Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Presidency Brings in New Form of Color Coding

It’s a good thing when we see more color in the White House. With U.S. President Barack Obama’s new administration, we’re seeing good things happen in a house traditionally home to upper-class white dudes.

But, the election of the first non-white person to one of the most powerful positions in the world is having an unfortunate racial tension elsewhere.

The other day at the office, during an informal break at the water cooler, one colleague joked that they had to make several changes to allow President Obama to retain his Black Berry. I was thinking this colleague was going to mention how they had to implement new security protocols, and specially encrypted digital lines, managed on a special highly secure system of servers and satellite uplinks – which they do. Most American presidents aren’t allowed to keep their personal mobile devices, for security reasons – President Obama is the first person holding that office able to do so.

However, instead of discussing the technical wonders which make it possible for an American president to have a Black Berry, this colleague said: “they had to change it from Black Berry to White Berry.”

Is this an off-color joke, a racist remark, or just a really bad play on words?

Since President Obama took office, there have been other similar comments – some suggesting changing the color of the White House to “Black” House, there is even talk in the entertainment industry about who will portray the first black James Bond.

A black James Bond?

I didn’t think much of all the different Bond’s over the years – to me the original Sean Connery was and will always be the only true Bond, James Bond. Changing the color of a legendary film character to mirror American political changes doesn’t make any real sense. But it does reflect a changing and potentially unstable mood sweeping across America, Canada, and possibly the rest of the world.

Call it the new form of color coding – turning anything and everything traditionally associated with a specific color – other than black – and making it black.

Having someone who isn’t your traditional white male in the White House is progress. Intentionally making others mirror his color isn’t progress – it’s a form of discrimination – or reverse discrimination depending on your point of view.

Cracking jokes about this new form of color coding is racist – that comment about a “white berry” was uncalled for and I gave my colleague a look of disgust upon hearing it.

Real progress wouldn’t be to change everything white to black, but to ignore a person’s skin color completely. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where it didn’t matter if you were white, black, yellow, olive green, brown or any other color really had no impact on your social and professional life? Isn’t that what President Obama really represents?

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