A Haitian farmer, Race and Obama

I had not been bewitched by Barack Obama. But a Haitian farmer I recently interviewed was.

The husband and father in his late thirties and I spoke through a translator. He'd only been working in South Florida a few months. The conversation turned to politics and he told me that the world would change with Obama. I didn't believe him. In stilted English, he raised an arm and boldly voiced the contender's words: "We can change. We can hope."

Impressed that Obama could give hope to someone from Haiti, where the word is almost cliche because it has never really amounted to much, I thought about the most ardent Obama devotees around me. An Egyptian man, an African American woman and a French man.

Yesterday, Obama addressed race after controversial comments from his pastor became disseminated. This morning, pundits lauded him as courageous for even talking about race during a campaign. Part of what he said: "The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American. " (A full transcript is here.)

I'm starting to understand how the Haitian farmer sees Obama.

-- Janine Zeitlin


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