Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

Obama Socialized by White Women

By Jean Mavrelis - 06.23.2009

Talk show host and liberal social commentator Bill Maher criticized Obama on his HBO show “Real Time” when he said Obama was “focusing too much on his charm offense and not enough on substantive change…I’m glad he got elected. But he’s not really putting it on the line against the banks, the insurance companies, the energy companies who run the country and in many ways, have ruined this country.”

In effect, he accused the President of being what I describe in our book, Corporate Tribalism, as a “people pleaser.” I have observed that when the oldest child in a family is male, he often spends more time with Mom or Grandma, and tends to also fit the description of what I describe as a white female “people pleaser.” It would not surprise me if Obama learned from his white mother and grandmother that you catch more flies with honey than with a fly swatter.

David Brooks, in his NYTimes article “You Be Obama”, saw the president’s positioning as strategic and brilliant. I asked an Italian barber friend of mine what he thought about how Obama was doing on the world stage and he replied, as he made a rather lewd pumping gesture with his arm, “He’s gotta be strong – he’s trying to get everybody to like him.” 

As for me, I agree with David Brooks.  Obama is strategic and brilliant.  His response to the criticism on health care was to e-mail grass roots supporters requesting donations to help him promote health care reform. He’s campaigning to win the hearts and minds of Americans who he hopes will demand change of their senators and representatives, who in turn will vote on health care. This ability to be for himself, and for the group, fits the category I call  “evolved” more than he the  “people pleaser” designation. 

“Evolved” individuals as I describe them in the book may have been people pleasers, but as they evolve they learn to consider their own wishes while respecting the wishes of the group as a whole.

When the 2008 campaign began, I saw Hillary Clinton as more white male assimilated (these are white women who often report: “who I am at work, is not who I am really”), and that Barack was more “evolved.”  I’ve come to see them both as evolved as they demonstrate their ability to consider their own wishes while never losing sight of the group. Maybe that’s Obama’s influence on those around him.  Even Vice President Joe Biden was saying nice things about former VP Dick Cheney on Meet the Press last Sunday. Hmmm- he’s the first born to his mother, too.

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