Sorry to rain on anyone's parade, and I'm sure this is going to anger a lot of readers, and I'm going to be misunderstood. But here goes....
Barack Obama's not the country's first black president; Barak Obama's not black.
First, let me affirm, and strongly: I supported Obama during the primaries; I voted for him in the general election. I was, am, and, hopefully will every reason to continue to be, a strong supporter.
His election is not just a victory for an individual or a party, but for American democracy and spirit, which it has revivified. And I couldn't be happier about it.
I am not delighted by the constant characterization of Obama as the first Black president. YES, he certainly "looks black". Yes, because of that he's certainly had the experience of growing as a perceived black person in the last 40+ years. And, yes, that is very significant. It's of great signficance and a great sign of hope for the future that the American people would elect such a man as its leader.
But, for one thing, he's biracial. That, to me, is more symbolically significant, since he personifies (or could) a post-racial way of viewing the world, one that is the only real hope for social unity in our nation. That's something that gets swept aside when he's characterized simply as "our first black president".
That characterization also brushes under the rug the fact that father was not a Black American; he was a man from Kenya, where being black doesn't make you a minority. Lumping together Africans or African-American immgrants minimizes the uniqueness of the experience Black Americans. Their ancestors did not come here voluntarily; they were deracinated from their native cultures, and, as a result, resiliently created a new one. American culture owes very little of its uniqueness to African-American immigrants; it owes an ENORMOUS amount to Black Americans.
Black Americans aren't "Black" simply because they happen to be of a particular race, but because of their unique cultural experience as an American minority, one that's not all similar to the experience of modern Africans.
It may make us feel better and oh-so-modern and color blind to vote for someone who "looks Black", even though he is actually the half-black son of a Kenyan, rather than a product of our native Black American culture. I'm very happy Obama was elected; but when I hear people saying that he was elected because he was black, I cannot help but think, "Or because he is indeed, very very 'white' ..."
It's "the Vixen Effect". Yes, let's create "DC's first black female superhero"; yay! But GOD forbid she should be an actual black American woman. Heavens, no; she has to be an African supermodel.
I wish creators -- and political pundits-- would stop conflating race with culture; it's part of the very "racial mindset" that's helped perpetuate bigotry and racial stereotyping.
Thanks to that conflation -- and Vixen -- almost no one can name the character who actually WAS the DCU's first black American female superhero. It's my hope that the election of Barak Obama will help stop people from lumping race with culture, rather than reinforce it.