Thursday, January 25, 2007

Obama's not black

Chris Suellentrop's "The Opinionator" (New York Times) points to the fact that Barack Obama has a problem: He's not black.

In his column he tells us that Debra Dickerson, author of “The End of Blackness,” concurs with Stanley Crouch: “Obama isn’t black,” she writes in Salon. She continues:

“Black,” in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can’t be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won’t bother to make the distinction. They’re both “black” as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.

It seems Obama hasn't suffered enough, hasn't borne the burden of being black in order to be called "black." Since he's not descended from African slaves, he can't know what African Americans have gone through.

“[H]e’s not a ‘native’ African American who can trace his roots through slavery, the South, emancipation, Jim Crow, civil rights, etc. He’s an African African American. His family journey from Kenya to Harvard was recent and shortcutted a lot of American black culture and politics.”

When Alan Keyes ran against Obama in 2004, Keyes was unable to make the distinction between himself and Obama:
That race was never much of a contest, but one fascinating subplot was how Keyes was unable to draw a meaningful distinction between himself as a black American and Obama as an African-American. After all, Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves. (Stanley Crouch)
Should all this make any difference? Right now Hillary seems to be ahead of Obama among black voters:
Black Democrats prefer Clinton 3 to 1 over Obama, and four out of five of black Democrats view her favorably, much higher than the 54 percent who have a favorable view of Obama, according to combined findings from two Washington Post-ABC polls taken in December and January. Clinton also enjoys close ties to top black elected officials, and her husband, former President Clinton, remains extremely popular among African-Americans. (Mercury News)

theteach :)


MOCHA said...

I think Obama and Hillary should run together...

the teach said...

Mocha, I don't think that would work. They are both big personalities. No, I don't think so.

Steve Beren said...

from Steve Beren

The 2/2/07 New York Times article highlights the degree to which identity politics - judging and categorizing people by their physical characteristics and ethnic background - is interfering with the use of objective political criteria as a means of judging candidates.

The article makes the point that some American blacks hesitate to support Obama because he is of mixed white (Kansas-born mother) and African (father born in Kenya) ancestry as opposed to being a Black American descendant of slaves.

I don't support Barack Obama, but that's because I don't agree with his views, and because I don't agree with the philosophy of his party. In all fairness, Obama's candidacy should be judged on his political views and governmental philosophy, not on the color of his skin, or the color of his parents' skin, or on the geographical birthplace of his parents.

The article quotes columnist Stanley Crouch as saying "When black Americans refer to Obama as 'one of us,' I do not know what they are talking about."

And it quotes author and essayist Deborah J. Dickerson as declaring "Obama isn't black" and adding, "I've got nothing but love for the brother, but we don't have anything in common. His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents. Now, I'm willing to adopt him. He married black. He acts black. But there's a lot of distance between black Africans and African-Americans."

There are about 20 or more announced or prospective candidates for the presidency, and I suppose there will be a few more before it is all over.

They should be judged by the content of their character, their political views, their governmental philosophy, and their qualifications as a leader.

There are enough legitimate POLITICAL reasons for liberals to support Obama, and there are enough legitimate POLITICAL reasons for conservatives to oppose Obama.

the teach said...

Thanks Steve.