Obama & The Hidden Black Man

obama.jpgUnlike others caught in the grip of Obamania, I don’t believe that Obama is the Messiah. And, apart from the rather vague promises of hope and change, I’m still not sure what his policies are. One thing is for sure, however: he certainly symbolizes a great deal for a great many, myself included.

Just last week, I sat down to brunch with four fine, 30 year old African-American men. None have been in jail. None are rappers or athletes. None sell drugs. None wear baggy pants, or speak in ebonics. They are all making great strides in their respective professions, are all college educated, all making legal money and generally just trying to live their best lives. Common sense tells me that everyone is aware that there are black men like these and it’s not something that needs to be highlighted. Unfortunately not. As a white friend of mine commented, when your only real interaction with black males is through the eyes of the media – as it is for many – you end up with a very skewed picture. Worryingly, it’s not only white people whose perception is inaccurate; when filmaker Janks Morton made a documentary exposing myths and misconceptions about black people, he found that the majority of black people he interviewed believed – wrongly – that more black men are in jail than in college.

This is why Obama symbolizes the ‘hidden’ black man: the educated, sophisticated, intelligent, classy, charming, moderate and hard working black man whose voice goes unheard amongst the overwhelming negativity espoused by the media and many other sections of society. Thanks to Obama, the world now sees a black man who bucks every scary statistic and stereotype of black men running for one of the most powerful positions in the globe. Not only is he running, but he’s in the game with a good chance of winning. I hope those who watch Obama, both from within and without the US, realize that far from being an anomaly, Obama is one of many such men. He is just one of many African-American men that we seldom hear about or see in the public eye, their images distorted by BET- and MTV-led caricatures of black masculinity.

Obama represents the hidden black man who is not angry for the sake of being angry. Obama does not point his finger at white people as the source of all problems – he represents the black man who is aware of the subtleties, complexities and naunces surrounding race, racism, race relations and racial identity and realizes that being combatative does little to encourage open and honest conversation about issues that America – white and black – needs to address.

Within the US political system alone, there are more Obama-types (excuse the label; of course, all of these men are unique individuals) coming up: Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey is one. Deval Patrick, mayor of Massachussets, is another. And there are more.

Forget politics – these types of black men exist throughout African America… You just rarely hear about them. Regardless of the outcome of the US presidential elections, I hope Obama’s candidacy will mean that such men are no longer kept in the dark.

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6 thoughts on “Obama & The Hidden Black Man

  1. That of course is a wholeeee ‘nother conversation! His background is actually extremely mixed. Not only was his father Kenyan and his mother from Kansas, but he grew up mainly in Hawaii and spent a number of years at school in Indonesia. However, Obama self-defines as African-American.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I always get frustrated with the subversive racism inherent in the (British) media, for example you always get black extras in prisons in a drama yet you rarely see black extras or characters in boardrooms or in a professional context. Despite the great strides made by black professionals in this country, many remain hidden. The New Nation’s 100 power list recently discovered that the CEO of Tate and Lyle was a black man and there are many others who are quietly making waves in their chosen field. The City of London is full of black traders/accountants/lawyers etc, yet this is never reflected in dramas,ads etc…
    Another example of subversive racism that pisses me off is when a black person is portrayed in ads as an athlete/singer/rapper etc… all the easy(lazy?) stereotypes that are associated with us.

  3. Yesterday I was watching Oprah, and they were talking about the Cosby Show and the impact it had on society. Bill Cosby said that when it started, people were extremely critical of the show saying that it was inaccurate because such black middle class families did not exist in America. On the other hand, letters were pouring in from black people who thanked him for portraying their lives on TV because they did in fact have fathers who were doctors and mothers who were lawyers – but no body ever heard about black people like that. The other interesting thing is that some black people had never seen other black people like that but the Cosby Show helped them have a positive image of a successful black family and realize that it was achievable.. I think that’s very important because it suggests that our own expectations can be raised or lowered based on media images that we see of ourselves.

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