by AMITAVA SEN
It is hard to be in a party these days without entering in to a conversation about the presidential election. My Bengali friends are frenzied and crazed about the prospect of Barack Obama getting elected our president. They are incredulous about the fact that they are living in the same planet and at the same age as The One. It’s like the second comings of Jesus Christ, Gautama Budhha and Lord Krishna, all combined together. Throw in Elvis Presley and a sprinkle of Karl Marx in the mixture. Barack Obama, we are sure is going to set every thing right on January 21, 2009 and in the process make us all millionaires with his tax cut. Talk about world peace? We are going to dinner with Iran, Al Qaeda and Taliban, our buddies and we will all live happily ever after in peace. Dow is going to touch 20,000 in weeks, our 401(K) reverting to its full glory and all those crooks in Wall Street will be sent to gallows.
While animated discussions were going on in our weekend party, I noticed the absence of one person amongst us who was often teary-eyed at the mention of the coming of the messiah. Where were they, he and his wife? I inquired.
I was told that she wasn’t feeling well. That was not the real reason though. I didn’t, but it seemed every one else knew the underlying reason for her not feeling so well. Her daughter who is a doctor in Texas has signaled her intention to get engaged soon. Her fiancé is a doctor too; they have known each other since their days at Baylor Medical School. Man’s parents are medical practitioners in Texas. And his brother is a lawyer from Harvard.
Fabulous, so where is the problem? What more the parents can want for their child? Well, there is a small problem, the man is good looking, six feet tall; but he is African American, Black in other words. The parents are so embarrassed; they would rather not face their friends.
Every one of us in the party was understanding and empathetic. How could a mother act any other way? How could the parents and the family be stigmatized like this and still feel well? The ladies sniffed at the prospect, the men looked away. Except one who argued; so what if he was black. He is different, wouldn’t fit in our culture; comes the answer from a couple whose daughter is married to a Caucasian and he is white alright. Even if he is a notch lower in academic or economic ladder and his culture is also not quite same as ours, the couple is happy about their daughter’s choice. They even took their white son-in-law to show off to their relatives in Calcutta. We did not quite see the point here and did not really know where the difference was, but we agreed intuitively.
How about Barack Obama as your son-in-law, I asked. Can you imagine Obama, who had almost reached the threshold of sainthood coming to your home? Of course that would be a real privilege and an honor; but not as my son-in-law, was the unanimous sentiment. Was it because he was dark skinned? Some one in the party pointed out that Obama may be a shade lighter than half the people in the room. My friends were flabbergasted with the argument; didn’t every body see the point? He is black. We’re not ready, at least not yet to accept a black person as family.
It is that simple. Why does not every body get such an obvious point, the couple with Caucasian son-in-law said in exasperation. I do get their point but what I do not get is how I can anoint a person as my president who is not fit to be my daughter’s husband.