For some time it seemed that saying the word "black" to describe someone's race was actually and OK thing to do. I remember in the early 90s even saying the word "black" was equated with racism. I also remember someone doing a report about a gentleman from Antigua and he used the word black to describe his race (which was a central element to the story about race relations in Florida) and was chastised by his assignment editor for doing so and was ordered to use the term African-American, even though the gentleman had no African ancestry of any kind (at least none he was aware of anyway).
But recently, and more to the point, the term black has crept its way back into our common parlance here in the United States. To be honest, I'd rather focus more on the fact that President-elect Obama had many obstacles to overcome and focus on all of them, not merely his race as the only one. He came from a fairly meager economic background and is in touch with those of lower economic statuses from all racial backgrounds. But there are some who will belabor the point about the two terms here.
I believe he uses the term African-American to describe himself so I'll go with that. But what do others think? Is it OK to call President-Elect Obama our first black President? Does the fact that he's bi-racial make any difference in this case?
Regardless, we should be proud of our new President for a number of reasons. He's helped heal divisions already breaking down lines of political divisions and reaching across the aisle to others who may not think along his lines of thought. He inherits a country deeply divided on many issues and struggling economically (perhaps the worst since Jimmy Carter inherited Gerald Ford's mess? Or some may say since FDR?). And he's got to have an enormous weight on his shoulders simply by the pressure of the job itself, and even moreso, because of his racial background. Stupid people will judge all black people by President Obama's successes or failures. So he's got to feel that he's representing an opportunity to show the world that racism has no place anywhere in today's society.
So with that in mind I say, let's pray for our new President. Let's stand proudly that our country has broken the glass ceiling of racism for the first time in the White House. And let's be particularly proud of young man who overcame all the odds, where many people because of their own preconceived notions probably thought that he could never sit in the oval office or go to Harvard or Columbia. Some probably thought and some perhaps even told him he'd never be Senator or a lawyer or make anything much out of himself. Some people who share his race may have thought that they'd never see this day...
So let's thank God that we all stand today, united in the sure and certain hope that we are all created equal.
Your humble blogger is Mike Hayes, a well-known expert in the world of young adult ministry (20s and 30s) in the Catholic Church. Mike is the author of Googling God (Paulist, 2007) where he explores both the chaotic world that young people live in and their religious reactions to that world. He also explores the age of instant gratification and how churches can respond to the needs of the young adult age by using technology alongside more traditional ministry methods.
Mike founded the award winning BustedHalo.com® in 2001 and continues to contribute to it as the editor of their catechetical section appropriately named Googling God.
Recently, he left BustedHalo® to focus on more direct ministry with young people at St Joseph University Parish as a Campus Minister for the South Campus at the University at Buffalo.
He has only two loves: his adorable wife, Marion and a nine pound chihuahua named Haze, who still find him amusing enough to let them live in their home.