough to say, “I’m sorry for staring but your hair is awesome!” That experience was new for me here in Georgia and, itself, was quite awesome. And her shy but authentic revelation reminded me to never assume or take things personally.

There’s goodness contained in such exchanges and I take heart in them. The humanness in the little things that shift paradigms and expand the conversation.

We can see in President Obama the ways of a balanced heart. We’re creating the tales that will be told to future generations in everything we do and say. How will we balance the history that has gotten us here and carry it into the future? It is a step-by-step, moment-by-moment, participatory journey that takes everything we’ve got to achieve. But the rewards of such a commitment to our best selves and to one another, as human beings, are what life is all about.

“If we have no peace it’s because we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Theresa


~ by katrinataylor44 on March 17, 2013.

3 Responses to “It’s All In Black & White”

  1. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Great post, as usual. I love your blog style. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

  2. I love these comments, and how the scene in the supermarket worked out! It is very encouraging. SO encouraging, and President Obama represents so much that is promising for the future… (we are a “mixed race” couple ourselves and I see that promise in our son). Thanks for this!


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