Who’s black? Who’s white? Who cares?

Bren’s been saying this all along. I’ve wondered about it from time to time. So it’s nice to see Marie Arana taking it on in the Washington Post – President-elect Obama is neither black nor white and by calling him black we’re perpetuating racism. He calls himself black, but it was interesting that in one recent public statement about the White House puppy quest he referred to himself as a “mutt.” I like that – especially when you consider that a lot of folks these days are not at all happy with the problems you can have with pure bred dogs and are either opting for mutts, or opting, as we did, for intentional cross breeding – ehh . . . intentional mutts. (Ours are cockapoos.) There is a richness in genetic diversity that we tend to play down because we’re still so damned tribal by instinct.

Anyways, Arana writes:

He is also half white.

Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that ā€” he calls himself that ā€” because we use dated language and logic. After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black. Fifty percent equals a hundred. There’s no in-between.

That was my reaction when I read these words on the front page of this newspaper the day after the election: “Obama Makes History: U.S. Decisively Elects First Black President.”

The phrase was repeated in much the same form by one media organization after another. It’s as if we have one foot in the future and another still mired in the Old South. We are racially sophisticated enough to elect a non-white president, and we are so racially backward that we insist on calling him black. Progress has outpaced vocabulary.

I could’t find the orignal WaPoarticle on their site, but it was republished by the New Bedford Standard-Times today and can be read in full here.


One Response

  1. Hi Greg–Trudeau had it about right himself. This is the strip that didn’t get printed in a lot of papers because it was the only strip he provided–and it assumed an Obama victory.


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