Shades of Black and White – Can Produce Cream Colored?

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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America accomplished an amazing feat with our 2008 presidential election, the result of 232 years of racial turmoil for our country. President Barack Obama was elected as the first president who was not full Caucasian. President Obama is heralded as the first black president, which was a political triumph in its own right. However, his election was even more astounding than the simple black and white issue. To me, the universe gave us a gift, a bridge between the races. President Obama is a mixed-race person, half black and half white. He is the product of a marriage between an Indonesian father and a Caucasian mother. For some odd reason, we celebrate his blackness and ignore his whiteness and lose the concept of the universal gift to bridge our differences.

The Founding Fathers of America were farmers, merchants, tradesmen, investors, and ordinary citizens. Many of them either had slaves for home and business or were investors in businesses that incorporated some part of the slave trade industry. Many of the men who founded our country were students and philosophers who had studied the course of human freedom through the ages. The concept of individual liberty and self-rule ran strong in these men. These wise and brave men were torn between the common cultural practices of that day and the obvious hypocrisy of their own slave holdings as they attempted to found a new country based on individual freedoms.

America emerged from the negotiations as a new nation that preserved the colonies’ slave-holding status even though many of our Founding Fathers had attempted to bring an end to slavery as it was known in those times. Slavery was a political football but was common practice in the colonies. Slavery provided the workforce for southern plantations, and slave trade and breeding were accepted business practices. Slave trade shipping and commerce was a common practice of the northern colonies. Slaves who attended the home and family were widespread throughout the colonies.

The issue of slavery was a vote barrier for the agreement that resulted in the Declaration of Independence. It had elongated the discussion and complicated any agreement between the colonies. In order to pass the Declaration of Independence, the issue of slavery had to be tabled and the problems and apparent hypocrisy passed to succeeding generations to solve. It became a work in progress.

The slavery issue remained unresolved like a festering wound in our society until the inevitable collision course between the factions ignited in the American Civil War of 1861-5. The man who wanted most to broker an agreement between the factions became our war president. Uppermost in his mind was preservation of the Union, but the slavery question drove the war itself. With the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln just after the Civil War ended, the succeeding president, Andrew Johnson, was unable to broker a peaceful post-war transition between the north and south. The resulting conditions following that terrible war were appalling and incredibly long-lasting. Prejudice along those lines still exists now. While the Emancipation Proclamation professed to free the slaves, freedom and equality were far more difficult. It took a very long time to produce even the beginnings of such freedom and equality. Again, this was a work in progress.

Around 100 years later, along came the ferment of the Civil Rights Movement. After many years and many terrible situations, we slowly made progress in individual freedoms for all people of all colors, and that even aided individual rights for women. Slowly but surely, colored people of all persuasions have been climbing the social, economic, educational and business ladders towards equality. Along with the prolific immigration numbers, the by-product of that climb towards equalization has been a mixing of the races, not just black and white, but of world-wide cultures and all the shades of humanity they represent.

I lived in Hawaii in 1958-9 and was in Honolulu when Alaska was voted in as a state. Hawaii knew that if Alaska made statehood, Hawaii was next. The 49th State Fair banners for that year were crossed out and changed from the 49th State to the 50th State Fair. Celebration was in the air. Hawaii was moving from the shock of the December 7, 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor to inclusion as the 50th U.S. state in 1959 only 18 years later. History was racing.

Immigration The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. If you count the American Indians as the original citizens of this country (and I do), everyone else was an immigrant. The colonists had no concept of the eventual enormous size of this country. People started coming – first as a trickle, then as a flood. The people of that immigration flood are who settled and shaped this country. However, there were controls on that flow and those who came to our shores both found a home and contributed to our country. Both the immigrants and the nation benefited from that legal immigration. All four of my grandparents immigrated around the turn of the twentieth century and made a new life here. I am a second-generation product of immigration and I am a very proud American. That immigration was worldwide in scope: countries, cultures, religions, societies, you name it, almost everyone was welcomed, within reason and within the existing framework. None of this was easy, but it did happen. Currently our immigration issues are quite different and to me they are out of control. What was meant to be an orderly assimilation into our society looks more like chaos. Yet, America is a melting pot society.

In Hawaii, that melting pot is even more common. I lived there in 1958-9, and the mixing between races was common even then, particularly between American servicemen and the general Hawaiian population. Most of my personal friends were far eastern or Polynesian in origin. All my husband’s friends were U.S.  service men. Their children were thoroughly racially mixed. When President Obama was elected, I had the good fortune to have a friend living in Hawaii who I could question about the president. I asked for her thoughts. She told me that Hawaii doesn’t see the color of a person’s skin. Hawaiians believe that everyone is cream-colored, regardless of their heritage or skin color. I thought that was about as non-judgmental as a society could get!

As an interesting sideline, my friend also told me that a “don’t sweat it” attitude prevails. If the issue is not truly important, Hawaiians just don’t worry about it… sort of a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude. They do not view comments or experience in a politically correct framework because everything is pretty much politically correct according to their generally more relaxed attitude. My fifty-year-old memory supports the seeds of that current attitude. So we have a president who was raised in a society where cream-colored and “don’t sweat it” was the norm. He must have received a rude awakening when he got to Washington.

We should celebrate the election of a mixed-race president, a black man (correct that, half black, half white man), a product of the melting pot that is Hawaii, the United States and the world. The universe gave us a gift, a man with his foot in both worlds, representing the mix that our world culture is becoming. Freedom and evolution do not come easily, but given time and effort, they can happen in our society. It would seem to me that it would be wise to listen to the universe when it is giving us a gift or a hint at our own evolution. Or do we need the universe to get louder or more aggressive to get our attention?

Published on EZine online March, 2010, republished with slight editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.