Four years ago, my three-year-old daughter barely grasped the idea that the United States elected our first African American president. Today, when we watch the inaugural ceremony for his second term, I look forward to explaining the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency to my three-year-old son. Some people might think three years old is too young to talk to a child about race and politics, but not me.
Though President Obama self-identifies as African American, the truth is he’s biracial, just like my children. As the mother of children who are both African American and Asian American, I’m proud to present our President as a role model for my children. I’m not pressuring my kids to become the first Hapa president of the United States --I’m no tiger mom! However if we can have an African American president, then my daughter and son know that the color of their skin cannot hold them back from their dreams.
Jan. 20, 2013 - Washington, District Of Columbia, U.S - Malia Obama (2R) and Sasha Obama (R) watch as United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. (2L) administers the oath of office as US President Barack Obama (L) is sworn in for a second term as President in the Blue Room of the White House January 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama was officially sworn in for his second term as the 44th President of the United States during the 57th Presidential Inauguration but will also participate in a ceremonial swearing in on Monday. (Credit Image: © Brendan Smialowski/Pool/Cnp/Prensa Internacional/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Today’s inaugural celebration will be just as exciting for me as it was four years ago, but the blatant racism that presented itself during the re-election is still etched in my mind. As a country, we’ve come a long way when it comes to race and equal rights. Still, I can’t delude myself that the United States is post-racial anything. Remember the t-shirt that said “Put the White Back in the White House” or how about the racist tweets right after the 2012 election? There doesn’t seem to be any filter or fear of public backlash for these racist comments. It makes me afraid.
If people say these things about the President of the United States, what kind of comments will that say to my children? What will they say to my face or my African American husband? I feel very lucky to live in the Washington, D.C. metro area instead of the South, where I grew up. My daughter’s school is culturally diverse. Our neighbors collectively speak several different languages. We’re surrounded by many delicious ethnic restaurants. Almost everywhere we go, we see families comprised of different races or cultures. While people still say crazy things to me as a parent of biracial children, I’ve rarely experienced the blatant racism in the DC metro area that I experienced in the South. (It’s an entirely different story for my African American husband.)
As a society, we have a long way to go, but I’m celebrating every step in the direction of racial equality. Not only is today the inauguration, it's Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Tonight, long after the inaugural ceremony is over, my husband and I are putting on our finest garb and heading to celebrate at the Ambassadors Inaugural Ball. It’s my first time at an inaugural ball, and I’m excited to celebrate with a diverse international crowd.
As I dance and toast to the next four years of our first African American President, I’m also toasting and dancing to my children’s future.
Image Credit: thienkim / I'm Not the Nanny
More from parenting