Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dreams of a Son: Obama's Speculative Narrative about Trayvon

Although Barack Obama's brief comments about the Trayvon Martin case have drawn considerable attention, perhaps a few words are in order concerning the implications of the President's speculation: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." The line resonated with so many people in part because the "if" prompts audiences to imagine additional possibilities, what an Obama son would look like, what it would mean.  

Obama's statement is also clever and poetic in that it evokes, without directly mentioning, race (i.e. a black son). In other words, Obama stopped just short of mentioning race, effectively making his remark...pre-black.

If Obama had a son, that son would likely be as beloved and widely known as Sasha and Malia. Imagine that: a black boy in the White House.

If the Obamas--who are viewed as royalty in some sectors of black community--had a son, he might be viewed in ways akin to Prince William and Prince Harry. Perhaps, for some, an Obama son might be viewed as a kind of Theo Huxtable2.0. Whatever the case, an Obama son would hardly be followed and viewed as suspicious.

Obama's "If I had a son" sentence is speculative and notably declarative. If he had a son, he knows what he would look like. Part of what makes Obama's speculation stimulating for audiences is that he gave them insight into an apparent personal consideration and musing.

The title of his first autobiography, Dreams from My Father, suggested a longing or envisioning of Obama's male parent, and his statement on Trayvon constituted a dream of a son.

A Notebook on the Trayvon Martin Case  

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