In Their Reflections
We want to know from whence we came and to whom we belong.[via The Root]
Despite puzzling questions from some blacks about whether or not Barack is "black enough," he speaks to this desire in us to understand our roots because he knows his story. He can return to the land of his father and siblings. He can join in the ancient rituals. He can don the traditional clothing. Obama, like many of us, is still unalterably American. His story is as rooted in Kansas as it is in Kenya. But he has easy access to both. He can draw from the deep wells of both his mother's hopes and his father's dreams.
The social death of slavery has cut off many black Americans from our ancestral narratives. During Black History Month we adopt our collective accomplishments and our common heroes as a salve against our lost personal stories. This is critically important, but there is something special about naming your own ancestors and encountering yourself in their reflections.
Yet here in Black History Month, Obama's own black history is being used as a weapon against him. President Bush can traipse around the motherland safely encased in his armor of whiteness. No one can mistake him for a "native". His role is simply to dispatch the White Man's Burden with billions in abstinence-based HIV/AIDS programs and malaria-fighting mosquito netting. In a single photo, Barack can be painted as indelibly tied to a deep and mysterious, exotic and dangerous Dark Continent that produced the shame of slavery and the fear of Islamic radicalism.