Sunday, December 14, 2008

Obama: Black? White? Both? Neither?

Well, believe it or not, the Dean of Cincinnati's issue about whether or not it is appropriate to call Obama "Black" or "African-American" has made the mainstream media. An AP story made it to the Axinar news desk via AOL of all places asking Is Obama Black, White, Both, or Neither?

Now probably the most pertinent fact on the subject is Obama's own opinion of his identity - he has been quoted as saying, "I identify as African-American — that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it."

That should probably be the end of the story.

However, the AP story goes on to say, "The entire issue balances precariously on the 'one-drop' rule ..." referring to a time when a person with any African ancestry at all could never be a full citizen.

The "one-drop" rule has nothing to do, IMHO, with the ethnic identity of Barack Obama or the Haap boys.

Now the Dean himself chimes in with "Of course it's not offensive to be called 'black' But is it accurate?". But of course it's quite impossible to discuss whether or not someone is "accurately" designated as Black because the designation itself, at least in early 21st century Cincinnati, is utterly subjective.

Of course we have Dr. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates of Harvard who discovered that one actually can discover a quite accurate analysis of one's ancestry through something as simple as a cheek swab. Among a considerable A-list of African-American celebrities, Gates himself is probably the most surprising - both sex-linked genetic markers are European, and his nuclear DNA is 50% African, 50% European. And yet, quite clearly by upbringing and cultural association Skip Gates is a "garden variety Black dude".

As he tested celebrity after celebrity, each that would be culturally associated as a "garden variety Black person", a similar story was told. For instance Oprah Winfrey had considerable Native American ancestry, Mae Jemison had considerable far east Asian ancestry, but most had something on the order of 25 - 35% European ancestry.

In particular there was a conversation that Gates had with Maya Angelou when he revealed to her the percentage of European blood coursing through her veins and he asked her if she found this disturbing in any way. She said, "Why? It's who I am. Why should I have a problem with it?"

And from the Malaysian contingent, the one place we might have some hope of objectivity we have "Why call him Black when he isn't fully Black, but half-White and half-Black?".

Again, we have a problem from the "Gates Gang" - every single one of these individuals who clearly have a Black identity and area often considered leaders of the African-American community have CONSIDERABLE European ancestry and often considerable Asian ancestry.

In fact, IMHO, having heard some of the discussions of the interactions between the American African-American community and recent African immigrants, I'd almost have to say in order to comfortably BE "African-American" you almost have to have some considerable non-African ancestry.

This whole thing should NOT be that big of an issue. Of course the Dean if perfectly welcome to raise his children any way he wants, but that we have a Black man moving into the White House January 20th just doesn't seem to me to be that much subject to debate.



At December 14, 2008 at 7:29 PM, Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati said...

Ax wrote:

But of course it's quite impossible to discuss whether or not someone is "accurately" designated as Black because the designation itself, at least in early 21st century Cincinnati, is utterly subjective.


Now what's this about a "Black" man entering the presidency in January. I thought we already established that he was multiracial.

(Actually, I'm playing with the idea of using "heteroracial" instead.)

At December 17, 2008 at 6:17 AM, Blogger Crankster said...

Your last bastion of hope is shot to hell. Let me put it my way.

If I met a nice White boy and against my better judgement decided to marry him and have his babies, I'd be in a fix.

You see, the product of our collaboration would show very little signs of being Indian, and possibly be termed White.

Now that disturbs me. I've had a hand in making those babies. Could someone at least give me *some* credit?

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