Senator Barack Obama’s Blackness

May 10, 2007
Much has been written about the 19 candidates for President of the United States. From questions such as Rudi Giuliani’s family values to Senator Hillary Clinton’s changing speech patterns depending on which region of the country she visits, this presidential election promises to run the gamut of critiques and personal attacks that will easily trump the 2004 election. Though some critiques are indeed silly, the question of whether Senator Barack Obama is “black enough” to appeal to black voters is by far the most absurd.

The beauty about black figures breaking new ground such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Obama’s rise to Senator (not achieved by a black man since the Reconstruction era) is that one really begins to see just how far America has come as it relates to race relations. But this is an issue that has exposed black opinions of themselves more than whites’ opinions of blacks. Some in black America have stated that Obama is not “black enough” because his late mother was white. These are probably the same analysts who list Bob Marley as one of their favorite artists because of his message of black pride and liberation. These critics conveniently miss the fact that Bob Marley had a white father.

Other critics hold that Obama is not “black enough” because his father is not African-American but Kenyan-born. They conveniently forget that leaders like the late Marcus Garvey were not American but identified with the international black plight, which included black America. Furthermore, following this logic of Obama’s African parentage would also exclude me from the African American community because my parents are Congolese though I, like Obama, am American born. Gee, I guess I am suffering from a serious identity crisis. The police also seem to not notice that I am not African American when I am pulled over. Maybe I should wear a sign saying “Don’t profile me, my parents are Congolese!” Yeah.

The real issue that ills black America is that we actually stereotype ourselves more than we are stereotyped by others. We have about 20 different skin-tones from “high yella” to “dark chocolate” each carrying a corresponding place on our racial hierarchy. We have about 10 descriptions of hair from “nappy” to “good hair”, which also denote a certain level or superiority or inferiority depending on where the strand lands. For the most part, White America sees us as the extremes, just light and dark-skinned.

Despite these cosmetic differences, the largest stereotype occurs when dealing with politics. If Obama was as vocal on issues of race as the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, there would be no discussion of his blackness because it would be easy to typecast him. Though unquestionably vocal about injustice of all kinds, Obama obviously has a different affect in his methodology. Couple this with his Ivy-league education and mixed parentage, and we have what Senator Joseph Biden and Rush Limbaugh would collectively call the “articulate magic negro.” These are their words.

What we in America need to do is revisit this issue of race. We must realize that every black in America has a unique experience. We are democrat and republican, hetero and homosexual, rich and poor, college and street educated and there is enough room in America for all of us. We in black America must realize that our experiences are unique yet similar enough to at least dialogue about identity without asserting a claim to blackness and denying it to others. If neither police (à la Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, & Sean Bell) nor taxi drivers differentiate who is black versus the other, we can indeed at least have an honest discussion about blackness for at the end of the day, Senator Barack Obama is as African American as apple pie.

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One Response to “Senator Barack Obama’s Blackness”

  1. Federal Farmer Says:

    Nice blog. Very interesting. Hey, in case you are interested, here is a link to my posting today on Rush on Franks and Obama, and the matter of free speech. See: http://soozah.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/rush-limbough-on-the-banking-queen-and-the-magic-negro/

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