In the Washington Post, writer Marie Arana said that Barack Obama is not black; he is biracial and bicultural. I say she’s wrong: he is the first black president, the first bicultural president AND the first biracial president. So here are the Top 10 Reasons Barack Obama is Black.
1. His Name.
Even names like Leroy Johnson or Tyrone Jenkins could possibly be white people’s names. But no way in hell there’s a white man named Barack Obama. Obama’s name could be that of a great African Warrior.
Tell Shaka Zulu that Barack Obama has come from the hills to aid him.
Or a radical sixties Black nationalist.
Mumia Abu Jamal and Barack Obama were captured by Co-Intelpro members.
Maybe even a black athlete…
With the 8th pick of the NBA draft the Warriors select, Barack Obama from Ohio State.
2. His Wife.
Being Black is like being Jewish; if you marry into the family you have to convert to Blackism. No one is debating Michelle’s ethnicity. She is from a traditional Good Times family that worked its way up like the Jefferson’s so they could become the Huxtables. Michelle Obama is Whitney Houston before the crack black, a dark skinned Clair Huxtable, a testament to black womanhood, motherhood, sisterhood, family and achievement. If Obama wasn’t black before he married her, he was damn sure black after.
On 60 Minutes Steve Kroft asked Obama why he considers himself to be African American. He said that he never decided to be black but that, “I think if you look African-American in this society, you’re treated as an African-American.” In college, Obama was in the Black Student’s Association at both Occidental and Columbia, where he first became politically active, campaigning against apartheid. At Harvard, he was on the board for the Black Law Students Association as well as earning the title of “the first Black Editor” for the Harvard Law Review.
4. His Voice
Barack Obama sounds like a mix of Denzel Washington and James Earl Jones. He could very well have voiced Mufasa in the Lion King. If Obama called your house, you wouldn’t say there’s some biracial guy on the phone. You’d say there’s a black guy on the phone.
Biracials have always been included in the greater group of African Americans. Frederick Douglass, Booker T, Washington and even reggae legend Bob Marley are all biracial. Unlike South Africa, where they developed a category for biracials, coloreds, in their caste system, none was ever made in the US. Therefore, biracials were treated like Blacks under the law. Biracials have traditionally been part of the same struggle for Black freedom, independence and dignity that all African Americans have.
Despite the fact that he grew up partially in Indonesia and went to private school he didn’t play soccer, squash or crew: he played basketball. It’s not a stereotype. Basketball has become an African-American athletic tradition that Obama is a part of. No one has referred to Jason Kidd as the first great biracial basketball player; to most he’s just another Black basketball player.
In the USA, the Irish and Italians go to Catholic Church; WASPs go to the Episcopalian church; Koreans go to the Korean church. Obama went to the Black church: gospel music and a long history of spiritual resistance against racism. People praising the Lord and speaking in tongues. Obama’s religion is deeply rooted in the tradition of African-Americans in the USA.
No one was talking about the biracial demographic helping Obama win; it was the Black vote. Go to any black neighborhood and all the 50 Cent and Scarface shirts have been replaced by Obama T-Shirts. There are Obama watches, key chains and hats on every street corner. The black community has taken a special sense of pride in Obama, similar to that of Bob Marley, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or Nelson Mandela. He has united the Civil Rights generation and the Hip Hop generation and has given black people a sense of pride. Although you may have a few detractors of Obama’s blackness in the black community, the overwhelming majority consider him Black.
9. Biracial Isn’t A Good Term
Biracial could mean you’re Latino and Asian, African and South Asian; there are a lot of mixes. Someone who’s South Asian and White might not be able to relate to someone who is Hispanic and Black. If one wanted to get technical, Obama is Euro American/African American. Being biracial is a technical term, not a term of heritage or cultural identity like Black, White, Latino or Asian. Bill Richardson wasn’t seen as the biracial governor although he was half Latino and half White; he was seen as a Latino governor. There is no culture or history for being biracial. There’s no biracial history month, no biracial music, no biracial slang, no biracial food. Unlike being Black, Jewish, Hispanic, White, or Asian, which are larger cultural identities, there is no culture necessarily attributed to the biracial community.
10. The Police
If Barack Obama robbed someone the police would not say be on the look out for a number 1.5 male; they’d look out for a number 1 male. Police wouldn’t say, “Never mind don’t pull over that black guy, he looks biracial.” If Obama was a rapper or an athlete and he got arrested, there wouldn’t be an outcry against biracial athletes or entertainers; there would be yet another outcry against Black rappers and entertainers.
All that considered, I’m sorry Marie Arana: Barack Obama is STILL Black. You won’t disappoint the millions of people who are proud to see the first Black president. Being Black is a very complicated racial, cultural, definition that encompasses many people from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. So yes, you can be Black and biracial at the same time. Black people have always been mixed, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Many black people have White, Native American, or Latino blood in them. Black people from the Caribbean have Asian and South Asian blood in them. While being white has been defined by purity, being Black has been inclusive of any mix of African blood. The term Black has been used to describe people from Africa, the Caribbean and people with mixed race.
Obama is Black in his own eyes, in the eyes of history and in the eyes of the law. He is also biracial; he is also American and he is also a human being. Everybody can take pride in Barack Obama, for there is is some of him in all of us. Still, we cannot forget that he comes from a tradition of Black leaders, Black culture and a Black identity. The significance of his victory is part of American history and more specifically Black American History and is a turning point in the struggle of Black people in this country.