There’s no doubt that the election of a biracial man to the US presidency is a historic event. Insofar as it symbolises the success of the civil rights movement against racial injustice, it should be celebrated (and I join with my American friends on that count).
Still, I have to confess that I’m left somewhat confused by the countless expressions of pride I’ve witnessed over the last two days. “Today, I’m proud of America!” “Americans can take pride in this historic election result!” And so on.
But what exactly is there to be proud about, I ask?
Should Americans be proud that a biracial man has been elected US president? Surely that’s no reason to be proud. A man’s ethnicity or skin colour ought to be strictly irrelevant to whether he’s the right man to serve as president. Wasn’t that the point all along? So to take pride in his election on that basis is just another form of racism.
Should Americans be proud that a biracial man could be elected US president? Well, we all knew that months ago. How did the events of Tuesday add anything to that?
In any case, how would that give grounds for pride? Race should never have been an issue in the first place — not now, not in the 60s, not at any time. At best, the election result illustrates that a past injustice is no longer present. Suggesting that the election (or electability) of a non-white president is praiseworthy or prideworthy is to confuse the obligatory with the supererogatory. There should never have been any barrier in the first place. There’s no basis for pride in finally doing (or allowing) one what always ought to have done (or allowed).
Imagine if for 40 years my church had forced women to sit on the floor during its worship services. Should I feel pride on the day that the first woman is allowed to sit in a pew? Gladness, yes. Relief, yes. But pride?
America is a truly great country and Americans have much to feel justly proud about. Yet in all honesty, I fail to see that the election of a biracial president should be one of them. Gladness, yes. Relief, yes. But pride?
Perhaps I’m still bitter about the historic event of July 4th, 1776. :)