America’s 44th white president

News sources everywhere are proclaiming that Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States. Yet as Mr Obama is of mixed African-European heritage, one can state just as validly that he is the 44th white president.

A similar thing is true for Lewis Hamilton, said to be the first black Formula One driver, let alone champion. I’m clearly not the only person to consider this, as a letter to a national newspaper this week shows.

Of course, I don’t want to belittle either achievement. It’s welcome that someone of any ethnic minority group can break through the ultimate glass ceiling to take up one of the most powerful offices in the world, or take the world championship crown in a wealthy and glamorous sport.

Lewis Hamilton deserves much praise for the sentiments he expressed to the BBC:

But he added that, like Obama, he did not see himself as a role model exclusively for minorities.

“I don’t sit here and say I want to be an inspiration for one generation or race,” he said.

“The great thing is it opens up doors for all groups – anyone can get into it. I want to be as positive a role model as possible because I don’t believe there are that many out there.”

Hopefully in the not too distant future, no sport or other field of excellence will be considered so exclusive. When anyone receives a distinction, they will be praised for their achievement and not for belonging to a particular ethnic group.

And hopefully, the day will come when, whatever the background of the American president, he or she will be congratulated simply for winning the election on their merits as an individual (or due to having the most money – it is the USA after all!)

So let’s say well done Barack Obama for becoming nothing more or less than the 44th President of the United States of America.

One response to “America’s 44th white president”

  1. Claire

    I stumbled across your blog courtesy another blog link that linked me to something else…either way, here I am.

    I’ve been really intrigued by conversations on Barack Obama’s race, since he identifies himself as a black man despite being half-white. However, laws passed in some southern states after the Civil War during the Reconstruction period defined a person as black if they had any known African ancestry. There was also the “one drop” rule, which meant that a single drop of black blood would make one black. Back then, these laws were meant to prevent blacks from benefiting from any sort of privileges that were strictly reserved for the white race.

    This is obviously not followed anymore in the United States, otherwise we would have not just elected our first black president. Racial identity is up to the citizen. However, I find the “half-white” argument to be somewhat undermined by all the Reconstruction laws that were ruled more than a century ago. From what I’ve read, being half black and white has always been a challenge for a person, because being black automatically aligns oneself with oppression and racial inferiority. I think it’s enlightening that Obama has chosen this path, even though he was raised by a single white mother.

    I agree with you, though: it would be great to one day elect a president based on his (or her!) merits alone, not construed by their race, gender, or sexuality. I think this might be the breaking of one of those big barriers, so we’ll see how it goes the next election cycle! (This was also my first election for an American president – very exciting.)

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