ONTD Political

Photographer pens open letter to POTUS; takes striking pics of her son.

11:23 pm - 11/13/2012
An Open Letter To President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I have sat down to write this letter dozens of times and always end up a bit tongue-tied. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain myself. Nine years ago I watched the image on a sonogram and heard the words from my doctor: "It's a boy." In that moment, my first emotion was fear. How was I going to raise a man? It seemed daunting, but perhaps nervousness is not uncommon for mothers of sons to experience. I also felt extremely aware that as a Caucasian woman having a son with a man of African American descent, my son would undoubtedly face issues in his life I would never fully understand...deep breaths...

Truth be told, I was unprepared for the powerful love I felt when I held him for the first time. He was perfection, the way all newborns are. He was mine and any hesitation or fear about mothering this little tiny man was replaced with adoration and love. I am blessed to have a loving husband by my side who is also a wonderful father. Our son (and two other daughters) have been lucky to grow up loving two parents of different ethnic backgrounds. And yet there has always been the element of the unknown. Neither my husband nor myself would ever be able to entirely comprehend what it felt like to grow up bi-racial child in a world that is not always embracing of things and people that are different. I was faced with trying to figure out how to prepare my son for issues that he may face in his life due to his ethnicity that I had no firsthand experience with.

The election in 2008 had a profound effect on our family. As you pursued your dreams and became the nominee for president, there was a shift in the air. I was overwhelmed with the implications your success had for my children's lives, particularly for my son. We watched the debates leading up to the election as a family. I lined up three small chairs and made the kids popcorn (admittedly, a bit of a bribe for them to sit and watch something they did not really understand). I explained that although they may not understand what they were watching, it would have an important impact on their lives, regardless of the outcome of the election.

We were watching history unfold, a story that had a direct impact on our children. I felt this was especially true for my son because he could see himself in your face.

He was 5-years-old at the time you were elected president. And although I realize you were in the midst of pursing your dreams, you inadvertently simultaneously changed my son's life. Quite frankly, I believe you changed the lives of sons across the world. This, Mr. President, is no small thing. My son could see himself in you, the leader of our country, something no child of color had been able to do in America prior to your presidency. He was at an age when he had just become aware that my skin did not look like his. You gave my son in this moment something I could not.

My son is vibrant and funny, an incredible athlete, a well-balanced mix of tenderness and independence. I've loved him and raised him to the best of my ability. You gave him something that I could not, the possibility that he could actually be anything he wanted. This is a concept that far surpasses any political orientation; it is not a Republican or Democratic concern, it is purely an acknowledgement of what all mothers want for their sons -- an opportunity to pursue their dreams, to be anything they want to be. Mothers of mixed-race children are often confronted with the limitations that subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle prejudices can bring.

As a photographer, I felt compelled to share visually in some way, the impact you and your political success had on my son's life. I think perhaps this image says it, far better than my words could ever convey. I do not know where his dreams will take him, but I do know that the path you carved in your life will benefit him as he grows as a man, in ways he will probably never fully understand. I realize the possibility of my son and/or myself meeting you personally is quite unlikely. So I wanted to take this opportunity to share my gratitude.

Thank you on behalf of all mothers of mixed-race children for making the words "You can do anything you want in life" feel like the truth. You have changed the lives of children across the globe and that, Mr. President, is a wonderful gift. And more personally thank you on behalf of my son...thank you.

Elizabeth Messina

source: one | two | three

You might have seen one photo of the kid floating around on Tumblr with the caption "Representation matters." accompanying it. Nice to finally discover so MANY more pics, but also the back-story.
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 07:29 am (UTC)
Dear white people all up in this post,

The author is talking about her black son. This doesn't mean she doesn't support her daughters or women in general. She's just specifically talking about the impact of Obama's election on her son and on black boychildren everywhere. This is not a Bad Thing. Society teaches little black kids that black men are violent and sadistic, that they can't be good fathers, good husbands, good men. It gives these kids no male role models to look up to, men who are successful and intelligent and kind and manage to do all that without playing in a major league or selling albums. In a world where we're taught that black men hate hate women, can't be bothered about their children and can only survive through a life of crime Obama's election means so much. It's revolutionary.

So, basically, stop with the concern trolling about her daughters. They probably look up to Barack too. And if they ever need a woman to look up to they will no doubt be blessed by Michelle's holy light.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 08:00 am (UTC)
I'm about ready to bang my head against the wall with the "but whhhhhhyyyyyy is she focused on her son??!?!"ing happening up in this post, I really am.

But then, that happens every post that talks specifically about things directed at black boys, and misses how society puts pressures on them, because of racism and the "black thug" imagery, that hurt them in ways different from black girls. It's like the impact of intersectionality are completely whooshing over their heads. :/
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 08:18 am (UTC)
I don't even know. I came into the post expecting a bunch of happy comments and cute gifs, not to have to educate people on intersectionality.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 08:25 am (UTC)
I'm only grateful (nngh) it wasn't the very first comment. Yeah, ok, it was the second, but still. Small favors.

It's amazing - and by "amazing," I mean "tiresome" - how some people just don't get that racism and sexism intersect in BAD ways for black boys...usually by people who never have to deal with racial intersectionality. Focusing on something positive for black boys =/= ignoring black girls.
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 08:34 am (UTC)
Idek. I remember a few months ago when I realized that most people who complained about that rap music legitimately didn't get that so many of these men are using their music to talk about the depression and mental health issues that come with growing up in a society that doesn't give a damn about you. And how the hyper-masculine culture that exists is often one of the few ways these men and boys learn to cope with those issues.

Like. The idea of these men and boys feeling anything deeper than anger and petty selfishness and jealousy doesn't even register.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 08:37 am (UTC)
And the people complaining also don't realize most of the mainstream stuff is bought by white teenage boys, and is produced to be "hardcore" that way, because other stuff doesn't get airplay/marketed. And ignore that there is pushback in rap against all that hyperaggression and misogyny (case in point, the rap songs "B!tch Bad" and "Drank.")
mephisto5 14th-Nov-2012 09:43 am (UTC)
Genuine question: do you have any other recommendations? I haven't listened to much because most of what's played on the radio here is, as you say, marketed to teenage white boys and pretty vile. If there's better stuff out there I'd really like to listen to it.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 09:58 am (UTC)
I actually listen to almost no rap, but I can't recommend K'Nann enough. Especially his song "Fatima" and <A HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eve9qkXucq0&sns=em”>My Old Home</A>.
hello_ilu 14th-Nov-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
Threadjumping, sorry- I really like Travie McCoy- he's got one solo album out and several with his band, Gym Class Heroes. A lot of the songs are about being in music, but there are a lot about girls too and a couple about relatives' deaths and his drug problems.

My favorites are Shoot Down The Stars, 7 Weeks, Taxi Driver, On My Own Time (Write On!), To Bob Ross With Love, Peace Sign/Index Down, and Like Father, Like Son (Papa's Song) (bonus: try and spot all the shoutouts to other bands in Taxi Driver)

Edited at 2012-11-14 05:28 pm (UTC)
etherealtsuki 15th-Nov-2012 02:05 am (UTC)
Case in point: Tupac. A lot of people don't know that he often did the mainstream rap to still be able to do his unique brand of hip-hop that would never be sold or promoted otherwise. It really fuck him up eventually until the end.
wrestlingdog 14th-Nov-2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
Same here.
lady_borg 14th-Nov-2012 08:35 am (UTC)
I'm about ready to bang my head against the wall with the "but whhhhhhyyyyyy is she focused on her son??!?!"ing happening up in this post, I really am.

Yes, agreed, I just felt a whole lot of people were missing the point.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 08:42 am (UTC)
And what makes me sad is that, even after it's been spelled out, people are still missing that point like a champ.

keeni84 14th-Nov-2012 10:57 am (UTC)
The author is talking about her black son.

I don't think she believes her son is black.
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Bah, you're right. I shouldn't have identified him as such. I apologize. =/
ladypolitik 14th-Nov-2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
I dont think she thinks her son is white or a special brand on non-minority, either. Onlookers and the mother alike are clearly commenting with the "One Drop Rule" in mind.
art_house_queen 15th-Nov-2012 02:47 am (UTC)
I hate to get nit-picky, but I don't think the mother is commenting with the One-drop rule in mind. She solidly believes her son is neither black, nor white, but "biracial." I have no problem with that.

_p, on the other hand, is commenting with the "One Drop Rule" in mind.
zemi_chan 15th-Nov-2012 04:00 am (UTC)
This. The fact that so many people (here on ontd_p, ontd, in society in general...) still use that logic as if it is law really bothers me.
art_house_queen 15th-Nov-2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
Full disclosure: I have no problem with the one-drop rule, either.

I don't force people who identify as biracial or multiracial into the category of "black," but I come from a long line of people who embraced the ODR because it was more about showing that being "black" is not some horrible thing. Yes, the origins of the ODR are racist, but many, many blacks have reclaimed it.

Most people look at my family as multiracial, but most of us define ourselves as "black" (except for the exclusively white or Asian members from other countries); in my view, it is the most natural, honest descriptor. I don't really know how any of my cousins identify, however, because they were born 15 years after me, and it might not even be a big deal to them.
zemi_chan 15th-Nov-2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
I have no problem with people identifying as black either, I should clarify. It's the fact that so many people in our society feel they have the right to label others as whatever they see fit (despite how the person actually identifies) or shame people for identifying in certain ways that bugs me.
keeni84 15th-Nov-2012 02:55 am (UTC)
I disagree.

She specifically refers to him as mixed-race/biracial several times, and never once says (or alludes to) the idea that he is a black child. He is this new race of "biracial/multiracial."
maynardsong 14th-Nov-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
I don't disagree with you, and our FLOTUS is amazing in her own right but you've basically said MOC get to have the president as a role model while WOC get the wife of a president.
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
No, I do know that. Woc in power in politics (or anywhere else, really) are far and few in between. My issue was more that it seemed to be white women asking about it while not acknowledging the immeasurable impact of Obama's election. Woc have been talking about the lack of role models for ourselves and our daughters for years, but we can still appreciate Obama's significance and don't need white women to bring it up for us.

Also, anything I can do to stan my Queen, Michelle

Edited at 2012-11-14 07:36 pm (UTC)
ladypolitik 14th-Nov-2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
jazzypom Lawd yeah15th-Nov-2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Like, I do remember telling people that as a woman of colour, I pretty much got interested in Barack Obama's quest for the presidency on an intellectual level. I do remember him making that keynote speech at John Kerry's nomination back in 2004 (I watched it on CNN, I think, way before Youtube), but really pricking up when I saw Michelle Obama. I almost fell off my chair when I saw her. Then when I heard her speak, read about her and saw that yeah, up to when he ran for POTUS she was (for all intents and purposes) supporting the family, and did it all with a sense of purpose, love and throwing down styles like woah? I fell in love.

Women of colour seeing Michelle Obama's blessed holy light, and how she navigates the whole media thing, the slings and arrows of racist shit heads calling herself and her daughter chicken heads but keep on keeping on, and showing them that living well and in dignity is the best revenge? Phenomenal woman, indeed.
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