He's Not Black / I'm Not Post-Racial

Straight from the Outlook pages of the Washington Post comes an argument (actually two) that I've been wrestling with for quite some time.

The first: why do we call Barack Obama black when it so clearly excludes half of his heritage?

And second: this society is no more post-racial than I am the child of alien purple people eaters.

Earlier in the election season, I found myself arguing to an audience of black journalists that Obama is biracial, and that's what we should call him. As a product of a biracial marriage myself, I hated the idea that I had to choose sides.

But whether it was a box on a college application or my classmates forcing me to do it, I always had to pick a side.

In high school, I finally just threw my hands up and cast my lot with the other "tragic mulattoes" who were either too black or too white, and figured we could just make our own jacked-up group.

As I recall, all of us had closer relationships with our white counterparts, and to some degree felt shunned by our black ones.

Clearly Obama's white mother and grandmother were highly influential in his life, and his father was largely absent.

But before he was a well-known senator from Illinois, much less POTUS, he was still a black man just as likely to get pulled over for DWB. And hell, why don't we get to claim him? The man smokes menthols for christsake.

And that's what white people don't understand. Barack maybe biracial, but he, like me, is UCM: UnderCover Mixed. No one assumes he's anything but black unless he tells them otherwise.

When I step into the world, I'm just another black woman. The only people who have been able to discern that there's a variety of cultures running through my bloodstream without my saying a word are my hairdressers.

Strange, but true.

There is no distinction for UCMs. We face the same racist bullshit as other black people, and that puts us in the same boat. As a black woman, I face the same smorgasbord of racist/sexist/collossally-jack-upedness crap that some ignorant folks think is ok to level at Michelle Obama. And I'm sick of white people who think they're paying me a compliment when they tell me I'm "not like other black people."

But many black people simply want to claim Obama for them/ourselves, spouting the argument that white people didn't want to claim him until he actually looked like he could win the whole shebang.

Obama self-identifies as black. So is that what we should call him?

I'm not sure.

I mean, Ted Haggard self-identifies as straight, and well, I don't think we want to go down that road.


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