Linda J. Alexander http://www.lindajalexander.net
Here's an article I wrote recently. I thought this might be an interesting place to find out other's opinions to the question posed. It's not actually Hollywood interrelated w/politics, but it's the same concept -- Hollywood-type promotion for a man being prepped for USA's highest office. And I wouldn't be surprised to see the man in question being touted by Hollywood very, very soon.
Why Is Barak Obama Considered African American?
copyright Linda Alexander, 2007
Okay, let’s dispense with the obvious first. Barak Obama's skin is light brown. He most often calls himself African American. His father was black. All these things are clear. Straightforward. Undeniable.
Also undeniable is the fact that his mother was white. He was raised by her and her parents . . . which put him, for a good portion of his developing years, in a white-dominated household. Let’s not talk about the visible for a second, but just the literal. He could as easily be a white man if one bases that determination on background and heritage.
But even this isn’t the full story. He was 2 when his parents divorced. This removed the “black man” influence from his life. He has stated that early knowledge of his father was limited to family stories and photographs. His predominant father figure was his stepfather, an Indonesian man. He had a half-sister from this union. This makes him, literally, half-black and half-white--with a white mother and a black birth father, an Indonesian father figure, a half-white and half-Indonesian sister, raised in, alternately, an Indonesian and a Hawaiian environment—where he was born and, after return from Jakarta, attended school from 5th to 12th grades.
So I repeat my title question: Why is Barak Obama considered African American? Lest anyone say I ignore the truth, reality of a life that must’ve been hard . . . living a childhood and adolescence with a physical appearance different than that of family members, that’s true. That could certainly have been an issue for a maturing young man but he was quoted as saying, “That my father looked nothing like the people around me — that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk — barely registered in my mind.” This comment from the man himself seems to indicate that his differences weren’t all that different to him, and that his life was, well, his life. Period.
And lest anyone tell me my question is racist, I don’t understand the black experience . . . to that I would respond that, indeed, I really don’t. I can’t. But my question is not racist. It’s an attempt to understand why the “One Drop” rule still literally rules. Why someone who is part black becomes all black, and seems to lose all sense of Caucasian heritage when the world gets hold of him or her. And why someone who may be part black cannot freely claim that heritage because to the world at large looks are everything. If you can’t look the look, you can’t walk the walk, it would seem.
I recently read an article about Obama’s run for president. The person being interviewed was concerned that Obama wasn’t representing the black population well enough. This man, Rev. B. Herbert Martin, was pleased that the candidate could “engender such enthusiasm from a white audience,” but he was concerned about identity issues. "How does he identify himself?" asked Martin, pastor to the late Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor. "Will he continue to be an African American, or will he become some kind of new creation?"
This article continued, “The question of how Obama chooses to define and approach race looms large as he moves closer to formally launching his campaign next month . . . it is not clear that his multiracial message can excite black voters hungry for affirmation of their top concerns.” Publisher of the Chicago Standard newspapers, Lorenzo Martin, asked, “Who does he represent? That is what people are worried about.”
Seems we’re going to hear more and more about this. There was just a TV news piece on the very same topic, as I was writing this. The wrap-up question was, “Is America ready for someone like Obama?”
I am. I can only see the discussion as a good thing. Though it’s not been part of my immediate, obvious heritage, I come from a long line of maternally mixed race folks. They were so intermixed that they were their own people. This doesn’t give me a hands-on understanding of how it is to live with dark skin in a world that often caters to white skin but it does indicate that I am able to relate to you stories of family members who understood this sad reality. I don’t and will never disavow that horrors of racism or wrongs committed against blacks in the name of the white man still happen. They do.
But I want to be able embrace my black brothers and sisters, and any others that may show up, for that matter, as my next door neighbor, my daughter-in-law, or my president, and I want to be able to do that without me, or them, being seen as going against any certain group of people . . . just because of skin color.
Barak Obama could be a logical model of cohesion, of healing, of bringing us together rather than continuing to force us apart. He represents the HUMAN RACE, fercryinoutloud! I repeat my question. How is it that he has to “continue to be an African American,” as opposed to being a man of mixed race heritage who is able to cross racial barriers?
Why is that not as important, or more so? This is what could make Barak Obama so valuable a candidate. If truth be told, it’s what created the buzz about him in the first place. He can mix because he is mixed. He knows both sides and can legitimately empathize. What’s so wrong with that? He’s not a smart man because he’s black. He’s not a smart man because he’s white. He’s a smart, gifted individual because of the sum total of his heritage, his education, and his environment.
Blessings -- Linda Alexander
Linda J. Alexander, Books For The Thinking Reader
HOLLYWOOD & POLITICS - http://hollywoodpolitics-network.ryze.com/
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