Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If elected, will Barack Obama be first black president?

By DeWayne Wickham

DENVER - Shortly before the roll call vote that made official Barack Obama's selection as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate, I overheard a white woman put this question to a black companion.

"Why do people keep saying Obama will be the first black president when he is half white?" she wanted to know.

In the early days of this presidential campaign people were fond of saying the Illinois senator transcended race. But now that he is one of two finalists for the presidency, a growing number of whites look at him and see race.

Beneath his cafe au lait complexion they see the white branch of his family tree and demand that it be given equal billing with his African roots. Obama was born to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya and many people see this as proof that he is uniquely different from the vast majority of this nation's blacks. This perception of Obama as not just biracial, but half white, is what causes some people to rail against those who say he would be the first black president.

They need to get over it.

For the vast majority of blacks whose roots in this country are several generations deep, there is a white branch of their family tree. That's a byproduct of slavery and the miscegenation it produced. Ironically when white men were forcing themselves upon black women the children they fathered were given no split racial identity. As a result, by definition, to be an African American is to be a black with some white blood coarsing through your veins.

Barack Obama, who knows better than others the interracial union that gave him life, identifies himself as an African American - which means, if he wins this election, he will be this nation's first black president.

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