Why some blacks are saying Obama isn't black

>> Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some black people refuse to accept that Obama is black. They also believe that he did not descend from slaves and therefore, he is just someone of mixed race with dark skin than black. Does this means that Obama should not be given the title "first African American black president" in the US history? Here is an interesting viewpoint by Kimberly McClain DaCosta.

For some of us, the heralding of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States seems a rather uncontroversial claim. Not so for others. One well-known African American writer, Debra Dickerson, famously objected that Obama is not of the people properly defined as "black" on the grounds that because he is not descended from slaves.
Ergo, he is not black - at all.

The bulk of the people protesting against references to Obama as a black man, however, grant that he is "part" black (by way of his father), but assert that because he also has a white mother it is not "accurate" to call him black.

He is "in fact" mixed-race, they say.

Opposing arguments

My first reaction to questions about the "correctness" or "accuracy" of Obama's racial classification is to undermine the premise of the question itself. The search for the "correctness" of racial identity presumes that a definitive answer can be found.

It presumes that race is a real entity, something fixed, or natural. It seems to deny what scholars have laboured for decades to demonstrate - that the criteria used to classify people in racial categories, the categories used in a given society, and the uses to which those categories are put - vary by place and time. They are, as academics are fond of saying, "socially constructed".
Yet the predilections of the scholar fail to satisfy those who claim to know what race Obama "is", for these are really statements about what the speaker thinks he ought to be.

When people insist that Obama "is" black, they point to his self-identification as such, and the assertion that when most people look at him, they see a black man. More...


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