Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Same Suit and the Same Skin

Friday night, I took the chickens to the local brewpub for dinner. As is common to the genre “casual American restaurant”, the BBC boasts televisions perched above diners like rocks on a cliff, threatening to fall on your head or at least your nachos.

We have a TV at home, but it sits in the basement unenhanced by cable and functions more like a disregarded piece of furniture inherited from a maiden aunt than an entertainment device. This makes public TVs all the more enticing.

Chicken Noodle glanced up just after we sat down and said, “I saw the president!”

I looked up. On screen was the Orlando Magic/Atlanta Hawks game. Great, I thought. My child can’t tell the different between a basketball player and the president. But I knew immediately from where the confusion stemmed.

“Are you sure it was the president?” I asked her. “Or did he just have the same skin?”

“He had the same suit and the same skin,” she said matter-of-factly.

I watched the game with her for a minute and sure enough, here came a guy with the same suit and the same skin as our president—Hawks’ coach Mike Woodson. In practically no other way did he resemble Obama, but I could see how the misidentification might be understandable if one were, say, four, with a mother who never let her watch TV.

Ten years ago when we had time for such leisure activities, Captain Daddy and I used to pass entire evenings arguing about completely speculative, futuristic problems, like how we would raise well-rounded, cultured children in a practically all-white town, and what we would do if a child of ours demonstrated an impolite reaction to what would surely be an uncommon sight. How would we teach respect and equality without practical experience? “Well, if our country elects the first black president by then, we won’t have to worry,” was not part of any realistically imagined scenario we hauled into our futile discourse.

I observed Noodle split her attention between coloring a rainbow and watching the game. She had no further comment. And then it hit me—a wave of joy. This was my problem? My motherhood challenge of the evening was to correct Noodle’s assumption that all black men in suits are Nobel-prize winning leaders of the free world?

I think only as I watch my children come of age in this era will I understand the truly remarkable feat that Obama, and we who elected him, achieved a year ago.

(See Bye Bye Bush to read about last January’s Inauguration Playdate.)


  1. I couldn't agree more, for Henry's (and all kids') sake.

  2. Gaaack! It took me about 20 clicks to post to your blog, dearie. I recommend opening comments to all without all those hoops through which to jump.

  3. I thought of you and Henry when I wrote this one.

    And Gaak! Wow, I thought I already had! I'll check that out.

  4. Hmm, the setting was already for "anyone". What happened? Should I sue google?

  5. No, sue goggle...or someone with the same suit and the same skin as goggle.