Sunday, December 07, 2008

Shame 20 years on down the line

"Grandma, what's this on top of the box?"

The year is 2028 and you thought you were helping Grandma get a few things out of the attic but you're holding a newspaper.

NYT  Nov. 5th

"That's The New York Times," she tells you. "November 5, 2008. We thought it was going to be historic. A lot of us saved copies."

You study it. Barack Obama. Oh, yeah. You learned about him in high school civics. He wasn't much of a president but he did have symbolic value.

"That's right," Grandma says patting your shoulder. "He was a first! He broke the barrier!"

"Yeah," you agree studying the front page, "that was really something."

New York Times Nov. 5, 2008

But wait . . . What the hell?

Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.


Grandma pretends to be busy looking through a box.

"Grandma, Black? This writer, this Adam Nagourney, was he a racist? Who owned this paper?"

"Well . . ." Grandma began, "we . . . We didn't know any better."

"Bi-racial. Bi-racial's the word. What kind of racist newspaper was this? No wonder they all stopped printing. Black? Was there marches to show solidarity with bi- and multi-racial persons?"

"No, a lot of us just pretended like he was Black. It seemed easier that way."

Racist was what it was.

"Grandma, you all got his father was Black and his mother was White, right?"

Grandma nods and looks sheepish as racism lingers all around her.

"But you called him 'Black'? Grandma, I'm ashamed of you."

"We didn't mean any harm, that's just the way we talked."

You can't believe, in 2028, that a mere 20 years ago, it was acceptable for the press organs -- the respected press -- to label a bi-racial or multi-racial person a single race. It was so insulting. You knew about the huge struggles in the last years but you didn't realize, until right this moment how bad things were or that even your own family -- your own family! -- could have been so racist. And look how enlightened this racist Adam Nagourney thought he was while describing a bi-racial person as a single race. Things really were backward back then.

[See also Marie Arana's "He's Not Black" (Washington Post), Betty's "The word is bi-racial," Stan's "All over the place," Marcia's "Sick and tired of it" and Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The Surreal Life stages comeback!"]
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