I think we all seek reflections of ourselves in others. Sometimes we like what we see reflected and other times we don’t. Those times that we don’t like what we see are the times to make a choice to make a change in that part of us or to accept the way we are.
This is about one of those times when I saw my reflection and was UPLIFTED.
In 2004, when I heard him speak at the Democrat’s National Convention, I was taken up into his message about the “Audacity of Hope” but at that point, I didn’t realize exactly how similar his life’s path had been to my own, until in 2008, his opponent’s started to attack the very parts of him, that I was most familiar.
Like him, my parents met as students, he from a Muslim family on the other side of the world, and my mother from a small town in the USA. Like him, my father was not a part of my life for long, and as I grew up, the search for identity and belonging was challenging in a society that is fixated on skin tone, national origin, and religion as a predictor of human behavior based on whatever stereotypes the society connects you to.
Being judged on such factors is hard enough for most people, but there is a different sort of challenge when you are a mix of 2 or more categories that are judged and treated differently by the society you are growing up into.
The people who are most comfortable with the labels and judgments are made uncomfortable by the presence of you, who is a part of more than one world. They can’t make statements of their judgments of the “other” in your presence without getting scolded.
But more than anything, as a mixed person, you CHALLENGE their entire belief system, which is built upon analyzing the world through a skin-color, religion-phobic, immigrant fearing mentality.
Now imagine that like myself and President Obama, your parents are opposites on ALL 3 of these paradigms.
We challenge the system that fears immigrants, darker skin tones, and other religions (but mostly fears Islam.)
Just as one example, I remember in 2008, I was working in a hospital and a nurse there said, “It’s not his race, so they can stop saying I have a problem with that. It’s that he’s Muslim and supports terrorists. His dad was Muslim and his middle name is Hussein! That’s a Muslim name!”
She had no idea about my background and didn’t realize what she had just done. So I stood and said, “So I guess I must support terrorists too.”
She looked at me confused, so I explained, “My biological father is also a Muslim, and my middle name is a Muslim name as well. And yet here you are working with me every day, and you had no reason to fear me and no reason to think I’d support terrorists. So… how can you say he supports terrorism based on religion of his father and a middle name?”
It appeared painful as she tried to back up out of what she had said.
BEYOND THE MIXED BACKGROUND, another connection has been his dedication to community and family. He has always been a committed son and grandson, and now a husband and father.
He worked for years within the Chicago community, and thankfully for us, has served as President of our nation for 8 years now. While some criticize he did not do enough, I ask you if you’ve ever been President or even Governor or Senator. You have not walked in the position that he is in, and have not faced the challenges he has faced. To suggest that he has done anything less than everything he could within the environment he led from, is to speak ignorantly.
Every person in any position can attest to having bigger visions than they were able to complete because of other people or other things that create barriers. We owe him our gratitude for remaining diligent and making the progress that he has. I applaud his legacy as President, and the powerful example he has set about placing family as a very important part of all that he does.
He showed what is possible when you surround yourself with a loving family, a loving partner, and connect with them. Because those connections are what replenish and maintain your strength and passion and energy.
For me… these past 8 years has been an opportunity to see myself in a president. To see the elements of myself excel within one of the most challenging roles of contemporary society, and to see him thrive within that.
What he has done for me, is prove what is possible for someone like me. and for all the others living in this nation. The “barriers” and obstacles of various sorts will come up and they will try to push you off course, they will try to make you doubt your mission or your abilities. They will try to distance you from the positive things you need such as love and family.
But the key is to know who you are, to know what you believe in, to remain near to what nurtures you, and to never allow anything or any one to come between you and these things.
Sending love and wishes for peace and joy and many years of life to you President Obama. I can not think of enough words to express my gratitude for what you have done for our nation, and what you have taught many of us by your example.
Jessica Mashael Bordelon