Why This President Matters to My Brown Boy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Finally did it. Finally wrote about why President Barak Obama matters most to me, and to my son’s future. It’s been four-plus years in the making, but it’s finally here. Actually, the essay is on Mom.me’s new blog.


In the essay I talk about attending the President’s second inauguration earlier this week, and how being there live pushed me to share (shout?) my feelings on the symbolic value of a black president.

Have a read and definitely let me know what you think.


After filing my story to Mom.me (I had just 24 hours!), I went out to run my errands. One stop was at the post office. Had to buy a special stamp for a square envelope. Yes, you know I was griping about this. I mean, 65 cents because the envelope is cute? Anyway, I digress … Since I was there, I figured I’d ask about the Black Heritage Forever stamp. Wasn’t there yet. They still had last year’s version. I remembered reading about a special stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

So I asked for those.


Wow, right? Beautiful and profound. It all left me feeling proud, humbled and hopeful.


*The first image is a photo of artwork created by Dominant Primate. Seeing it live, you are struck by the meticulous work that went into making it.

  • 1

    Read this over on Mom.me — really nicely done, congrats!
    I read one by another mom of a biracial kid on HuffPo the other day and thought of you. It really matters to have people talk about these kinds of things. As a biracial kid myself (Filipino/white), it still strikes me how unusual it is to have people acknowledge your reality — usually you’re asked to check a single box, and no one understands why that feels strange and wrong for the person who’s asked to do it. (Not for nothing, the U.S. Census still does not have a multi-racial option; the only recent survey I’ve taken that offered a “two or more races” option was from, I kid you not, Starbucks customer service!) To have a president who checks all sorts of boxes, and proudly, is a very, very big deal.

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      My cousin Ben, who is mixed race and identifies as such, lives in the UK. He said that on forms the options are nearly endless. Funny that it’s a Starbucks (home of the Venti, double-pump, no-whip, non-fat, triple drip, etc.) form that tries to be inclusive.

      Thanks for the comment, Alison.

  • 2
    Quiana says:

    “He’s this beacon of promise and change, of purpose and kicked-opened doors.” YES! I was at the 1st inauguration and now with a 2 1/2 year old it makes my heart swell that she recognizes Obama as her president calling his name when she sees him. And about those stamps . . . I love commemorative stamps and had no idea these were available. Thank you for sharing!

    • 2.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Thanks, Quiana. My son will be able to say that the first president he’s ever “known” was one who looked like him. Isn’t it wonderful? Next up: Madame President.

  • 3

    Your essay over at mom.me is BEAUTIFUL—in both delivery and sentiment. Thank you for sharing it! And those stamps?! GOOD GRIEF those are insane. I want some!

    • 3.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Kind words, Denene. Thank you.

      And the stamps — yes, they had me speechless. Get some, friend!

  • 4

    Your post is wonderful, but I’m sorry to see the comments section hijacked by people desperate to push their own political opinions! They totally missed the point!

    As a biracial woman, I share your feelings about the historical significance of Barack Obama’s presidency. I loved the end of your post where your son said that he looked like Obama! So powerful!!

    • 4.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      People are… people. Thanks for letting me know about the mess of a comments section over there, Alyssa. Had no clue. Also have no plans to respond to any of it.

      I’m glad you liked the post.

  • 5
    Sue Burton says:

    What’s the equivalent of a Pushcart Prize for bloggers? Your essay on Mom.me deserves one! It’s thoughtful; it’s wise (precedents do matter, and public symbolism does matter and affects us in ways we’re often not even aware of); it’s personal and funny (you call your son “sweet potato”? – priceless!); it’s vulnerable, and it radiates joy. As a writer, I know how difficult it is to write about joy — and from the heart. (I confess: I’m from the ironic, fragmenty school.) So, yes, the idea of possibility is fine, but even finer is an actual example of accomplishment.

    Obama is an admirable role model for your son, but you, Nicole, are the best.

    • 5.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Sue! Maaaaaan. What a sweet comment. Thank you, thank you. Such kind words. I think I’m going to come here every morning before I start working to read this again. You know, set the day right.

      Seriously, though, thank you, Sue!

  • 6
    Mr. Zim says:

    Very nice! Reminded me of my experience at the first inauguration. The cold. The anticipation. The history of it all. What’s occurred to me most about Obama’s presidency (esp. the first term) is the juxtaposition between how historic his presidency is for us grown-ups versus just how matter-of-fact, if ordinary, it is for young kids…. Without the vantage of the cruel arc of history or the taint of racism to cloud their thinking, I think they may be the few folks who can actually SEE him for what he is… Simply a man….his color is what we bring to their consciousness… And rightly so… for the layers of perception will be evident in their young worlds soon enough. I know I still get a kick whenever my daughter sees an American flag and says “Hey, an Obama Flag,” The poetry of possibility that truly is America is captured in her simple reference and for me ( and any other Black parent or parent of an child from an underrepresented group) that’s personal.