Content of Character or Color of Skin

When Barack Obama announced he was running for President I was onboard. Not for unsophisticated reasons some choose to believe that is solely bound to the color of skin. I supported Barack Obama, because what he was saying spoke to me. I respected the other Democratic & Republican candidates. I do not have to agree with your policies to respect you. We all have good and bad ideas and view the world through the lens of our personal experiences.

During this year I received quite a few angry comments from people who either didn’t read all of what I had to say or just disagreed with what I had to say. I say they were angry comments because of their selection of derogatory and offensive language. My initial reaction was to lash back and on occasion I did when I felt the comment was unnecessary or it was apparent they didn’t read the article. Many just see the title and skim over the article and comment.

I learned not to worry about them, but thank them for reading the article because even if you disagree with what I had to say, I accomplished my goal. That goal is to start a dialogue. The first steps towards a resolution or consensus is having a dialogue about the issue.

Also it’s just my thoughts, ideas and suggestions. What the fine people who disagree with me are unknowingly doing is judging me by the content of my character express in words and not the color of my skin. I often tell you the color of my skin because I’m comfortable in it. That may encourage the perception some individuals harbor, whether positively or reinforces the negative views.

What I believe the election of Barack Obama as President and the excitement it has generated is that it’s a reference point for many to benchmark their ambitions upon. It proves the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. true. When you judge a person on the basis of their character and not on a bias, preference or misconception you have then equality and fairness enters the equation.

Your improbable journey may be the unpaved road to travel, but if you do not stop, pull over or just turn around you will eventually make it to your desired destination. Perseverance, determination and education combined with an ambition is the fuel to get there. Let your dreams and aspiration be your GPS device. (Where did that come from? Now I’m sounding like Les Brown.)

I like many of others are guilty of perpetuating the American myth that children can be anything they want if they just try hard enough. The boot-strap theory has not always been realistic for some.

I have mentioned many times that I’ve been the only brown-skinned person in the room or surprised the interviewer who obviously didn’t think that a guy named Tim Valentine could be Black. I guess it depends on the job.

When I have conversations with my father about what’s going on I now understand why he and my mother are guilty of perpetuating that American myth to me and my sister. They listen to me talk about various things and now after I have shut-up I get the wide-eyed look I see from them on occasion. I only hope that my son will speak with more freedom than I do so I can look at him the same way.

I’ve never been told that I can not drink from a public fountain or even sit in front of the bus, but I do know what it’s like being discriminated against because of the color of my skin. For far too long if you were any shade of brown in America has always meant being excluded in some fashion. Even as laws where passed and the social climate was improving many Black and Brown people retained the misconception they were inferior. Often taking it out on some White people who were trying to move pass it. Not everyone White is bad, just as everyone Black is not bad. We ALL must judge by the content of a person’s character and not the color of their skin, that is not exclusive statement aimed at Whites, but an inclusive statement aimed at all included Blacks.

Earlier in the year Michelle Obama was heavily criticized for her comments about being really proud to be an American for the first time. I am not unmindful that some of you have come to this point in our history out of great trials and tribulations, but I’m glad that many of her detractors understand where she was coming from and maybe today can share in that pride that she is now our First Lady.

We have more reasons to be proud to be an American than at any other point in our life. Because we are finally awakening from a dream and realizing the eloquent words of a dreamer uttered 45 years ago on August 28th in Washington DC.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Article Inspiration & References Source:

NPR: This I Believe – 12/04/08 “Finding New Pride In America

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – 08/28/1963 “I Have A Dream

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4 thoughts on “Content of Character or Color of Skin

  1. “Character” is easy when following a loser. My mouse pad has more character than George Bush.

    Barack Obama’s character, which seems fine to me, will be judged in time.
    He made a lot of promises. Many of which he knew he might not be able to keep.
    He’s made both good and bad choices for cabinet. He’s going to have to display a tremendous amount of character to cover for the lack thereof amongst his choices.

    Character = Keeping one’s word to those who put him where he is.

    We shall see.

  2. I have always been moved by Dr. King’s words. I have always hoped that one day race–no matter which–would not matter. Of course we are all different and have different backgrounds and experiences, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t live/work together and respect one another. Election night was a very moving and amazing night for me. A year ago, while talking with co-workers about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I said that this country wasn’t ready for a black president–that a white woman (no matter how disliked she was–especially on the Right) would be elected over a black man. On Nov 4, 2008 I was proven wrong and very glad that I was. Just the sight of all the people (of all races and colors) dancing in the streets of NYC (like it was New Year’s Eve) and in Grant Field in Chicago was incredible.

    I know EXACTLY what Michelle Obama meant when she made her statement about being proud of her country for the first time–a statement she was highly criticized for making. Unless you’ve had/witnessed the negative experiences or being black you might not be able to relate. I was about 4 or 5 when the march in Selma (where I was born) occurred; I also attended segregated schools until the fifth grade. So election night was a triumph not just for black Americans, but for ALL Americans.

    Whether Obama can “keep” his campaign promises is not only on him. Every politician makes promises they know they may not be able to keep. It is the nature of politics. Our government has systems of checks and balances (that Bush ignored), that will require passing/approval by other branches of the government. He is a huge mess on his hands with the state of the economy and other situations that are screaming for attention. The question in 4 years will be–did he do as good a job as he could have for the betterment of all the citizens? Yes, time will tell, but Obama is only human.

    (Oops, now look who was long-winded.)

  3. Excellent post, Tim, and filled with insights as well. Yes, you are correct that there is good and bad in all colors, and it’s character that is the common denominator in all good people.

    Al

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