Morning sports fans. If you have a few minutes later, I'll have some video for you. I was on CNN's American Morning this morning to participate in a friendly debate and defend my viewpoint that the media should do a better job exploring Barack Obama's biracial heritage when having discussions and round table analysis sessions on the historical significance of Obama's recent securing of a major party presidential nomination.
To call him black is technically accurate. It's what Obama calls himself. We look at him and we see a black man, by "normal" standards. But that addresses his appearance, not his whole heritage. And to strictly call him African American in my opinion disregards a real part of him. Back in the day, a biracial man couldn't admit publicly that he was biracial, 'cause it could mean risking his life. Now, such an admission is rote, run of the mill. So why leave it out of the discussion. It's not taking away from how Obama IDs himself. It's just making sure when the discussion turns in that direction, we discuss all parts of him. Some folks disagree with my position. And that's OK too. But we hashed this out in a blog post a couple weeks ago, so I won't continue my play-by-play. But I should have that video for you a little later.
In the mean time, I wanted to chat a bit about this challenge put to me by a buddy a couple days ago: Without bringing politics or partisanship or race into play, name something more subtle about Obama that might appeal to young people.
A took me a minute, but the answer I gave was the fist bump.
If you didn't see it, when Obama gave his speech in St. Paul after formally becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee last Tuesday night, he had a moment where he and his wife Michelle stood on stage alone. They embraced, they whispered in each other's ears. And eventually she stepped back, gave him the look - like when your dad or grandfather used to say "go get 'em, kid," just before you stepped up to the plate in your little league game - and held up her right fist. Almost subconsciously, as effortlessly as we walk and breathe, Obama raised his left fist. And they tapped 'em together. Then he gave her a little tap on the rump, and she walked off the stage.
Again, this is not a discussion of partisanship or who you plan to vote for. It's a response to a question about youth appeal. Think about the 2000 elections and the moment that Al and Tipper Gore met on stage and engaged in that Michael Jackson-and-Lisa-Marie-on-MTV-like-makeout session. And think about the uncomfortable pause that came immediately after that kiss. Now think back to the fist bump from last Tuesday night, and tell me you don't get the difference. One reminded us of walking in on our parents kissing and flirting in the kitchen when we got home from school, the sight that temporarily blinded us all at least once during our formative years. And the other was a simple effortless cool gesture - genuinely cool, it seems, because it didn't come off as rehearsed.
Even the pundits on TV and in the press weighed in on the fist bump, trying to figure out what its significance was and what it is called, and where it comes from, etc.
I found the conversations and "analysis" funny and refreshing, a brief look into a candidate's personality and a brief vacation from the speculation on how both sides plan to fix the economy and handle Iraq...and Iran.
But for those colleagues of mine who still don't get the bump, it's called dap, and is evolved from those "hip" handshakes Gen-Xers popularized across racial lines.
I wrote about this once on my old blog. And here's what I had to say then:
"Dap is that coolest of handshakes. It's the urban greeting that says 'I could just grip your hand squeeze and shake twice, but you and I have an understanding, so I am going to throw some 'English' on this handshake and jazz it up a little, as a sign of our friendship and mutual respect... Yes, waaaaaay back in the day that handshake was a black thing (as my elders have explained it to me). There, I said it.
It was one of those ways that black men who felt all alone while trying to integrate themselves into predominantly white workplaces and social settings, and society in general, had to bond, to establish a camaraderie. In a crowd of white people in the 1950s, for example, two black men who spotted each other might have exchanged that handshake. But even then it was never so much about separating oneself from the group. Rather it was a way for two men of similar backgrounds and experiences to silently say "I don't necessarily know you, but I'll bet we have similar experiences. And therefore I understand you." It was a comforting gesture.
But then things changed in popular culture. Through the 1970s and into the '80s it became more acceptable to not just observe and/or admire another group's mannerisms. It became OK to engage in whatever interested you - activities and interests that had been deemed specifically "white" or "black" became fair game for whoever wanted to try 'em.
At that point race was no longer of major importance with that handshake. It became more about guys of all stripes silently saying "We're cool with one another. We're close friends. We're at least close enough that we share mutual respect."
Men-to-men, men-to-women, women-to-men, black-to-black, black-to-white, white-to-white, and so on and so forth. These days the fist bump, along with the other forms of dap, is a simple sign of cool. And even if he's not your canidate, you have to admit that Obama has cool points.
OK, now that we've sang Kumbaya, and had this peaceful exploration of hipness, let the freeding frenzy on Obama's and McCain's policy differences resume!
BTW, here ↓ is the next incarnation of dap.