Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Vixen Effect

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.


Guys' Guy said...

you are not taken the wrong way in my book. And actually quite a few of my black co-workers have brought up the same points as you about Obama.

I have actually had the same discussion and with those same co-workers as to why people say he is black when he is bi-racial and wouldn't that be more symbolic as to what he wants to achieve, bring Americans back to being one with no gender, color, or sexual identity lines.

Anyway...I just wanted you to know I don't think many people will find this post taken the wrong way. I am a big Obama supporter as well.

Anonymous said...

Lies. There are no "brown" people in America. Either you're white or you're black.

I won't go into the relative benefits of being a majority in the Third World versus being a minority in the First World. I'd just say "not having your opinions heard versus not having your opinions heard AND being infected with lion AIDS" and then everyone would be sad.

Anonymous said...

Eh, people who claim he was elected because he was black are also likely to claim he's a secret Muslim. In short, it's bigotry desperately grasping for just enough logic to look respectable, same as it's always done.

Speaking as someone of Irish / Slavic / French heritage, I've got the advantages of someone who is easily identified as "white", and I would imagine that Obama does not. Even if his exact story is not the same as your average African-American's*, it's got enough in common to be a meaningful step forward. While I am glad that the better man won, I also don't mind that it's someone who doesn't have my white guy perks, whatever his exact lineage may be.

I understand your point that folks aren't categorizing Obama correctly, but I opine that worrying that much about categorization is closer to a symptom of the problem than a diagnosis.

Oh, and the first black superheroine at DC was Julie Spence. Her power was to be so black that she eventually turned Lois Lane black.

*: Note: there is no such thing as an "average African-American's experience".

tavella said...

Dude, have you ever lived in the South? As long as you are visibly black, it doesn't matter if you are 'biracial' 'octaroon' or anything else. And it doesn't matter if you had a Kenyan father or a Jamaican mother. If you were raised outside the country, it would be different, but in America color is destiny when it comes to experience.

Now *within* that color, there are different cultures and communities; a black kid raised in the Gold Coast of DC, from a family that has been freemen and upper crust professionals since before the civil war is going to have a very different life experience than one raised in rural Mississippi. But they'd both still be black and share a common experience as such.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, Scipio.

I voted for Obama, but I've never really thought of him as black. He was raised by white folks in Hawaii, wasn't he? I'm white, but I went to a black high school, in an almost predominately black city (Poughkeepsie). Technically, I think that may make me more black than Obama.

An additional note- blacks whose families came from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other ports of call tend to take some umbrage at being referred to as "African American", so I'd suggest being careful in using that as a blanket term for anyone with black skin. Referring to a person as a black or a black American is no more offensive than someone referring to or describing a person as white.

-Citizen Scribbler

Jhunt said...

"I'm white, but I went to a black high school, in an almost predominately black city (Poughkeepsie). Technically, I think that may make me more black than Obama."

No, it really doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Mid-Nite, Beth Chapel, right?

Jeff R. said...

So...who _was_ the DCU's first black American female superhero? Skyrocket seems awfully late. XS was "earlier" (modulo time travel), but was biracial and a citizen of Earthgov rather than America (and Kid Quantum II wasn't even from Earth).

Rob Pugh said...

Sorry, no.

The "one drop" rule has been used for centuries for discrimination and hate.

You don't get to change the rules once it can be used in a positive and empowering way.

His father may have been Kenyan, but Barack Obama was a black man in America.

Barack Obama, America's first black President.

Anonymous said...

Did DC have any Black or African Super-heroines before the Bumblebee joined the Teen Titans? The only other candidate I can think of is Nubia, who never really quite became a super-heroine, other than one cameo in Super-Friends, which I'm pretty sure was post-Bumblebee. Of course, since Nubia was just Wonder Woman's long-lost twin sister, molded out of darker clay (I am not making this up), and then raised by Mars to be an anti-WW, she's got even less claim to being an actual black character than most.


Diabolu Frank said...

Usually, these sorts of posts are insightful examinations of little considered aspects of comic books. Here, I just find myself irritated at the pedantic nit-picking. I'm in Texas. I've heard Obama called a lot of specific and unkind things for months. He's black. He's American. He's the president elect. The rest is #*&!ing bull$#!^, and I've had enough of it-- never mind the next four plus years I'll be tolerating ignorant, hateful comments.

Also, Vixen's a great character, and is little known because of the institutional racism that afflicted DC until recently. I hate everything Dan Didio's done at DC except his forcing more ethnic and gender diversity at his company. Even still, I can't count the number of friends and customers of color who'll likely never support DC for their decades of prejudice.

Jeff R. said...

Mindbender: Tyroc (of the Legion of Super-Heroes) predated Bumblebee by more than a year (and Karen Beecher by six months or so.)

Jeff R. said...

Ah: but wasn't, at least as far as weknow, female.

Shamus said...

"Black" is a social category not a biological one, which you do point out. So in one respect you are correct, but in another you are wrong. He self-identifies as "Black" and others identify him as such, so yes he's "Black".

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a foreigner who could only wish he'd been able to cast a vote for Obama, I'd say that what he "is" is less important than what he "isn't"--another old, white guy republican.

That's what makes the difference and is why the whole world woke up happier this morning.

Scipio said...

Frank, as far as I can tell,
"I just find myself irritated at" is pretty much a fill-in the blank statement for you. Some times I wonder whether you even like comics at all.

Still; "Vixen's a great character"? You do have a sense of humor!

Anonymous said...

This is something that has been driving me nuts too, and especially in the context of people falling all over themselves to declare that this marks the beginning of the end of racism in the USA. The presumed reluctance of white voters to elect someone perceived as black is the final, and in many ways least significant, obstacle that black americans as a group face in attaining high political office, and it was the ONLY disadvantage Obama can really be said to share with black americans in general. Every systemic barrier to black americans were not something he had to overcome, nor have they been abolished by his success. What I worry about now is the potential for a backlash effect based on the perception that this is some sort of great moral victory for race relations.

Anonymous said...

Just remembered something I wanted to add: By far the most sickening thing I saw during this election was someone on an internet messageboard I go to who, unprompted, declared that Obama's candidacy was tokenism, and that this was a GOOD thing.

Nate said...

Wow. This blog is now off my reading list forever.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is interested in opinion of "another old, white guy republican," (a big IF perhaps in this group), I don't care if Obama is black or African or whatever. I voted against him because of his extreme left-wing, liberal views that will...well, you get the idea.

I live in Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's hometown (a former neighbor, in fact). I campaigned for his highly qualified, very conservative opponent Ken Blackwell. (My Blackwell yard signs were not very well-recieved by my neighbors.) Even though Blackwell is an authentic African American, raised by his grandmother in inner-city Cincinnati, I didn't notice anyone in the media shedding any tears when a less experienced, old, white liberal defeated this man who could have been the first black governor of Ohio. For what it's worth.

Unknown said...

Barack is what passes for "extreme left-wing" in the US? Wow!

Anonymous said...

"I live in Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's hometown (a former neighbor, in fact). I campaigned for his highly qualified, very conservative opponent Ken Blackwell. (My Blackwell yard signs were not very well-recieved by my neighbors.) Even though Blackwell is an authentic African American, raised by his grandmother in inner-city Cincinnati, I didn't notice anyone in the media shedding any tears when a less experienced, old, white liberal defeated this man who could have been the first black governor of Ohio. For what it's worth."

You forgot to mention that Blackwell was such a transparently loathsome partisan hack that he lost by margins of like 65% to 35% in a red state whose previous governor was also a Republican. (It was the damndest thing: Blackwell had conceded by like 4pm that day -- I've never seen any politician drubbed so soundly that they could give their concession speech and then catch the early bird special at Denny's.) Blackwell was just more proof of the important lesson about racial equality that the past eight years have taught us: you might be a minority, but that doesn't prevent you from being as big of a douche as the whitest of white guys.

Not that we should be turning Scipio's forum into yet another battleground over elections, but you're trying to hold up Blackwell as someone whose primary distinguishing characteristic is funky funky blackness, and it just ain't so.

Anonymous said...

To "anonymous"

You forgot to mention...blah, blah, blah...

I didn't forget anything, anonymous. Blackwell was elected three times to statewide offices in Ohio (Treasurer and Secretary of State) after successful terms on Cincinnati City Council, including serving as mayor. He lost in a year when the outgpoing governor and at least one Ohio GOP congressman were shown to be crooks. 2006, like 2008, was bad year for Republicans. But I think my point stands. Blackwell is a black Republican (like MLK), so in your eyes that makes him a douche.

Anonymous said...

"Blackwell is a black Republican (like MLK), so in your eyes that makes him a douche."

In my eyes and in the eyes of 2/3 of generally-Republican-friendly Ohioans, so it's not just me and my irrational liberal bias. Also, MLK would be ashamed of what the Republicans have turned into, but you knew that already.

Tony said...

Ddue, Blackwell's the guy who refused to accept voter registrations unless they were on 30 lb paper. This was when he was the state's top elections official.

I commend you for your color-blindness, though.

I passed out campaign literature in front of a polling place in Reynoldsburg in 2006. A guy walked up to me and told me he was voting Democratic for the first time in his life, because of George Wallace.

I had to go home and hit wikipedia before I realized what he meant.

Anonymous said...

Barack is what passes for "extreme left-wing" in the US? Wow!

Compared to Cotton Mather McCain and Anita Bryant Palin, yes.

SallyP said...

Interestingly enough, if Mr. Obama had been born in Connecticut, he would have been called white. We trace the ancestry through the mother. Likewise, since he was born in Panama, McCain would have been classified as Hispanic.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

A good post and one that made me rethink a few things.

For a few weeks I had been hacked off by the label 'first black president' since I knew that Barack had a white parent and a black parent. It made me wonder how much of a race does a person have to be to qualify to BE that race?

Myself, I'm about 1/8 American Indian. I do have a tribal card (though not from a Federally recognized tribe) but I have never presented myself as Indian.

However, I could (if it was a Federally recognized tribe) present myself as an Indian and I know other folks that aren't 100% Indian that present themselves as such.

So in the end, I guess someone could present themselves as the 'first _____ President' no matter HOW much of that blood that they contain. BUT, does it really matter?

Yeah, as a person that voted for McCain (not because of race, but because of politcal platform), I think that it does. Not because of how Obama presented himself, but as how folks viewed him. (I remember the Black Caucus saying that Bill Clinton was the first 'black president' so does that make Barack the second?)
This is the first step towards not judging folks based on their skin but on their words and actions.

The first time anything happens is a cause to celebrate. We have gotten past the stigma of being Catholic and 28 years later another stigma starts to fall. But I think what will be MORE telling is when a Black man, or a Hispanic, or a woman, or a Mormon is elected and it is NOT a big deal. On that day I think we should celebrate, but we will still have to look back and recognize the first step.

Ken Walden said...

The question we need to ask, it seems, is what does it mean when people grow excited that Obama "is the first Black president", or first "African-Americna president."

While you make some good points, I think that for the most part people mean that for the first time someone who would be visually identified as "Black" by most Americans was elected despite that fact. In that case his heritage does not matter so much as the tone of his skin.

There are certainly more barriers to break, and many children of long-time African-American citizens who do not receive the breaks and privileges that Obama received. But I don't think that is what most people mean when they say, "Hey, it's the first black president!"

Anonymous said...

I think Ken just expressed my sentiments a lot more clearly than I may be capable of. Scipio too, for that matter.

JHunt- My remark about being blacker than Obama was a joke but, then again, I suppose it all depends on how you define "black", as others have pointed out.

Rob Pugh- I don't know who you're referring to when you say "You don't get to change the rules". I don't recall anyone here making rules...

Bryan-Mitchell- Sex with a slave is never consensual outside of erotic literature.

-Citizen Scribbler

Rob Pugh said...

Citizen Scribbler - "In English grammar, generic you or indefinite you is the use of the pronoun you to refer to an unspecified person... The phenomenon of generic you, though decried in the works of some still-read prescriptivist grammarians, is so widespread that it is nearly standard usage."

I weep for the educational system sometimes.

As a society and as a culture, for over the last two hundred years, anyone with any "black" ancestry, or with a "black" visage or appearance, was identified as a "black" person. Hell, even some who could "pass" as white, once their heritage was found out, were once again put in their place as "black."

To now, suddenly, when you [again, the generic "you"] have a man who meets the historically, culturally accepted criteria of "black" to redefine the term because we're "beyond" that now, is, imho, nonsense.

...of course race is a social identifier, not a "real" one. Yes, he actually "is" multi-racial. And, genetically, as much "white" as he is "black." No one anywhere is 100% anything... We all, somewhere in our genetic and historical background, are a mix of something. But to ignore centuries of cultural and historical context and definition, even if it comes from a positive and progressive place, does a disservice.

It doesn't change the fact that by his appearance alone, he would be labeled a black man throughout America's history... To suddenly make the argument now, when that can actually be a positive thing and prescriptive of change, that he isn't "really" black, is, to me, disingenuous at best.

Anonymous said...

So, um....Melba Manton was the first American black female DC character to headline her own strip, and Bumblebee would have been the first American black female superhero, right?

(And seriously, let's totally not get started on the Storm issue -- African goddess, half black American, or Modesty Blaise ripoff/drag queen manque?)

Unknown said...

I guess I understand the sentiment of this post, but I agree with Rob Pugh. It has already started among some of the more repugnat right wingers (not you), the notion that Obama is not even black. With all due respect (and I mean this because I really like your site)this is bullshit. Obama has grown up as a black man, has identified himself as being such and as Rob Pugh has pointed out, historically in this country he IS a black man. Based on the campaign he was definitely treated like a black man. Typically, he was called on to soothe white fears and justify himself where other candidates had not. And I betcha that he was constantly reminded of being a black man while at Harvard. So, while I don't think that your post means this I will say that it sounds very close to you assigning his success to the fact that he had a white parent.

Also, the idea that people who identify him as being a black man in this country is being "racist" towards whites is abolutely absurd.

Anonymous said...

You might also say it's the "Halle Berry" effect. First black woman to win the best actress oscar, also the product of one black and one white parent. Or the "Tiger Woods" effect. If I understand what you are saying, neither of these people are black.

I guess you can try to make the claim that diminishing these peoples accomplishments as "firsts" in their fields is somehow not racist. I'm just not sure you could prove it to me.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah. And my buddy Spectrum Bear isn't gay because, once upon a time, he had sex with women. Twice.

I get into arguments with people about gay marriage in which they say "gays can't have kids!". When I point out that gays can reproduce just fine, and lesbians are having babies all over the place, they say, basically: "She's been touched by a man's sperm, so that's not REALLY lesbian, is it?"

You're right, scipio, "black," as it is used in America, is a cultural term. But there are some consequences to that:

(1) You're not the entire culture in and of yourself. You don't get to decide what it means.

(2) As a culturally defined term, it is of necessity vague, and changes over time. When people apply a mathematical level of nitpicking to it, is says more about the nitpickers than about who is and who isn't black.

Walking down almost any street in this country, Barack Obama would be recognized as black. (Particularly in the more racist neighborhoods.) He self-identifies as black. He has African ancestry, but was born in this country.

He's black.

Most whites see him as black, and most blacks see him as black. I think the culture has spoken.

Yesterday was the first day in the history of our nation when black parents could turn to their kids and say, "Look, it's true! Even a black man can become president in this country!" And many did, with tears in their eyes. Why ANYONE would pick that moment to say, "Well, he's not REALLY black...." is beyond me. (Actually, I know why some people would. I don't know why you would, though.)

Sometimes I hear folks tell adopted children, "Those aren't REALLY your parents, you know." And so it can be argued, by a nitpicker. But it doesn't match common usage, AND it's cruel.

Maybe you meant to say that he's not Jesse Jackson. But "black," even as a cultural term, covers a wider range than that.

BIG MIKE said...

In the aftermath of an historic election like this one, it's the height of hypocrisy to criticize one set of cultural and racial semantics only to replace with it with one that's just as flawed and just as arbitrary. Saying Obama isn't black because of his parents' race is narrow and racialist in its own right and is also contradicted by much of his personal history and biography.

I agree that the label of Obama as a 'black president' smacks of equivocation and oversimplifies his background, but rather than dwelling on whether his genetics entitle him to be part of black culture, let's just sit back, take a deep breath, and take this election as an opportunity to move beyond this crap.

Diabolu Frank said...

Scipio, I'm reminded of a critic (I think it was Rex Reed) who once huffed about the changing criteria for a "good" film in the 60s/70s. He said something along the lines of "there are people who like movies, and people who only like the movies they like."

I like the comics I like. I only want to read "good" comics, and am consoled about being faced with ones I don't like through the pleasure of expressing my displeasure. It doesn't help that most of the corporate characters I like have been handled heinously for most of this decade. I'd have much lower standards if comics still cost $0.50, but at $3-4, I'm downright offended most of the time. I want to have a good time, or be challenged/impressed... not watch lousy creators and misguided editors form a bukkake circle around the DC Universe.

Besides, you always need a hard-to-please crank around, for diversity's sake. You know, in my experience here, you seem to bristle at opinions contrary to your own, while that's always been my favorite starting point...

Anonymous said...

Rob Pugh- I know the definition of the word "you". I probably know more about the English language then you ever will. That wasn't what I meant and you should have known that- unless you need to brush up on your comprehension skills...

But you still failed to specify your unspecified person or persons- therefore, your initial remarks still make no sense outside of being a rant against some vague people who have... what? It's not clear, but you seem to think that I'm one of these people and therefore I'm not allowed to have a say in the definition of race.

It's all hard to say. Most of my family came from southern Italy to America and, at that time, they were considered to be "people of color" and now, we're white. Go figure...

I think many of you miss the point here. You can argue whether Supergirl is Krytonian or whether she comes from Argos, or whether Obama is black or not but, really, what the heck difference does it make? I'm sorry that you seem to have so much personally invested in the color of the man's skin rather than the content of his character. Maybe someday you'll listen to the words of Martin Luther King and learn his lessons. Don't worry, some folks just take a little longer for the scales to fall from their eyes...

-Citizen Scribbler

Rob Pugh said...

"I probably know more about the English language then you ever will."

Except, apparently, for the fact that the expression is "than you ever will" not "then you ever will."


Additionally, the *purpose* of the 'generic you' is that it is used in situations where specificity of attribution isn't appropriate. There obviously is no selected group of personages that define race...

...nor was I in any way responding or thinking about you, or what your opinion on the matter is or was... I was responding to Scipio and his original post...

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob,

Ever heard of a typo? I know the correct form- as I said, better than you.

If I wanted to be a jerk like you I could point out that:

"There obviously is no selected group of personages that define race..."

is very poor sentence structure.

And what a dumb thing to attack me about in the first place when my initial question for you wasn't disingenuous in the slightest.

And are you now saying that Scipio is unqualified to make up his own mind about what constitutes "black" or "white" because you think that he used to express the opinion that one drop of black blood made a person black? 'Cause I don't recall reading that in the archives...

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

matt wrote: " To me, it implies that everyone is white unless a bit of you isn't."

What, if you see someone who looks like Obama walking down the street, you intuit his family tree?

Do you just assume everyone you see, white, black, or brown, is mixed-race?

People go by what they see, not the possible-but-unknowable-genetic-makeup of a person they encounter on the street.

What Obama calls himself is frankly irrelevant, because everyone else will decide for him on sight, and that has always been the case.

Anonymous said...

Yeah um,

While President Obama is technically biracial, as many people have pointed out: in America this means you are considered black 99% of the time.

Considering Obama only spent like a few days with his father in Kenya once, and was raised and lives in the USA, I'm sure his life experience is much closer to other Black Americans than Black Africans.

In any case, it really seems like pointless nitpicking.
While people are right to be overjoyed at our election of the first "person of color" to be President, I really don't think many people voted for him based on his race.
It has been painfully obvious for a long time, that he is a gifted leader, and a man of destiny.
The voters selected the best man for the job. period.

Word verification: gueope
an alien space-cat?

Anonymous said...

ken wrote: "While you make some good points, I think that for the most part people mean that for the first time someone who would be visually identified as "Black" by most Americans was elected despite that fact. In that case his heritage does not matter so much as the tone of his skin."

Right, but we've now answered that question - will a guy with black physical features be elected in the US? Yes.

What remains is the question of whether someone who *acts* or *sounds* more 'black' or more 'urban' could get elected. But that's a different question, and gets into very individualistic matters, because there are lots of ways of being black in America.

There are plenty of white folks who would be unlikely to get elected due to their mannerisms, appearance, accent, or cultural tics. The answer to the question "what kind of white person can get elected" has been changing over the last 200-some years. Now we can start figuring out what kinds of black people can get elected, too.

Anonymous said...

Obama might be half-white, and largely raised by white folks, but he certainly seems more 'culturally black' than Condi Rice, who comes from Birmingham, and whose African-American ancestry stretches back to Revolutionary War times.

So there's that.

Marcos said...

As a friend pointed out, the fact that anyone gives a flying fig what Obama's "race" is just goes to show how far away we still are from MLK2's dream, even 45 years later.

African, American, African-American, Black, Decaf half-fat mocha latte . . . who cares? The most important thing about him is that he's not George W. Bush. Everything else is gravy.

... which wasn't a color reference.

Unknown said...


I am not getting you. How does Obama not "act" black? You will have to explain that one to me. Does he "act" white? What's that?

You know what? Nevermind, this post and some of the responses are proof enough to convince me that some white people will do anything to assign all positive human attributes to themselves. Ironically, there is nothing anywhere here celebratring the first black U.S. President, but there is a post about a dog passing away. Same as it ever was.

Rob Pugh said...

"I know the correct form- as I said, better than you.

If I wanted to be a jerk..."

You know nothing about me, but are assured of, and repeat, your superiority. That pretty much constitutes acting like a jerk.

Again, you apparently don't understand the 'generic 'you'' nor its grammatical use, as you keep asking about and assuming who it refers to. Nor do you understand or seem to be familiar with "one-drop rule" in American history. It's not an opinion that Scipio has specifically expressed anywhere, but a cultural understanding that survives its existence as legislation from the end of slavery to it being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967 [Loving v Virginia/Virginia Racial Integrity Act.]

Scipio is more than entitled and qualified to make up his own mind about race. But the conclusion he has reached flies in the face of over 300 years of American history [and, easily, more than 600 years of history on the American continent.]

To suddenly say, about a man who who would be called "black" or by a similar racial term throughout the history of America, that he's not "really" black is unjust and unfair to a segment of society that has struggled for equality for a long time. And comes across, no matter how well intentioned, imho, as petty and nitpicking.

It would be nice in an ideal world to move beyond such ideas of black and white to other, more realistic definitions such as multiracial. But that's not the world we live in, nor ever has been. And even in "multiracial" societies, these issues still come to a head... the state of racism and race relations in Brazil is instructive in this regard, and kind of fascinating. But that's a bit of a digression.

Done talking to 'Citizen Scribbler' now.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was just a skin condition.

Anonymous said...

Well Rob,

I'm glad you pointed out that my referring to myself as being an authority on the English was, in fact, "being a jerk". It was satire- intended as a spoof of your own presumptions about your intellectual superiority.

But I do agree with many of your contentions. Where we differ may have to do with an age difference between us or the fact that I've constantly lived in racially and economically diverse locations, such as Brooklyn. There are so many different genetic combinations in play, not to mention all the immigration to boot, that it would be a ridiculous futility to try to put racial labels on people just from looking at them.

Therefore, I must concede that my personal perspective of race and racial relations is most likely NOT the most common one shared in our national dialogue on the topic. And I apologize if the provocative and seemingly flippant style of my remarks got anyone's blood up in a bad way...

I agree with the sentiments that we're all winners on this one and bickering is really unnecessary.

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

To the black people I work with, Obama's black. I have a soon-to-be-adopted daughter of mixed ancestry... who's been called "black." I respectfully disagree, Scipio, that Obama's not black. Sure, he's biracial, but he's still black.

Ultimately, the election of a person who is not white is a good thing (provided he does a good job, which I think he will despite the formidable obstacles before him). It's not the end of racism, but it's a major leap forward.

Angelo said...

black, white, purple or blue- obama is going to rock. is there an email address i can send you some info on a guitar hero and free chicken promo?!

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama is an African-American. In that he is a person of both African and American descent.
He is also black, albeit with a white mother which more accurately makes him bi-racial. So he's a bi-racial American...but lets face it, in America, in his case, that equates to black. Maybe that will change. It has not as of yet.

Charlize Theron is an African-American. In that she is a person who was born in South Africa and has, if I'm not mistaken, become an American citizen. She is also white.

I am a British-American. In that I am a person of both British and American descent. I am also black. Not bi-racial. Black, black-American, but not an African-American.

You are conflating two very separate issues. Being black does not mean you have had the American experience. It simply means you display a set of physical characteristics that strongly relate you to Africa, pre-colonization. There are black people all over the world and guess what? They're not all American.

Barack Obama's father was not an African-American. He was African and Kenyan. He was also Black. Black and African-American are not synonymous. Barack Obama was born an American and has, therefore, experienced America as a black man (ostensibly or otherwise). That makes him a Black American and an African-American. That also makes him the first black president of the United States of America.

And I wish everyone would stop harping on it. He was simply the best man for the job.