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  • Reverend James Squire

The Downside of Electing Obama and Haley

Photo by Jeswin Thomas 

First, let me comment on Nikki Haley’s recent words about the United States not being a racist country. She was given a pass by Stefanik and other Republicans for her failure to say that our country wasn’t racist. Even Biden commented that the civil war was about slavery. What Haley did following her lack of stating slavery as a cause of the Civil War and that we weren’t a racist country was to provide additional material on those issues to indicate the CONTEXT that she was focusing on which was the intent of the founding fathers (who owned slaves) and that we have been working hard to see race as an evolving issue to be met by people in our country. She also focused on diversity being divisive and not uniting. She was given room to further explain her position. Magill of Penn and Gay of Harvard were not afforded that luxury even if you still do or do not agree with Haley’s point of view. (Full disclosure I do not agree with Haley’s additional interpretation.) Not a peep from want- a- be Vice President Stefanik or other Republicans except Trump and DeSantis.


I was actually cheering for Haley even though I didn’t adhere to her policies for the most part.

It sounds like a cliché but I thought she was sensitive to the needs of ALL people. She had a global view of the world as a result of her time in the U.N. Those two issues matter a lot to me! She was also a brown person. In terms of classism, she had a lot to overcome. She was tough! On top of that she was a wife and mother. Contrast these noteworthy characteristics with the orange man.


When President Obama was elected President, many of the nation rejoiced. Vicki and I went to hear him at the Mann Music Venue when he was in town. By chance we sat next to two of my African American former students. He is so classy and articulate like a breath of fresh air. He is the product of biracial parents. He made us proud to have him in the oval office. He is so smart and so aware of the needs of ALL people.


But there is a downside to both of these individuals. I can’t count the number of times I heard that if Obama can become president, that signals that any black child can be president. Yes, that is an important message, but like a two-edged sword, it was also indicated that “if he can achieve that, any black man can and if they can’t, it is their fault. Others said that we have arrived to a time of racial equality.” His election proves it. We haven’t. That is the truth of the matter.


I heard and saw the same kind of reaction to Nikki Haley’s run for the Presidency. If she can do this as a brown girl from a small South Carolina town, all brown people should be able to do it or shame on them for not trying harder.


Human beings can turn a good into a bad to fit their agenda. Stefanik was one and Mace from South Carolina is another. Power trumps everything! (The word, Trump, was used for a reason.)

Republicans who chastised Trump have now lined up in support of him.


Obama and Haley are outliers in going from “nobody to somebody.” We celebrate them because America also loves a story of achieving against the odds. Rocky was listed this week as the number one film that was shot in Philadelphia. It reflected this character trait of someone going from “nobody to somebody.”


There are people who know me who have used that phrase “nobody to somebody” to describe me regarding what I and they measure as success. It is the same thing that happened along the way for Obama and Haley but not for Trump or Maga Republicans. I must confess that after my father’s stroke when I was in tenth grade when I could see no way up and out that I became driven. What mattered most to me was being first. I didn’t look around to see who I could help along the way. I sized up everything that I was involved in as an arena for competition. I was focused on being respected for many mocked my father for his disability when he returned to work as a fish man at a store. His hand shook so badly he couldn’t hold a knife as a butcher. I challenged some of those adults. Being first from high school on was the only thing that mattered to me. Like so many women and black people today, it is not a matter of being equal with others, you have to be better to be recognized. This attitude followed me like a shadow through high school, Berkeley at Yale, Duke University and Duke Medical Center, as well as my time in Swarthmore until a family tragedy.


When I got to New Haven, I hid my background and story. People asked me where I prepped. It made me angry because the implication was that you had to attend an independent school in order to be seen as intelligent. I told them the Alan Wood School (The name of the steel mill where I worked.) Their response was, “Never heard of it, but It must have been a great place.” I would nod in agreement.


It's not only people who help us along the way. Sometimes to go from “nobody to somebody” it is an idea, a realization about what matters in life, a calling if you will. You first have to have the ladder of success as you define it against the right wall. It’s a values thing.


What I learned along the way was that being #1 is not all that it is cracked up to be. My mentor, as I believe is true for Obama and Haley, is an idea, a thought, a feeling, a calling. Notice I wrote that both Obama and Haley care for ALL people. That’s intentional for that is at the heart of the matter.


To be somebody you have to have mentors and helping hands, but for me, as I mentioned, it was more of an idea, a feeling or a calling. The idea is also the title of a book by David Brooks, one of the nation’s leading writers and commentators. I know when I figured it out, but that is a story too personal to share. The idea and book title are HOW TO KNOW A PERSON: THE ART OF SEEING OTHERS DEEPLY AND BEING DEEPLY SEEN. That is something that Former President Obama and Former Governor Haley lived and know and we are better for it, “nobody to somebody.”

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