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February 21, 2008


the wily filipino

You are correct about why Obama is called "black", but such categorization is more the aftereffects of historical racial policies rather than just laziness on the part of people. Jim Crow laws of course categorized anyone with "one drop of Negro blood" as automatically Negro, if only to better patrol the boundaries of whiteness and keep it pure. But that also works in reverse, as one is claimed by the Black community as well if one has that one drop. Frederick Douglass and Bob Marley had one white parent, after all, but they were, "of course," Black. (How Obama is seen as "not being black enough" is a different story altogether.)

The fact that it was only in the 2000 Census that Americans were allowed to choose more than one racial category for the first time speaks volumes about North American discomfort with mixed-race / multi-ethnic people -- in short (like bisexuals, actually), with people who don't fit easily within categories, or inhabit the space between them.


Excellent response! I first read about Jim Crow when I spent a year at an American high school in my teens. I had spent my early childhood in British colonies in Africa, so I was well used to societies divided along racial lines, but even so Jim Crow legislation struck me as really odd. I think Americans are still feeling its effects today, as you say.

On Bob, that's true, but I suppose it was difficult to see him as mixed race when he identified so totally with his Jamaican half in his appearance, accent, music, ganga, etc.

That's amazing about the census -- it speaks volumes as you say!


With technological advances that result in getting a person's genetic genealogy becomes cheaper, such racial classifications can have a more scientific basis.


Inasmuch as I think Obama's color is a factor, he represents change on so many levels that in the end, if he does win, his being black/mixed/bi-racial will be incidental and not crucial to his victory


"I am Charles Mingus. Half-black man. Yellow man. Half-yellow. Not even yellow, nor white enough to pass for nothing but black and not too light enough to be called white."

FABLES OF FAUBUS by Charles Mingus (1959)

Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

Then he's a fool! Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

Name me a handful that's ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.
Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello.


If Barack is elected he'll be "the Black President." If Hillary is elected she'll be "the Woman President." If McCain is elected he'll be "the President." The schools are now (legally) 'integrated.' The minds are not.


This post reminds me of this story about the British athlete Kriss Akabusi, which I'll quote from this other blog (http://www.chuckiedaniel.com/archives/172):

A reporter from one of the major US television networks (I forget which one) was interviewing black British athlete Kriss Akabusi after being a member of the 400 meters relay team that took the gold medal at the 1991 Athletics World Championships. The interviewer started off with:

“So, Kriss, what does this mean to you as an African-American?”

“I’m not American, I’m British”

“Yes, but as a British African-American …”

“I’m not African. I’m not American. I’m British.”

This went on for some time before the reporter got so flustered that she gave up and went to interview someone else. I guess more than anything else it demonstrates the potential absurdity of political correctness — this reporter was so tied-up with the idea that the “correct” term for someone of afro-caribbean ancestry was African-American and not Black that she couldn’t cope with the fact that many black people are neither African nor American.


Nice one. I remember that relay team well: three were black and one was white, but the funny thing was that the white guy was called Roger Black! According to your reporter I guess he was the only black on the team.

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