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Monday, March 31, 2008

Politically Misunderstood: Obama as a Mixed Race Person

Hey World,
My latest Politically Misunderstood piece is on Barack Obama as a Mixed-Race candidate. Check out a New York Times article that has come out today. It is about how Barack Obama's speech on race has brought more attention to the lives of mixed-race people in America.

It is like the Times has read my mind. I brought up this topic last week in one of my graduate school courses. In the class, I mentioned how the mainstream media doesn't mention the fact that Obama is of mixed-race. All the media does is stress his Blackness but not enough of his Whiteness, or rather, the fact that Obama has qualities of both races. It is as if he has to choose a side.

I think that all people, regardless of race, can take something from Obama's life story, but I think that those of mixed race should especially look to Obama as an inspiration because he can empathize with their struggles in this country. To me, Obama is more American than the other candidates on the ballot because he has members of his family who are both Black and White, and because of this mixture, Obama is the archetype of the American "Melting Pot."

At the same time though, some may argue that Obama relates more to the Black race, which is why he is seen by many as a Black candidate rather than a mixed-race candidate. Obama may also be seen only as a Black candidate due to the revelation of his affiliation with Reverend Jeremiah Wright as well as his comments on his White grandmother. I understand how Obama identifies more with being Black because: a) Phenotypically, he can be seen as more Black than White, and b) America's One Drop Rule that hearkens back to slavery times that, namely, if a person has one drop of Black blood, then they are Black. Nonetheless, even though Obama may feel a sense of acceptance from the Black race that he has not felt from Whites, it does not mean that he does not like his White grandmother or other White people. It is this complexity that makes Barack Obama so appealing to mixed-race people, an entity who have never felt like they belong in just one group. These are folks who are judged their whole lives for being "different," "strange," or "alien." Most people of mixed race can tell you a plethora of stories about being mistaken for being one race over another or being criticized for claiming one race over another. They have stories about "trying to be White" and "not being Black enough" to be considered Black. Or these people have stories about "not being White enough" to be accepted by White people. Of course, I am generalizing, and of course, being of mixed-race in America is more than Black mixed with White. But the Black-White mixture is arguably the mixture that always and will always causes the most controversy because of the complex history America has with Black/White relations.

Anywho, the New York Times has really hit the nail on the head with this. Any thoughts? And check out Obama's speech to get more of a context:

1 comment:

mike's spot said...

I'm interested to see if Obama wins will he be more white?

I think it's important to emphasize his black heritage because of what that represents. If he becomes associated as another 'white' candidate, the impact of his potential victory is lost to the progressive movement towards equal treatment of different people within the US.

Sure he is mixed, but your asking people to take relatively new ideas and apply them to an old system. It is a relatively new practice to leave 'race' blank when filling out standardized forms.

Obama is viewed as a black candidate because upon viewing Obama he looks black. the black white mix is so controversial because very often the children resemble one race more than the other. The features between the two races are striking enough that differences are evident.