Can of Worms

I’m still not entirely sure about supporting Obama, but I liked him better than Hillary so I guess that this is pretty dandy news.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois claimed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, NBC News projected based on its tally of convention delegates. By doing so, he shattered a barrier more than two centuries old to become the first black candidate ever nominated by a major political party for the nation’s highest office.

Source: MSNBC

And now, for a moment, I’d like to potentially open up a can of worms and talk about race. Having had a conversation with a black student in my College Composition class earlier this evening who is passionate about racism, I’d like to think that this won’t actually be judged as racist.

Alright, yes. It’s absolutely splendid that blacks are finally able to achieve the presidential nomination but… I think that it shouldn’t matter. If we really have progressed beyond racism in this country, why are we still counting every black achievement for the single reason that they are black?

I get the strangest feelings when I see a caption on a photo that says “First African American to (insert achievement here)”. Now, I’m not saying that in the past blacks didn’t have a lot more to overcome than protestant Anglo-Saxons, but today, why are we still congratulating their achievements not because they achieved it, but because they are black?

Yesterday, I saw a photo of a young black boy standing on the wing of his air plane. The caption read “Youngest Person to Fly Solo Around the World”. That’s a whole lot different than “First African American to Fly Solo Around the World”. We can justify saying “First African American to …” back in the days during and before the Civil Rights movement when racism ran rampant and they definitely did have to work harder, but today, why don’t we just celebrate the person’s accomplishments as an individual?

It’s arguable that Atheists are more disadvantaged than blacks are today. Can you imagine how weird it would be to see captions on photos like “First Openly Atheist Person to …”?

If it weren’t for the minority of people in this country who actually are racist, I’d like to think that race would’ve become a non-issue by now. I don’t really care about the race of the individuals who I interact with. As a biracial person (by the way, Obama is biracial too), I don’t think that any race really fits me so I have to see myself as an individual. I will celebrate the accomplishments of my black friends, not because they’re black, but because they are my friends. Same goes for my Hispanic, Asian, or whatever-they-are friends.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Relas on June 4, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Kudos. Much Kudos! You go, Elles.

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I despise black pride. Well… maybe not despise. Find it… pointless and unjustified, how about?

    I despise any kind of pride of that kind. National pride, gay pride, racial pride, feminine pride, etc.
    I have contempt for any pride that originates in BEING something (being american, being gay, being asian, etc.)

    It’s being proud of something you had no control over, thus you don’t really have a right to be proud of it. It’s kind of like being proud of other’s accomplishments… although not nearly as arrogant and ass-hole ish, since no one really can claim to be responsible…

    I have nothing against being happy with who or what you are. You can be happy without being prideful. Pride suggests a sort of defensive passion, which can result in conflict. And these huge bouts of pride lead to just that. Conflict.

    Meh… I had to get that outta my system. This topic gets me all worked up xD

  2. Posted by Iain on June 4, 2008 at 7:35 am

    “First Openly Athiest Person to secure the Presidential nomination of a major party”? Weird, yes. Also very unlikely, and hence probably a news story!

  3. I’m more impressed with the fact that someone who was economically disadvantaged won the nomination.

    It’s been some time since someone who was still paying off student loans in their 30’s was a serious contender.

  4. I had the same reaction as you–they’re talking about his race NOW? We’ve known for months that if he wins he’ll be the first African-American president, just like we knew that if Clinton won she’d be the first woman. But now it’s time to just focus on whether he’ll be a good president or not. As much it would be great to have a black president for the sake of setting a precedent, we shouldn’t support him only for that reason.

    As for an atheist candidate, it wouldn’t be “openly atheist”, it would be either “avowed atheist” or “self-confessed atheist”, either of which is a silly way to put it.

  5. Posted by Carrie on June 4, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I actually disagree. If the achievement were primarily a solo effort, with the general populace having no effect on his victory (say, “First Black Man to Climb Everest” or “First Black Man to Perform Brain Surgery”) for example), I would agree. We shouldn’t be surprised that a minority can do the same thing as a non-minority. In this case, though, the achievement of Barack Obama is as much the nation’s as his own. The nomination of a black man as a major party’s candidate shows that the United States has come a long way and, while imperfect, we’re collectively a lot less racist than we used to be. It is impressive, and I hope to be similarly impressed when the first openly atheist candidate is embraced this way.

  6. Posted by Carrie on June 4, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Sorry about the random winky sign… that snuck in there somehow and was not intended.

  7. Posted by Douglas Sarradet on June 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I disagree with your splendid point of view. 🙂 I think that nominating a black man is something for Americans to be proud of, especially Democrats. Racism is not dead or dying. You can tell by the level of Xenophobia against Mexicans, Muslims, the French and everyone else who isn’t white or at least American. I live in New Orleans. I have met with so many racists it doesn’t even surprise me anymore. They all say they aren’t racist, but privately they assume I (as a white guy) must agree with thier views on blacks. They often don’t use the word black. They make a point of giving jobs to whites over blacks, and won’t rent property to blacks. I’m not a scientist Elles, but I’m pretty sure you can measure the accuracy of the sentance before this one scientifically. Racism is alive and well, and will probably put McCain in the white house. 😦

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with Relas, who said that one shouldn’t have pride for being something. You should have pride for what you do, not what you can’t help being. Especially when it comes to nationality.

    I honestly don’t care what color his skin is or that Hillary is a woman. I judge people based upon their actions, not the way they were born. I despise the people who are rooting for one or the other just because they feel entitled to it – women to Hillary and black people to Obama. I want to hear the issues, not whether you were born with two left feet or have a mole on your back or whether you’re black or a woman or both.

  9. “If it weren’t for the minority of people in this country who actually are racist, I’d like to think that race would’ve become a non-issue by now. I don’t really care about the race of the individuals who I interact with.”

    That’s exactly what I’ve been saying for years. This is the 21st century, it’s time we grew up and joined it! Racism belongs in the last 2000 years of history.

    I also feel the same way about religion. “If it weren’t for the minority of people in this country who actually are [fundamentalist], I’d like to think that [religion] would’ve become a non-issue by now. I don’t really care about the [religion] of the individuals who I interact with.”

  10. I agree with Carrie and Douglas. Racism is alive and well (just play some Counter Strike or Team Fortress 2 and you will see so much of it it will make your head asplode) in the United States and it really is a big deal that the first non-white Presidential nominee has been announced. It would also be a big deal if the first female nominee had been announced because sexism is rampant.
    If it weren’t a big deal then we would have had a non-white President a long, long time ago. But the fact of the matter is that racism is still very recent. Blacks and whites have only legally been allowed to marry for 40 years. That is not a long time at all.
    I am also biracial (or multiracial if you want to get more complicated) and have dealt with racism on both sides. When I was younger I didn’t quite realize the scope, growing up in a white neighborhood in New England. But as you expand your horizons it becomes very clear; racism is not dead. America has a long, long way to go. And I think that Obama being even nominated for President shows that we may have an opportunity to move in the right direction. Will America take it? Who knows.

  11. While racism is dead in the minds of many (myself and you included, it seems) it’s sadly alive and well in society at large. I agree with the earlier comments that the distinction should be made between personal achievement and public support – it’s more a big thing for the country than for the man if he gets elected.

    I definitely agree with the main point of the entry – that to be truly non-racist one must be colour-blind and treat people as (gasp!) equals. But this needs to be qualified with the fact that the world is not there yet.

    One more reason we need more people like us in the world 😉

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