By Harry Welty
April 25, 2008
If Only He Was Boring
A friend, who is about a half a generation older than me, told me that her
daughter was aggravated because a black youth had a crush on her
granddaughter. My friend chuckled as she told me how she teased her fretting
daughter about having the granddaughter date a black guy. When the
objected that her Mother couldn't know how she felt my friend replied that,
of course she knew. My friend told her daughter that she was just like her
and neither of them wanted a daughter dating a black guy.
I could not bring myself to be offended by this revelation and even smiled
at the story's telling. For one thing it was an honest acknowledgment but
more importantly it was told with irony and humor. It was ironic because
behind the story was the recognition that in America no one is supposed to
feel this way - prejudiced. In this way the story was almost self
deprecatory. It wasn't aimed at the kid with a crush who couldn't help the
color of his skin.
Had the story been told twenty-five years ago or more it probably wouldn't
have been so humorous. It's more likely that it would have been told with
shame and or indignation. "How dare he think he can associate with my
child!" But this story was told with a surprise ending that gave the
granddaughter credit for thinking of a way around her mother's objections by
managing to meet the young man as though by accident. My friend wasn
't upset. She was amused at her granddaughter's resourcefulness.
I think this anecdote is wonderfully symbolic of today's America and Barack
Obama who I happen to support for President.
I'm not overawed by Obama's rhetoric like some of his fans. I heard his
breakthrough speech at the 2004 Democratic convention and thought it was
good but it didn't send me into a swoon. I saw his 37 minute response to
criticism of his minister, Jeremiah Wright, and admired it too but once
again was not overawed.
In the same racist way my friend didn't want her granddaughter dating a
black guy what I like about Obama is his whiteness. I know that doesn't say
much for me. Sure, Barack shows some black cool but it comes off a little
like a second language learned in adulthood. He's good at it but in a lot of
ways he's still a white guy singing gospel songs.
I've always joked that I'm the kind of guy who likes boring, sensible white
guys for President. This year Barack Obama is my guy and, if skin color
makes a difference, he is half white on his Mother's side. What's even
better for me is the fact that his Mother is from Kansas just like me. It's
a place so boring and sensible that, in the best movie of all time, it's a
place that's shown in black and white and Dorothy Gale has to be snatched up
by a tornado and dropped into the land of Oz before Technicolor kicks in.
I can imagine Barack's Kansas Grandmother, much like my friend, waking up to
find her daughter pregnant by her black husband but dealing with this
unwelcome surprise in a spirit of humility and generosity.
My historical heroes Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln have all advanced
America with the power of their intellect and good sense. I believe that
Barack Obama will fall comfortably into succession behind them despite the
many brickbats aimed his way. I've seen them. Family and friends have sent
me pictures of Obama wearing a turban or apparently not pledging
to the flag. I've read the complaints about his not wearing a flag lapel
pin. I've seen him called a Muslim as though that was about the most
diabolical thing he could possibly be. Yesterday I got an email titled "50
Obama lies." Today I've watched the new sixty second spot produced by the
man who made the infamous Willie Horton ad. Apparently, Obama wants gang
banging murderers treated tenderly. I also was emailed a column today about
how Obama is messianic, fascistic and unsupportive of our ally Israel.
Whether his black cool is genetic or learned Obama has floated past all the
brickbats with aplomb and grace. I like that.
This has been a lucky election for me. The last candidate I rooted for, John
McCain, was undone by racism in 2000 when, on the eve of the South Carolina
Republican primary, phone banks convinced South Carolinians that he had
fathered a black child out of wedlock. Now, eight years too late, McCain
has assured himself the Republican nomination. Though I won't vote for
McCain if Obama is the Democratic nominee, McCain is a man of honor and
principle. Unfortunately, neither of them is quite as boring as I would
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com