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.
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lickety_split 14th-Nov-2012 04:29 am (UTC)
I am overwhelmed with feels.
liliaeth 14th-Nov-2012 04:31 am (UTC)
I like the sentiment, but is it bad that I keep wondering: 'so why is she focused of the effects on just her son, if she has daughters as well. shouldn't this mean just as much to them, as it does to the boy?' Especially since the '08 election also had two female candidates to look up to. (well one, but technically Palin was there as well, as despicable as she might be)
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 04:57 am (UTC)
Speaking as a black woman...no.

Especially given some of Hilary's - and her supporters' - frankly deplorable actions during the 2008 primaries (which, btw, pushed me into no longer considering myself a capital-f "Feminist" because all the white privilege that came screaming to the fore), no. They were not people that any mother of black girls should have pointed to as role models. I'm sorry, but no.

And black boys and men get saddled and hit with a lot of baggage that black women and girls, especially light-skinned women and girls, don't get. Black boys are more likely to be labeled as "troublemakers" and placed in lower-level classes than any other group. Obama, and what he meant to black folks and especially black kids of BOTH genders, is something I don't think you're seeing.
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one_hoopy_frood 14th-Nov-2012 04:34 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh too many wonderful things. Her son is so cuuuute and her letter is so great.
homasse 14th-Nov-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
Aww, what a cute l'il man!
astridmyrna 14th-Nov-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
wrestlingdog 14th-Nov-2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
This is great.
pamelalillian 14th-Nov-2012 05:04 am (UTC)
This is so beautiful.

As the daughter of mixed immigrant parents, it was hard growing up in America and having to figure out my identity. My parents didn't understand and it was really hard trying to find a place when you didn't really fit in anywhere.

The legacy of each race, I didn't feel I could claim as my own, so looking at the President's life is especially inspiring.
karma_aster 14th-Nov-2012 05:12 am (UTC)
What a handsome young man! And I suspect he's a really great kid to boot.

I do hope, however, that she's also reminding her daughters that, although we've yet to have a female President, women ARE gaining more political power and it's definately not an unattainable or foolish goal for a girl to consider.

I grew up during the anti-feminist backlash of the 1980's, and I am pretty damn thrilled to see more women moving into positions of power. I just hope that I get to refer to a "Madame President" during my lifetime.
effervescent 14th-Nov-2012 05:16 am (UTC)
This is wonderful. Eloquent and the pictures are striking.
rkt 14th-Nov-2012 05:16 am (UTC)
lol @ unicorn chaser tag.
ladypolitik 14th-Nov-2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Apparently I misused it LOL

Whatever entry after THIS one will properly get that tag.

Edited at 2012-11-14 12:20 pm (UTC)
cyranothe2nd 14th-Nov-2012 05:25 am (UTC)
I feel what she's saying, but I also think that, unless Obama speaks out about the prison industrial complex and speaks truth about racism, not a whole lot is going to change for this woman's son.

IDK, the idolization of Obama is the black community, especially when he's been so tepid on black issues, is problematic.
wikilobbying 14th-Nov-2012 05:53 am (UTC)
and i think that unless you're a person of color, this is a massively inappropriate comment.
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lizzy_someone 14th-Nov-2012 05:48 am (UTC)
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.


b) I hope someday her daughters can see themselves more fully in their president's face as well. (I don't at all mean this in a Hillary-vs-Obama way, rather in a "As a mixed-race woman, I long to see a president who is a woman of color" way.)
wikilobbying 14th-Nov-2012 06:01 am (UTC)
that is a seriously adorable photo set, and i hope that we can see more progress in representation and opportunity - not just in politics, but it's still incredibly important. i hope it'll still be within my lifetime when our political representatives here are more genuinely representative of us.
poetic_pixie_13 14th-Nov-2012 06:23 am (UTC)
zinnia_rose 14th-Nov-2012 07:11 am (UTC)
Aww, what a beautiful little boy. The pictures and story are very striking.
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homasse 14th-Nov-2012 08:01 am (UTC)
No. Stop. Please.

Scroll down to the "Dear white people all up in this post" comment for why.

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