Get Over It: No Hatred in Obama Critiques

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  1. cordeg says:

    Growing up, I never cared much about whether I was “black” or “white”. My heroes in my teens were of both races (my father, a dark-skinned Italian of whom I heard many people in town refer to as “colored” though I was universally seen as “white”; from history – Lincoln, Garrison, Douglass; from sports – Jack Tatum (the man who could stop a locomotive with his forearm) and Daryle “Mad Bomber” Lamonica). It certainly never occurred to me that I would have been appreciably different if I had been born “black” rather than “white”.

    However, looking back at it now, I must admit that I am glad I was not born an African American. For one thing, as an Italian born of a certain segment of this population, I was taught that I was not an Italian-American, but rather just “me”. We were not ashamed of our heritage by any means (Daryle Lamonica, for example, was understood to be a nice Italian boy who made good), but neither were we taught to consider ourselves as some sort of special or different “kind” of American. In fact, it was made clear to me that “poor” Italians congregated in the “little Italy” sections of cities where they could revel in their “Italian-ness”, but that this was something that held them back, and that to make it in America one had best decide they were going to “be American”. My grandfather had admonished my grandmother to “speak American” so their children would not be forever “Italian-Americans” but become simply Americans. This attitude was inherited by my parents. Surely, there was much ado about our ethnicity, but all of it pretty much frivolous — “Kiss Me I’m Italian” buttons, St. Ubaldo races down the steepest hill in my father’s home town, jokes about having to find a girl who could cook in order to get married, etc. None of it was thought of as seriously “ethno-centric”, but more a light-hearted, joking kind of thing. No one told me that Italians were good and the “whites” who called us “dagoes” or “guido” were holding us down and had to be defeated — the latter were just “jerks” described to me as being that way about everything, rather than being described as hating me because I was, in particular, Italian. They were simply considered the kind of guys who would also probably call me “four-eyes” if I had worn glasses, or “pizza face” if I had bad acne, etc. Jerks.

    Listening to what should be considered perhaps the most successful “African-American” in US history — our President for pity’s sake — Barak Obama, makes me profoundly sad, and leaves me with the sense that I dodged a bullet by being born “white”. It seems that even the man who became President of the United States of America — the most powerful man in the free world — cannot be simply “Barak Obama”, but rather must be an “African American”. He must believe himself accepted or rejected by the rest of society not based on what HE thinks, what HE says, and what HE does, but rather on whether “white” people “like” or “hate” black people. What a tragic thing, to not have any notion of what you are as an individual within society, but rather only the perspective of what “your group” is and how other groups relate to it. Even if everyone in the world hated me because I was personally irritating to every one of them, I would not feel one percent as bad as if I thought the only possible meaning my life had in relationship with the rest of society was based solely on my membership in a group — ethnic, racial, religious, or otherwise. I cannot imagine having SO LITTLE REGARD FOR MYSELF AS AN INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEING that I was unable to recognize or understand the truth about how my interaction and relationship with others as an individual resulted in their opinion of me, and instead saw all of this only as a result of what group I belonged to in contrast to the groups to which they belonged. If I were to find myself in such a position, I would consider my life to have been an utter failure.

    I wonder. Does President Obama think of himself as being so ineffectual as an individual that his beliefs, words, and deeds mean nothing? That he has accomplished so little in his life that it still — as the twice-elected president of the country — amounts to nothing in contrast to the mere fact of his race? Has he perhaps been diminished by his own personal belief that maybe he “made it” only because he was the recipient of special dispensation — set asides, special programs, etc., that helped him move ahead of others who were measured as individuals rather than members of a particular group? Here was a man, after all, who as a then-Senator running for President had less experience in politics AND business AND the law AND the military than did then-Senator Dan Quayle when the latter ran for Vice President in 1988, and the press and Democrats roundly mocked him for being “far too inexperienced” to be a “heart-beat from the Presidency” — yet no one in those press-rooms or halls of the Democratic National Committee seemed to have noticed then-Senator Obama’s even slimmer resume. Is it possible that the result of all this sort of thing left Barak Obama unimpressed by HIMSELF — to such an extent that he now projects onto every other American the notion that they discredit him personally, and that he has taken on this facade of being the continued victim of “racial hatred” from a nation that twice elected him to their highest office?

    No, I think I must be glad that I have been left with the ability to see myself as an individual within my country rather than just another “Italian-American” in a sea of “Italian-Americans” weighed as a demographic in the country or as a cartoon version of myself — Italian-American-Man! Able to eat a hundred meatballs in a sitting! — and it seems that in the America that we have built over the last 50 years, we have taught those of the “African-American community” that they are not individuals, but rather members of a monolithic group. Where once “blacks” were told by both Northern and Southern Democrats where to live and where to eat and where to sit and where to use the bathroom, they are now told what to think — “black Conservatives must surely be “Uncle Toms”! — and how their own individual beliefs, words, and actions are meaningless in terms of how others see them, because only the color of their skin has the power to shape others’ opinion of them. If ever I thought that, I would consider those who taught me that lesson to be my mortal enemies — whether they were my parents, my political representatives, my religious leaders, the NAACP, or my President. I could not avoid recognizing that they were all seeking to diminish me and deny me my individuality, my power as a separate human being, my SELF.

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