Thursday, January 29, 2009

A start

I understand that this blog is set up and intended as a tool for my Human Resources course at Mills. It is to blog my thoughts on the reading. As the book has not arrived, I will write what was circling in my mind as I weeded the the dreaded oxalis from my yard.

My thoughts are on Obama and whites perceptions of him: love, hope, empowerment, cynicism, and sheer fascination. In class, it was brought up that he is quite aware as a leader that he is under a microscope by the world's watchful and critical eye. That every move he makes reeks of integrity, honesty, and that he walks the walk. I wholeheartedly agree. Because of what I feel Obama can do for us, with us, and will allow us to become (owning our responsibly as complicit Americans). Because of him and who I perceive him to be and what I have read, we have a poster of him in our dining room (the most sacred of family rooms) and we flew the American flag for the very first time in my life time on Inauguration Day.

But I got to thinking, shouldn't we have this feeling about all our presidents? Shouldn't they all reek of integrity. Shouldn't they shine as if under a microscope? Shouldn't they lead to engage the people to make a better world? Absolutely and no f'ing way!

Critics, racist or cynics or both, said Obama would not have gotten so far had he not been black. Ah, but historically, all our past presidents would not be where they were had they not been WHITE. It was a given that to be president, a MAN had to be WHITE. Period.

Along comes Obama, an amazing man as some past presidents have been. What sets him apart from the past is, yes, he's not white. Because of this, he was acutely aware of white privileges and privileges of power. Looking back at he who shall be named, George W Bush, we witnessed white privilege at its finest: attaining power not by integrity or intelligence but because his is a legacy child, coruption, he comes from money, and he the whitest of whites. He acted the fool so often because he could. No one would question his actions quite like they would Obama. Not even himself because he didn't have to. This is pervasive in the presentation and expectations of men in general in our culture. Just use Carls Jr.'s adds depicting men as idiot slobs and being perfectly righteous in this hamburger-eating-butt-crack showin' identity. Where is the leadership? Where is the accountability for our actions? Where is that person we can get behind? Where is that person who can give us strength to fight for justice, or mend poor relationships or bad habits, or to inspire us to become better citizens (even leaders)?

He is here at last, or so I feel. I feel compelled. I feel it my responsibility to teach my two young daughters who Obama is and what it means for us as a family to be constantly aware of our unearned privileges as white people. Yes they are a bit young at 3 and 6 to have the conversation (this too is a privilege. I know, as many parent and children of color don't have this luxury), but I can teach through action and integrity as I believe Obama has done through his campaign and has illustrated in his few days in office.

I see Obama and the context in which he was elected as time for all of us to step up, act with intent, integrity, compassion, generosity, and honesty. Just as it was silly for whites to think affirmative action could undo 500 years of white affirmative action in just 30 years, it would be a hard sell to expect all of us to hope we whites could unlearn our racist upbringings (explicit, "color blind", or not) immediately after Obama was elected. He becoming president is the catalyst for this change. This change will be dirty, may create more Robert Bly drumming circles, and will require hard work. But I am hopeful and ready to bust some serious ass.

As I study educational leadership at Mills I am trying to be very conscious of how white privilege has damaged education and the system of teaching and learning. It my responsibilty to lead and work within a school fully aware of my white privileges and the injustices it serves. It is my job to challenge orthodoxy, and nurture change.

Just having Bush Jr. out of eye and ear shot will be help enough.