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Racial classification in America has long been envied for its complication and absurdity. With roots in slavery and the fierce self-love of Anglo-Saxon agrarians, the American meaning of ‘White’ quickly evolved into something very different from its European sense. Commonly-speaking, one is only ‘White’ in America if one is of 100% pure (non-Spanish speaking) European heritage.
For example, if an American is 9/10ths White and the remainder is Black, the 1/10th Black heritage metaphysically dissolves all other ancestry to produce simply an ‘African-American’. If one is a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Spaniard with roots in Spain’s new world colonies, one is not European any more but ‘Latin’. Meanwhile, an Indian-American from South-West Asia is an ‘Asian-American’ but Arabs from South-West Asia are White-Americans. Follow?
The reason I raise this is because of a complaint I (and most reasonable people) have with the description of Barack Obama as ‘the First Black President’. He isn’t, and the claim that he is offers a false conclusion to a very significant trend of US social development.
Barack Hussein Obama was born to a White mother. In the absence of his father, the half-White Obama was raised by the said White mother. He later attended a multiracial school to which Black people contributed the tiniest demographic, and went on to a prestigious University whose intake was mostly White. He then resurfaced out the other end as a Black man. How does this happen?
Why, given the time and effort his mother (and only his mother) invested in the upbringing of this man, is he identified entirely with the attributes of his absentee father? He’s not even ‘biracial’ in popular tradition, but simply and starkly ‘Black’. His mother, his childhood and hundreds of his ancestors are airbrushed completely from his typology.
Surely a more sensible definition of Obama’s ethnicity would have him not as a Black man with some White heritage, but the reverse. Obama is a White man with some Black heritage.
Obama has little to nothing in common with his sub-Saharan paternal line. Their superstition and poverty couldn’t be more at-odds with the President’s atheistic intelligence, good humour, linguistic skill and (occasional) diplomatic grace. On the other hand, Obama would be readily suited to his maternal ancestors. Should they manage to get over the unseasoned bigotries of appearance, Obama would find along his Irish line, many people similar in character to himself, stretching back many centuries.
The question of whether America is ready for a Black President is thus still an open question. My guess would be no. One can hardly recall the candidacy of Herman Cain for the Republican nominee without smiling, and there seems to be no other examples forthcoming.
There is nevertheless a very bright hope for a second non-White President, and that is the brilliant Dr. Condoleezza Rice. The former Secretary of State is a woman of great qualification and – should she contest and win an election – would likely provide a far superior regime to that presently enthroned.