A friend recently remarked on the chatter around Barak Obama, African-American Senator running for President of these United States. The question raised, as is often the question, "is this country ready for a black president?" My friend quipped - does that mean people think that the menu at the white house has to be changed or make sure BET is on the cable?
What does this mean - are we ready for a black anything? It basically means - can whites handle someone who doesn't look like them in a position of authority? We have black Senators (see Barak Obama), black Mayors, black Governors, black queen of daytime TV (see Barak's sidekick Oprah), black popular entertainers and sports figures, black writers and columnists, black newscasters, and on and on. So why are we still asking about our readiness to accept a black president?
Another friend said that white America may be ready for a half-black president and that Obama is not as threatening as an inner-city African-American male would be. Then I have to ask - are we ready for Michelle, Barak's wife, who is more "black" as first lady?
I just checked the calendar and it is 2007, not 1867. There is a dust-up in Kansas City, Missouri where the mayor's wife called one of the black staffers in the office, "mammy" and it has resulted in an EEOC complaint. Apparently the city populace is quite divided on whether this incident is worthy of rebuke or whether the black woman is just a whiner. Will Ms. Obama have to suffer from such criticism as first lady? Will she call the house staff "crackers?"
So where does white America get off saying are we ready for a black prez? Who is "we," since I am sure most African-Americans are quite ready for a black prez. Blacks are governed by white authority figures every day in every way - and I don't recall that anyone asked them if they were ready for that. The fact that white America still believes that asking the question is ok and asks it without any consideration of the implications, certainly says something about race sensitivity in this country.
The political climate suggests to me that white Americans are tone-deaf when it comes to race. We believe that color-blind means everyone thinks like us - a white person.