I have come to realize just how special my childhood was. Not just that I spent my childhood between SC in the winter and NY in the summer. I was a village reared kid. I grew up where we never went to a sitter we went to auntie’s or grandma’s house. I was the first and only grandchild and niece in my family for many years. Spoiled was not the word, my grandma used to call it ruient (ruined, I think). I had it good and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. But I was surrounded by good decent men. Not just men but Black men. From my father to my uncles to my older cousins they were loving responsible men. I never had to look far for a man that I knew loved me for no other reason than that I existed.
I keep coming across all of these beautiful photos of President Obama with his girls and of he and Michelle. That look he has when he talks about her or is seen in the pictures where he is looking at her or the girls. I realized that these are not media image we see often of our men. He looks at Michelle the same way my dad used to look at my mom. I remember those looks of pride during some of her sermons or his smiling when she was dressed up. My dad used to joke about how the men would be lining up the minute he closed his eyes becouse his girl was beautiful! But sadly not many of our kids get the chance to live in the world I did nor see great images of men that look like them or their daddy. I used to believe that the absent Black man was a myth. I have seen and experienced first hand that he is not. It is a sad thing.
I know that Blacks in general have placed a lot of our hopes and dreams on President Obama’s shoulders. In some ways this is very unfair to him but this is the reality of any public figure. The good news is he knows and seems to accept this. In an interview he had this to say: “I grew up without a father in the home, and I know how hard it is for a lot of young men and boys who maybe don’t have a father,” Obama said. “To the extent that I can serve as a role model for them, where parents can say here’s somebody who stayed in school and dreamed big dreams and has accomplished something, I’m happy to be used in that way.”
For me though I think one of the most important contributions the Obamas have made could just be in the pictures. The pictures of him with is family are to me the perfect counterbalance to the negative images we see of Black men and families everyday. I know that there are critics out there who are in Obama overload but these images are long coming. In looking on the web I see these images of only Will and Jada Smith. There are many Black celebrities with healthy marriages and happy well adjusted children but those images are not often captured for our children to model. Samuel L Jackson has been married to his wife for over 20 years but a few years ago when he spent time with is daughter on vacation she was reported to be a mystery woman. Because the images of him as loving father are not there. Michael Jordan is another that comes to mind, he has 2 sons and was married for many years, there are thousands of images of him but I could only find one of him with his kids and wife. Denzel Washington is a father and a man who has a long lasting marriage. There have been reports of him in the stands for his son’s college games but none of him watching little league games or just hanging with his kids. Maybe these men have opted for their family’s privacy. But maybe nobody thought these images were important.
For people of all races these are important images. Not only do Black children need to see positive images of other Blacks so do children and adults of other races. Imagine seeing the Vogue Cover of Lebron James, any cover of Fifty cents, watching cops and then going to kindergarten to find a Mr. teacher. Maybe just a little scary? Maybe if there weren't so many negative images of us the incident in Philly would not have had to happen and 65 kids would not have that hurtful experience forever sealed in their memories. Just. Maybe.