Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Aug 31st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

He’s the First Bi-racial President

tom_honig_sSo much was made about Barack Obama being the first African-American president, that more subtle—and more important—issues were ignored.

Obama, at 48, is decidedly not a Baby Boomer. He wasn’t part of the raging segregation debate of the ’50s, nor was he an adult during the tumult of the ’60s—black power, white rage, all the rest.

Obama’s election was instead a triumph of a new generation, one that is more comfortable about diversity than the generation that came before. Nowhere is that more obvious than the recent public discussion of whether the rude outburst by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican. A number of columnists, and no less an observer than former President Jimmy Carter, almost reflexively maneuvered themselves to an allegation of racism.

That reaction is perfectly understandable to those of us of a certain age. Anyone who’s a veteran of the ’50s or the ’60s can be excused for looking at things through a narrow lens—the first African-American president and a racist backlash. We lived through those things.

But one of the greatest things about any new generation is just that—it’s a new generation. And the one that follows the Baby Boom—Gen X, or maybe the Baby Bust (it’s been called a number of things)—has an experience far different from what came before.

That freshness and lack of experience can easily be criticized by huffy older folks, but it also gives us all a chance to start afresh. In the late ’60s, black and white people started teaming up in a way never experienced before. Biracial became a new part of the population, and biracial identity is one that really isn’t discussed much, certainly not in the mainstream press.

Rarely do we hear President Obama described as the nation’s first biracial president. Or even the first multi-racial president. But he is. Think back to his brilliant and memorable speech on race in the aftermath of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap. Anyone with an interest in race in America ought to remember that speech, because it will probably be one of the most celebrated speeches in our time. “I can no more disown (the Rev. Wright) than I can disown the black community,” he said. “ I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.”

Then, in the aftermath of Rep. Wilson’s interruption, Obama shrugged it off. That’s a powerful strategy. He shrugged it off.

That’s not to say that race is somehow a closed subject. In fact, race isn’t discussed—either here in Santa Cruz or around the country—near enough. But the subject of race is a far more complicated one than many of us—and mostly the media—realize.

To someone under 40, the outdated, simple story of race in America makes little sense. What race are you discussing? Diversity means just that—there are no set patterns here. When election results are announced on television news shows at election time, we hear a lot about the black vote, the Latino vote and even the gay vote. But ever-so-slowly, those descriptions mean less and less as new shades of gray are introduced into the American population.

The Census Bureau has had a tough time keeping up-to-date on its racial categories, because the increasing multi-racial nature of our population is getting harder to document.

In one of the great old-time blues songs, the late Memphis Slim weaved a tale about going back home to the South and how he had to re-learn the old ways of segregation. Happily, that song sounds dated today, and in his song, he had the answer. “It’s youth,” he said. “They’re changing things.”

That process doesn’t slow down. Rep. Wilson’s outburst reflects only on him—and his supporters. It doesn’t reflect on the president. And the president’s reaction was perfect. He shrugged it off.

And it’s not only race. The recent vote in California to support the anti-gay marriage Prop.  eight will be unthinkable in 10 years time. To those under 40, being gay is roughly equivalent to being left-handed. It’s what someone is. No big deal.

Racism, and prejudice, of course, still exist. They will as long as there is diversity in America. But what’s important to remember is that racism—like race—gets more complex over time. Race remains a subject of key importance —just as President Obama showed in his speech.

But the whole discussion requires more thought than before. And those of us who were around in an earlier era would do well to regard how things have changed, and how we live now.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual