Barack Obama: Biracial Icon To "Zebras" And "Oreos" Everywhere?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Principessa, Nov 7, 2008.

  1. Principessa

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    Barack Obama: Biracial Icon To "Zebras" And "Oreos" Everywhere?

    Now that the nation has chosen Barack Obama as its next commander in chief, the question of whether or not he is really "black" has popped up again. James Hannaham has penned a piece for Salon called "Our Biracial President." Ron Liddel of the UK's Spectator penned an essay called "Is Barack Obama Really Black? Actually, I'm Not So Sure." In the same publication, Toby Young declares, "Obama Isn't Black."

    We all know that the man spent nine months in the womb of a white woman, and didn't know his Kenyan father well at all. But in this country, there's a "one drop" rule, which means that if you're got one drop of black African blood in you, you're black. However: For people who are biracial, or multiracial, like myself, there's an undeniable truth: Barack Obama is black, but he's also mixed. A duality exists. And in a world with very few mixed high-profile celebrities or icons, his election feels like acceptance. (Here's former Newsweek editor and biracial American Mark Whitaker discussing the issue.)

    Although I will say I am black if I am asked, and so will my mother, her father was Irish, and her mother was born on a reservation; part black and part Chicksaw. (On my father's side it's black, unless you go back before 1863, when there were slave owner-fathers.) Since my editor, Anna, is biracial, we had a little IM chat about how we felt about being mixed while growing up.
    "Dodai: I went through a phase in which my favorite animal was the quagga. I saw it in a book of horses, the kind that is mandatory for every preteen girl. I guess at some point I'd been called or maybe someone had called SOMEONE else a "zebra." For being black & white.
    Anna: Did you ever get "oreo"?
    Dodai: Yeah, I did get oreo… But I saw the quagga in the book and I thought this is what i relate to: The thing that is not black, not white, not striped, not solid, all mixed up. I decided it was cool. It became part of the family lingo; my sister and I would see some half chinese half black kids on the subway or something and be like, look, quaggamuffin kids.
    Anna: I didn't have lingo because seeing mixed race/biracial children, let alone adults, was pretty rare where I grew up. Also, I just considered myself to be black. That's what you checked off on school forms. There was no other option.
    Dodai: Oh, definitely. I considered myself to be black. But I also was sure I was something else, too. Something new. My sister, brother and I would visit my grandfather in the South every summer, and I became more and more aware that people were like, "What is that blue-eyed man doing with those black kids?"
    Anna: I was aware that I was "new." I kind of liked it!
    Dodai: Me too!
    Anna: I think I was a bit upset when I found out there were some other kids in my town who were biracial. Just like I was kinda "huh?" when I first heard about, say, Halle Berry. I knew intellectually that others existed, but I didn't feel as "special" anymore.
    Dodai: I was always EXCITED to find other mixed kids. I remember when i first went to Hawaii, and i saw so many black/asian/white/native mixed kids with dark skin and surf-blonde hair and almond eyes. I thought, hmm, I may move here."
    Another thing I remember about growing up was that all the black kids on TV — Diff'rent Strokes, Silver Spoons, Good Times, The Cosby Show — seemed to be having a slightly different "black" childhood than I was. They never seemed to have white kids ask, "What are you?" Or have black kids tell them they weren't really black. It wasn't until last week, when my sister told me she was working on T-shirts which read, "Half Black Is The New Black," that I realized Barack Obama is not just a black hero; he's a mixed-race icon. But when people talk about him as a black man, even though I know that is what they see, and that is how he's experienced life, as a black man, I also feel certain that Barack Obama is not a "typical" black American. Not that there is such a thing. But truly: He's African-American, which is different. The black experience in this country — if you come from a black family that has lived here for generations and you have a grandmother or greatgrandmother whose mother or father was a slave — is a different experience from someone whose parents are recent immigrants from Kenya, Senegal or Cote D'Ivoire.

    But also, being biracial has its advantages. As Anna said in our chat,
    "The reason I grew up thinking I could do and be whatever I wanted was partly because I was precocious and confident (maybe not as a teenager.) But it was also from my parents, who made a big effort to always tell me how 'special' I was. I think they feared my being biracial could cause problems with my self-esteem. That may be a large part of the reason why Barack Obama believed in himself enough to become the man he is now. It's almost like to overcompensate for society's racism, and/or fear of the 'other,' parents of biracial kids give them added support that, perhaps, other children don't get. I'm only theorizing here. But there is also something to be said about the comfort in bridging cultures. When you can interact with white people and black people because you see yourself as part of them, that gives you a lot of confidence in yourself. I think it's almost freeing. I mean, a young black male can walk into a job interview, and the interviewer will have sorts of ideas about who he is before he even opens his mouth based on ingrained stereotypes that aren't even in our consciousness. Whereas someone like Barack Obama, or you, or me, they don't know what to make of us! Now, that's probably different now, in the year 2008, but in the '80s? '90s? I'm not so sure that there were ideas about biracial young Americans that created barriers in the same way that there are barriers for others."
    Hopefully Barack Obama's election is a giant step, just in terms of teaching non-black people not to underestimate black people. On the other hand, hopefully no one is out there thinking, well, black people have arrived! They don't need affirmative action, or scholarships, or after-school programs, or outreach. James Hannaham writes for Salon:

    Privilege is no Death Star, and one Luke Skywalker can't obliterate it with a couple of lasers, no matter how well-placed. It did not vaporize last night, so in the Obama presidency we can look forward to some amusing and possibly infuriating contretemps that will arise from an African-American family leading the country. (Why was this never the premise for a sitcom?) The same battles will rage over affirmative action — will we cheat ourselves out of the next Obama by cutting it back? — and issues of discrimination in representation, education, housing, etc. For me, racism won't be over until a bunch of black people can move into a neighborhood and watch the property values rise.

    To the question "Is Barack Obama black?" There are two answers: Yes and no. One thing is for sure: With the so-called "browning" of America, with the number of people who identify as mixed-race growing, with all kinds of different families out there these days, his story — multi-culti, single mom, black, white — is completely American, and thoroughly modern.
     
  2. B_starinvestor

    B_starinvestor New Member

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    You are simply facinated with race.
     
  3. B_ScaredLittleBoy

    B_ScaredLittleBoy New Member

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    If you call Barack Obama black then you immediately invalidate his obvious caucasian heritage. Which is a misnomer and is ignorant or at least belies the truth.

    'Black' may fall out of the mouth easily but its not factually accurate and I wonder how Barack himself feels when he is referred to as black and people are ignoring the woman who gave him life.

    Is half caste derogatory? Or bi-racial? Or mixed-race?
     
    #3 B_ScaredLittleBoy, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  4. SyddyKitty

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    Most everyone is a mixed race but you can't get away with calling people that since, for some reason, the separate labels are needed.
     
  5. Pendlum

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    I'm pretty sure Obama identifies himself as black.

    Syddy, it's just human nature. Everything is categorized. Take a tree for example. What is it? A plant, and that particular tree will have both a common and scientific name. We have different continents, even though they are all (essentially) the same, land. Our oceans are categorized, our earth is categorized, we have the core, mantle, crust, stratosphere, all the way out in space. We even categorize space. We have planets (gas giants, etc.), nebulas, stars, galaxies, blackholes, and all of those have their own distinctions. There are "normal" blackholes, and super blackholes. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy, Andromeda is just a spiral galaxy. Even the barred spiral galaxies are further categorized by how large the spirals and bar is, etc. :tongue:
     
  6. SyddyKitty

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    I don't need a lecture on categorization, Pendy. >_> My point is that racial labeling, no matter what choice is made, is rather pointless. Especially in the case of Obama - as if being mixed mattered to the general majority prior to this. We're still called black, despite it being "wrong".
     
  7. B_Nick4444

    B_Nick4444 New Member

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    why refer to his race at all?

    when I think of a person, it's usually not in racial terms

    don't get it
    :dunno:
     
  8. D_N Flay Table

    D_N Flay Table New Member

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    He is a mix like MOST americans.
    And it is beautiful.
     
  9. Pendlum

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    True racial makeup is hard to see, and is constantly changing. So we do the best we can with what comes naturally. We do have a term for someone like Obama, biracial, but that doesn't identify him. Biracial can be asian and white as well as white and black. And of course black and asian (my friend from high school called himself a blasian.) Black, white, asian, all have identities, but biracial doesn't. Just like monoracial wouldn't. "I'm monoracial (I have no idea what my heritage really is actually), but what am I?" It might seem odd, but Biracial comes before black and white which is why it lacks it. So it does have a point I think. More so to the person themselves than to the others looking at them. So if you called yourself black, and you look like you fit there, people will call you black.
     
  10. SilverTrain

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    Restraining myself from injecting the "race as a social construct" argument.
     
  11. Principessa

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    #11 Principessa, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  12. b.c.

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    Absolutely. I can tell you from personal experience that you identify yourself with whomever others identify you with, and people identify you on the basis of their perceptions.

    If Obama identifies himself as black it is not because he personally rejects his mixed heritage. He seem quite proud of it. Rather he identifies with "Black" by virtue of his life experiences.
     
  13. sargon20

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  14. dreamer20

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    Calling him black is not a misnomer or ignorant. It is the traditional use of this word as a synonym for the color brown in describing brown skinned peoples. Re: the term "white": This term does not define race but is only a color. The caucasion race is classified by its skull structure and not skin color. The ancestry of those persons can be traced back to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Russia, and in certain areas of Central Asia. e.g. people of India, whether dark or not, can fall into this category
    See the Wikipedia link:

    Caucasian race - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The errant use of the term caucasion to mean "white" persons is still used by the U.S. police for identification purposes.
     
  15. bobabooey69

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    I am bi-racial myself, and I have to say it's the best of both worlds.
    I laugh when people call President Obama black, he is mulatto and that is just fine.
     
  16. Ethyl

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    He referred to himself as a "mutt" according to this article
     
  17. B_starinvestor

    B_starinvestor New Member

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    This is highly entertaining to me. How long do you expect to work the race issue? The President-elect isn't enough? How long do we need to listen to this, Sargon? Wake up.

    FYI, America supports Obama. It will never support those who rely on government assistance - no matter which color, religion, creed, race or gender.

    I am highly disappointed that we elected Obama. That said, I will support him come hell or high water for the next 4 years.

    Get that race shit out of my fucking face.
     
  18. SilverTrain

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    Did you even read any of the information in the linked articles?

    I ask, because none of your statements above has anything to do with the the articles.

    And "Get that race shit out of my fucking face" is just a base, vulgar statement that no mature person would ever utter.
     
  19. B_starinvestor

    B_starinvestor New Member

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    Can you help me understand who is being oppressed now, Silver? Why are we forced to revisit race every 5 seconds? Why are you consumed with race? Why is anyone consumed with race? What do you want? What will appease you?
     
  20. D_Bob_Crotchitch

    D_Bob_Crotchitch New Member

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    One Drop Rule is a crock. In some states if it was your grand parent or great grand parent that was black, you were classified as black. Why not adopt Tiger Woods view on race? He refuses to be put into a category. He is french, asian, african, and Indigenous American. He chooses to not be labeled.
     
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