2009-11-19

What Color Is Obama Exactly And Why Does It Bother People He Chooses To Be Black?


I recently came across a blog posting written by Juana Bimba titled "What Color Is Obama? It Depends On Where You Stand." It rubbed me the wrong way a little bit, and it could be my racism coming out, but it seemed to completely ignore the history of race and race relations in America, and downplay the racism that occurs all over the world, particularly in hispanic nations. Since I couldn't comment there, I decided to comment here. Please read the post I am responding to here.

No, really. Because if you’re standing, say, in Minnesota, then Barack Obama is definitely Black. But if you stand in the Dominican Republic or, for that matter, anywhere else in Latin America, then he’s not Black, but Brown. An important distinction.


The problem with this is many "non-biracial" blacks would be considered this as well. I find it kind of hard to understand why people of other races try to define Obama as biracial or multiracial, when he himself identifies as black.

To begin with, Latinos see race differently, because we realize that in the world, there are different takes on race.


There are different takes on race, but to deny the history of America and pretend that race here does not matter or has no impact on our present does nothing to help race relations in America.

But Latinos, by and large, are an aggregate of in-betweens, and that’s how we see ourselves. We also believe in an individual's right, within reason, to call him or herself whatever he or she wants.


I don't necessarily think this is true, I look at the economic disparities between the latinos of slave ancestry and their lighter hued counterparts in many parts of Latin and South America, the fact that blackface can still be found on hispanic stations, that people don't understand why Memin Pinguin might be considered offensive, or why folks like Vicente Fox can make comments about Mexicans taking jobs even blacks won't do, that many of the darker persuasion are denied "professional jobs" based on skin hue, or denied access to certain clubs make me think that many hispanics are race conscious and that there are racial lines established, regardless of ancestry. I don't think that on the whole looking at these experiences folks are considering themselves "in-betweens." I already know that per some American hispanics like Fernando C. de Baca that hispanics, per him consider themselves above blacks, because blacks came here as slaves and hispanics came here a conquerors.

And that he did so because, among other things, it was politically expedient. So he joined a Black Church, married a woman much darker than himself, and began working with Chicago’s Black community.

So he could not have made the decision to be identified as black for social and societal experiences that aligned him more with the black community? Was it strictly politics that made his decision? When he met Michelle, how do we know he even had political aspirations to become a Senator, much less President? Could he not be attracted to a college educated, fit, attractive darker hued woman, simply because he was attracted to her? I think that is where the frustration lies, placing the blame of racial identification on American blacks, when in fact, many American whites, hispanics, and asians embrace and accept these definitions as well. I've met many biracial people in my lifetime who have white family members who do not acknowledge them, that deal with the racism that I deal with, and who if you go on appearances alone, could look black. I think your argument also fails to acknowledge that in America, blacks with slave ancestry are overwhelmingly mixed with other, mostly white, and some Native American. It's a fact that many white Americans fail to acknowledge as well.

Even Tiger Woods who has embraced his biracial identity has dealt with racism, and most of it had nothing to do with his asian, native, or white ancestry. The Fuzzy Zoeller comments begging Tiger not to order fried chicken and collard greens come to mind.

African Americans themselves later adopted the “one-drop rule” as a way to ensure political unity in the group (or prevent the lighter-skinned from defecting to the White side).

This comment completely ignores the fact that whites weren't willing to embrace lighter skinned blacks into their homes and families, except in instances of servitude and that lighter hued blacks were often seen as leaders in the black community, and openly embraced. Again, lighter hued blacks weren't necessarily forced into choosing black by other blacks, but by whites.

While Blackness is an absolute in America, Whiteness is an added value, with Whites deciding who profits. Meaning, it has always been Whites who decide who’s White and can benefit from all privileges thereto attached.

This I agree with, but I would venture to say this doesn't just happen in America.

For Latinos, the rules of race are very simple: you are what you look like. Go to the mirror: if a White individual stares back, then you’re White. Even if your parents were not. For us, there’s no such thing as “passing”, because if you LOOK Caucasian, then you are. End of discussion.


Is that actually true though. I get mistaken as something other than black all the time, but there are times people have no problem making out that I'm black, so where in the context of race would I fit?

This is why Latinos so resent the pressures of racial labeling in the United States, and conversely, why our take on race confounds others. We bring a totally different perspective to this subject—and also the belief that we‘re entitled to our own views, that self-definition is a personal right, and that nobody else should try to mess with it on behalf of group politics.

Is it really group politics, or societal standards that have made things this way? This article seems to blame blacks for the racial designations in this country and that blacks are determined to hold on to the one drop rule, when in reality whites, hispanics, and asians do this as well, and not just in America.