"The relationship between identity, representation and equality is neither inevitable nor irrelevant, but occasionally contradictory and always complex"
The Guardian UK - During a recent playdate, one of my son's white four-year-old friends looked up from Thomas the Tank Engine and pointed out the obvious. "You're black," he told my son. As a parent, these have never felt like particularly teachable moments. Toddlers have plenty of time ahead of them to acquire anxieties, affiliations and attitudes about race. But what they see primarily at their age is not race but difference – a fact that need prompt neither denial nor panic, rebuke nor rectification, unless some derogatory meaning is attached to that difference.
When my son looks to me for a cue, my aim is not to interrogate or chide but to acknowledge and deflect. In the past, I have said: "And what colour are you?" or "And you are white". But this time new material came to mind. "That's right," I told them both. "Just like the president."
This was the long-presaged moment I had been warned to prepare for. My son was born on the weekend that Barack Obama announced his candidacy. Since then, people have been telling me that his presidency would mean great things for my son. Indeed, this was one of Obama's privately stated aims. When his wife Michelle asked what he thought he could accomplish if he became president, he said: "The day I take the oath of office, the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently. That alone is something."
True, it is something. But when Thomas is safely back in the station and the moment is over, it is not very much. Because for all the white noise emanating from the Tea Party movement, it has been black Americans who have suffered most since Obama took office. Over the last 14 months the gap between my son's life chances and his friend's have been widening. Unemployment, which has held steady in the rest of the country, is still rising among African Americans and stands at almost twice that of white people. For black teens, unemployment is 43.8%. Meanwhile, foreclosures among African Americans are increasing almost 50% faster than for whites. At this rate, my son will certainly look at himself differently after Obama's presidency – and not in a good way.
This could legitimately be the starting point for an indictment of Obama's presidency. Certainly if a Republican president were behind statistics like this, few liberals would be offering him or her the benefit of the doubt. Read more.