09 Oct

Congrats, Mr. Pres!

I’ll try to be as pc as possible and not make you uncomfortable. If I fail in that respect, do bear in mind that feelings of awkwardness and it’s cousin embarrassment are normal human emotions.

I first felt conscious of my skin colour as a business woman late in 2006. The store in a ritzy part of town served predominantly caucasian customers all of whom I got on with very well with no issues whatsoever. And then we had a black female customer who noticed that I and the only other sales assistant in the store happened to be black. She asked very loudly; “Is this business black owned?” To which I very gingerly replied; “yes it is”.  “Good, I’ll spread the word”, was her prompt response, again very loudly.

Another time a black guy came in and this time kindly waited till all the customers had left before offering his commiseration as I must be forced to hire only caucasian sales persons. This time the only other member of staff present was caucasian. He  asked what it was like being black in Buckhead. I replied that I had no complaints, I simply felt happy to be doing what I did. And on it went, lots of interviews about how affected I was by race relations in the metro area of Georgia, someone even went on to assure me that the only reason the store thrived was because of my English accent, which admittedly  gets noticeably heightened in a professional environment. Gradually my confidence began to wane. I started to consider the possibility that judgement on my ability to design beautiful rooms was made based on the color of my skin. Then I watched an Oprah Winfrey episode and carefully observed the way she was worshipped by her mostly caucasian audience. They laughed at her every joke, however silly. They were awash with a warm glow when she pointed at them to answer a question, after frantically waving their hands in eager anticipation that she  just might pick them. And when she made eye contact with them, the gesture was returned with adoring eyes and big smiles.

Then I saw Obama. He hadn’t formally announced his candidacy at the time but people were talking. The fact that there were people who even imagined this man running for presidency of the United States gave me a right to be myself, wherever I was. Obama was as cool as Denzel, very eloquent and I picked up this phrase from him- “they massaged the truth” said in reference to the information given out by the Bush administration concerning the Iraq war. If they could worship a black talk-show host and look at a black man as their potential president, then the sky was the limit for me.

I learned that it is far better not to have any prejudice in your heart, justified or not than to try to prove that your race suffers injustice. I heard a quote that says; ‘for every minute you’re angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness’. When President Obama ran his campaign, he chose to ignore all the bad press and lies that were being spun about him. Choosing instead to do as Dr Martin Luther King Jr said; ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can’.

Based on my observation of some Americans’ reaction to the US president and on the amount of racism that his presidency has exposed, I no longer discuss American politics. I refuse to agree or disagree that Obama is being treated unfairly. I once had an email from one of my suppliers in a southern state with a link to a video, where a Catholic priest pretty much called Obama the devil. She assumed that because she felt the way she did, all her customers felt that way too.

Today on my Facebook page I have a couple of wall-to-wall conversations angrily ranting about President Obama’s nobel prize win and saying that he didn’t deserve it. If you don’t support the man and we happen to be in each other’s company, I’ll be keeping my opinions to myself- just in case you wonder why I don’t answer your thinly veiled prejudiced questions. I’d rather use each of my 60 seconds wisely. However If you do support him, I will be happy to hear from you but please keep it short and simple. I have some life goals to reach. Obama is where he is because he worked hard. I need to be where I want to be too, so I have work to do. Thank you for reading.

5 thoughts on “Congrats, Mr. Pres!

  1. First of all i must say here that no prejudice is attached and i am proud to be a black man in this era of Obamas presidency, it is a landmark achievement by a black. I followed all his campaign and was always swayed at his cool demeanor, I leant a lot from him never answering his critics and believing in himself and his dream. Let me state here that he inspired me to be the writer and advocate i have become because until that time i was a lost man, having talent but doubting if i will come good. The truth is that Obama inherited a United States with complex problems that will not be solved in years and i congratulate him for working tirelessly to change things. The task before Obama is enormous and he is facing challenge from a lot of people who pray he fails so they can laugh at him and also from establishments who are gaining from the fall of America and will want it so. I subscribe to New york times and i read a lot about America politics and have a knowledge of what he is facing and the challenges he will have to overcome. Moreover Americans have a life style that has come to hunt them and Obama is trying to change their mindset which as we all know is a change that will naturally be opposed initially. Having said that i disagree with him on abortion, gay rights and the Nobel prize, but putting into context that he is a president i would have loved him tread carefully on the abortion and gay right thing, not supporting it and letting the constitution prevail naturally. In all he is human and can not be expected to be perfect. I love the fact that he cares for the ordinary man and is trying all he can to better average people, inspiring millions all over the world. Checking his back ground and seeing the challenges he had to overcome with focus is a challenge to us all. Yes Obama is the deal, but it is too early to praise his work because he has not even been in office for a year. As a leader you must expect criticism that makes you know you are not perfect and also allow you room for improvement. If you don’t want to be criticized them remain small period.

  2. Very well said Michael. But do remember that he neither lobbied for nor asked for the Nobel Peace Prize. What I have a problem with is people who are prejudiced and educated but when it comes to calculating the number of months in office versus his achievements they suddenly draw a blank. Some of these people are the ones who veill their prejudice by fighting against ‘socialism’ and criticizing his every move, down to the fact that ‘Michelle wore a pair of shorts- should she?’ Obama not only inherited a country in a right mess but he also saved the US from going into a depression. The one who caused the mess is basking in the praises of the people whose lives have been ruined and those that joined hands with him to ruin it since they get kickbacks. I do not support the homosexual lifestyle or abortion, but just because Bush didn’t support it either does not make him a better President than Obama. While it is still too early to count his achievements, we can at least be honest about the good he has done, however little. At least he has a plan. He needs a chance to work it, abi?

    • Well if it is for one year achievement i will like another award not Nobel Lauret. What is happening in US is same as Nigeria and many other countries. Multinational companies just want to make money and care less for humans or economy of the countries. It is bad, My partner in our company had to resign from Mobil because of conscience. He said they just use his people and land without giving them what they deserved. This is the New World, it is end time so many things will keep happening, Obama will have to be on guard all his term, He may turn out to be a hero they do not want him and will fight him to be.

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