Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Thought on the Inauguration

I enjoyed yesterday. I enjoyed Obama's speech, I thought the first half was probably the best political speech I've ever heard.

In the media buildup to the inauguration a family member was perplexed at the African American community claiming Obama as their own. Tavis Smiley was quoted that the black community kept its mouth shut during the election to "get the brother elected," but now was ready to start making its requests and grievances known. Other prominent African Americans spoke of how Obama "owed something" to the black community.

My family member said:"But, he's my President too. And he's not black!"

His mom was white, his dad was a visiting Kenyan. He spent some time growing in Indonesia and then was reared mostly by his white Kansan grandmother -- Obama was never a part of the black community until he finished Harvard. How much African ancestry do you need to still be "black"? Is it 1/2, 1/8?

But Kenya claims him, Hawaii claims him, the South Side of Chicago also claims him (even though he only spent 1 summer there as a community organizer)...

I'm glad that oppressed minorities feel like Dr. King's dream has been (mostly) fulfilled.

But, Thomas Friedman's column today made me think of a question: Could we ever elect a Jewish president in the U.S.?

Travel much in the Muslim world and you'll hear that Abraham Lincoln was a Jew, George Washington and our founding fathers were mostly Jews, etc. So, much of the world would say "Of course, you've had several."
But, would it be an issue here? We've only had one Catholic President, and that was sort of an issue then (and Joe Biden is now the first Catholic VP). Would Jewish people rejoice and shed tears at a Jew being elected?

"But Jews aren't discriminated against like African Americans are..." is one reply. Then, that sounds ludicrous in light of the Holocaust, pogroms, and historical laws and rules in the U.S. keeping Jews from being admitted to some colleges, organizations, public office, etc. Fear and distrust of Jews used to be regularly printed in the media.

"But Jews aren't impoverished like African Americans are..." is another reply. True, life expectancy, unemployment, labor force participation, and incarceration rates are higher among blacks than whites (or Jews). But, is that statistic true among biracial people who were raised by whites? No. Which takes us back to the first point-- is Obama really "black" and is that relevant to the question?

Ethnic Jews have won 163 of 750 Nobel prizes. They've held some of the highest positions of public service, including some elected offices. But, a Jew has never been elected to head the Executive Branch.

So, what do you think?

1 comment:

Joni said...

I'm sad nobody commented on this... I think it's a valid subject of discussion! If you had asked me a year or two ago, I would've said that I thought it likely that America would elect a Jewish president before they elected a black one. Turns out I would've been wrong. However, I think that now that we have elected a black president, it seems more likely that we could elect one of a minority religion... I mean, if enough people put aside racial prejudice to vote for Obama, couldn't that many people also put aside religious prejudice?