Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We have heard so much over the past few months about the first African American President and the hope and inspiration that many people associate with him. As a white middle-class protestant who grew up with two parents, I cannot be presumptuous enough to understand what seeing President Obama sworn in meant for many people who grew up disenfranchised and in the shadow of power.

But, I did go to law school in ultra-white Iowa with only a handful of African American students and that gives me a story to tell

On the first day of our first year, I noticed that the few African American students all sat together through classes in Torts and Property Law and that they rarely engaged in discussion. As a quiet person myself it did not strike me as strange--I was not anxious to jump into discussions with a lot of argumentative law students either. I did not associate their silence to the color of their skin--I just thought maybe I would start sitting with them in the quiet corner.

The second day of our first year, we had Contracts class and our professor was an African American. Suddenly, it was as if this brilliant man had lit a flame under the African American students. They participated, they contributed, they were engaged in discussion and the whole class was richer for it--I even jumped in and started letting my mind expand with the discussion.

I thought about it a lot. Our teachers that first day had been brilliant, too.

While I appreciate the importance of the President's race to many people, to me the hope centers not on the color of his skin but on the breadth of his intellect and I wish him and all of us well.


Ruth said...

Canada seems to be more culturally integrated than the USA to me and I do not see Obama as a man of colour as much as I see his potential to bring about change. But I do hope he inspires other young black men to aspire to achieve their potential, just as the professor did in the law class.

KGMom said...

It is very clear that many young people, either African-American or bi-racial, see Obama and take inspiration from that.
His winning the Presidency is priceless for these young people who can now dream the greatest of dreams.

Kallen305 said...

My sons girlfriend is biracial and she told me of some of the hardships she had to endure at the hands of mean teenagers.

My sister just married an African American and they are planning on having children. I am hoping that his presidency will lesson some of the biases that are still out there toward bi racial marriages.

I too am hoping Obama will serve as a role model for young African American men. Now these young adults will see that anything is possible if you work hard and are not afraid to dream.

rach :) said...

NBC had a piece last night where they spoke to a 100 year old man who had been a cotton-picking slave, watched MLK talk about his Dream, and was going to the inauguration today. That was a very moving interview.

beckie said...

Beth, I don't think a lot of us will ever truly understnad what this day has meant to people of color. How could we? But maybe the trying will let us grow in compassion and humanity.

I am truly looking forward to this presidency with hope and enthusiasm. We live in a marvelous country, let's once again prove it.

Jayne said...

I too think he will be ultimately judged on the content of his character.

Kathiesbirds said...

Beth, how I agree with you. I feel like 8 years of stupidity have finally ended and we finally have an intelligent man in the White House. My hope rests on this, for he seems to be compassionate also. But, because of his race, I pray even harder for his safety.