Obama not black?

ScreamingEagle

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Barack Obama would be the great black hope in the next presidential race -- if he were actually black.
By Debra J. Dickerson/Salon

Jan. 22, 2007 | I am confident that I have held out longer than any other pundit to weigh in on both the phenomenon that is Barack Obama and the question of whether race will trump gender as America looks toward election 2008.

I had irritably avoided columnizing on these crucial topics (though I have been quoted by others) for several, somewhat unorthodox, reasons. First, because the Clinton-Obama stand-off has been more than well-covered -- and in an overly simplistic, insubstantial, annoyingly celebritized way. (Horrors, Obama smokes! But isn't he hot in his swim trunks?) I was waiting for the discussion to get serious and, at last, it has. Finally, we're asking the tough questions; instead of just crowing that he's raised $20 million, we're starting to wonder where it came from and what will be asked for in return for that much sugar. Why is the supposedly eco-friendly New Age senator supporting coal, however liquefied, as a way to wean ourselves off foreign oil? Wouldn't be his home state's powerful coal lobby, would it? And then there's his support for ethanol, which, strangely enough, comes mainly from corn-rich Iowa -- site of the first presidential caucus, if I'm not mistaken. All much more important than why he doesn't wear a tie.

I had also held off from writing about Obama because the tsunami of attention and adulation this son of a Kenyan goat herder has had to navigate is just too much, too soon. One would think learning to be a senator might keep a person occupied for a while. My hopes for Obama are as high as anyone else's, but what person so young in public life could survive being shot from the planet's biggest cannon at this velocity? And what, exactly, qualifies him to be the most powerful man in the world? Hopefully, he will mature into a truly viable leader, but I'm of the camp that says he isn't quite soup yet. Joining me in that camp are black elected officials and powerful ministers and others closely allied (i.e., receiving Democratic money and position through years of loyalty and activism); sexy Obama might be, but officials like majority whip Jim Clyburn and others who came up through the Democratic ranks won't quickly allow an upstart to upset the apple cart of allegiances won, favors traded and known quantities like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

It's good, it's great, that Obama toiled in the state and local vineyards of Illinois before winning a U.S. Senate seat. God spare us another narcissist millionaire buying his way into office from nowhere but his offshore accounts. Not only did Obama learn that his calling was true, but he also learned the tedious minutiae of governing, legislating and wending one's way through the thicket of interest-group politics on a small but crucial scale. These are important dues that any good politician should pay. Now, he's ready to apply those lessons learned to the massive scale of national politics, but we're not giving him the time to do that.

I cringed as the entreaties for him to run for the presidency became impossible to ignore; intoxicating as it must be to see that office offered on a silver platter, what are four or eight years to a newbie 45-year-old? A lifetime, seemingly. But in reality, they're all that might save him from being crushed under the wheels of a brakeless bus abandoned by the clamoring throngs once the newness of respecting a black guy wears off.

In part, this is why those in the civil rights machine are putting the brakes on Obama-mania and feigning objectivity when it comes to his candidacy. Surely they're worried that the early jabs being aimed at superstar Obama (his admitted past drug use, the quibbles about the possible Frey-ing of his autobiography, his dastardly smoking, and the importance of his Muslim background) might grow in significance; race schmace, no way they're willing to go down with the brother if skeletons pop out of the closet. And either way, they win; they can force themselves on him as mentors/gatekeepers or stand aside while he goes down in ignominy, tut-tutting speeches at the ready for a man they knew better than to embrace simply because of his race.

Without a doubt though, the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton's main reason for giving him the faux high hat is a determination to potty-train the upstart, flex their own muscles, and ensure that there will remain a place for them at the power broker's table. Perhaps most important, they're no doubt waiting for his reverse Sister Souljah moment. Just as the Negro-friendly Bill Clinton had to gamble on retaining that base while reassuring whites that he knew how to keep blacks in line, so Obama has to reassure blacks he is unafraid to tell whites things that whites decidedly do not want to hear. Never having been "black for a living" with protest politics or any form of racial oppositionality, he'll need to assure the black powers that be that he won't dis the politics of blackness (and, hence, them), however much he might keep it on mute. He didn't attain power through traditional black channels (not a minister, no time at the NAACP) so, technically, he owes the civil rights lobby nothing, but they need him in their debt. Homie has some rings to kiss and a kente-cloth pocket square to buy. Still, the overtures he needs to make are purely symbolic; he's irresistible, and the black bourgeoisie won't be able to keep their hands off him. For all his bluster, even Jackson recently admitted to CNN that "all of my heart leans toward Barack." The black embrace is Obama's to lose.

Also, and more subtly, when the handsome Obama doesn't look eastern (versus western) African, he looks like his white mother; not so subliminally, that's partially why whites can embrace him but makes blacks fear that one day he'll go Tiger Woods on us and get all race transcendent (he might well have never been in the running without a traditionally black spouse and kids). Notwithstanding their silence on the subject, blacks at the top are aware (and possibly troubled?) by Obama's lottery winnings: "black" but not black. Not descended from West African slaves brought to America, he steps into the benefits of black progress (like Harvard Law School) without having borne any of the burden, and he gives the white folks plausible deniability of their unwillingness to embrace blacks in public life. None of Obama's doing, of course, but nonetheless a niggling sort of freebie for which he'll have to do some groveling.

Which brings me to the main reason I delayed writing about Obama. For me, it was a trick question in a game I refused to play. Since the issue was always framed as a battle between gender and race (read: non-whiteness -- the question is moot when all the players are white), I didn't have the heart (or the stomach) to point out the obvious: Obama isn't black.

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction. They're both "black" as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.

We know a great deal about black people. We know next to nothing about immigrants of African descent (woe be unto blacks when the latter groups find their voice and start saying all kinds of things we don't want said). That rank-and-file black voters might not bother to make this distinction as long as Obama acts black and does us proud makes them no less complicit in this shell game we're playing because everybody wins. (For all the hoopla over Obama, though, most blacks still support Senator Clinton, with her long relationships in the community and the spillover from President Clinton's wide popularity.)

Whites, on the other hand, are engaged in a paroxysm of self-congratulation; he's the equivalent of Stephen Colbert's "black friend." Swooning over nice, safe Obama means you aren't a racist. I honestly can't look without feeling pity, and indeed mercy, at whites' need for absolution. For all our sakes, it seemed (again) best not to point out the obvious: You're not embracing a black man, a descendant of slaves. You're replacing the black man with an immigrant of recent African descent of whom you can approve without feeling either guilty or frightened. If he were Ronald Washington from Detroit, even with the same résumé, he wouldn't be getting this kind of love. Washington would have to earn it, not just show promise of it, and even then whites would remain wary.

I'll go so far as to say that a white woman will be the Democratic nominee for president before a black descendant of American slaves. Even if Obama invokes slavery and Jim Crow, he does so as one who stands outside, one who emotes but still merely informs. One who can be respectfully tolerated because there's a limit to how far he can go in invoking history. He signals to whites that the racial turmoil and stalemate of the last generation is past and that with him comes a new day in politics when whites needn't hold back for fear of being thought racist.

To say that Obama isn't black is merely to say that, by virtue of his white American mom and his Kenyan dad who abandoned both him and America, he is an American of African immigrant extraction. It is also to point out the continuing significance of the slave experience to the white American psyche; it's not we who can't get over it. It's you. Lumping us all together (which blacks also do from sloppiness and ignorance, and as a way to dominate the race issue and to force immigrants of African descent to subordinate their preferences to ours) erases the significance of slavery and continuing racism while giving the appearance of progress. Though actually, it is a kind of progress. And that's why I break my silence: Obama, with his non-black ass, is doing us all a favor.

Since he had no part in our racial history, he is free of it. And once he's opened the door to even an awkward embrace of candidates of color for the highest offices, the door will stay open. A side door, but an open door. Yet until Obama survives the scourging he's about to receive from Hillary Clinton (God help him if he really did lie about his Muslim background) and the electoral process, no candidate of color will ever be taken seriously. Clinton isn't about to leave the stage in the name of racial progress, and the pundit class has only just begun to take apart the senator's record, associates and bank accounts. Still, this is progress. A non-black on the down low about his non-blackness is about to get what blacks have always asked for: to be judged on his merits. So let's all just pretend that we've really overcome.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/01/22/obama/
 

jillian

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Interesting... my boss, who used to do quite a bit of election law and who ran a lot of campaigns for people, said this would be the case months ago.

Also bet me that even Sharpton would come out for Hillary and not Obama.
 
OP
ScreamingEagle

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Interesting... my boss, who used to do quite a bit of election law and who ran a lot of campaigns for people, said this would be the case months ago.

Also bet me that even Sharpton would come out for Hillary and not Obama.
The hilarious upshot of this is that it now appears that racial discrimination in the U.S. is not really based on the color of one's skin as has been proclaimed for years since the Civil Rights days. It appears to only be if you are specifically a descendent of down-trodden, former slaves from West Africa. Per usual I think it just boils down to "follow the money".


So, anyway, if Obama is not black - or at least not "black like me" - what is he really?
Rumor has it that he is a black Muslim which is another story altogether.

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

"He was a Muslim, but he concealed it," the source said. "His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign."

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Sources said the background check, conducted by researchers connected to Senator Clinton, disclosed details of Mr. Obama's Muslim past. The sources said the Clinton camp concluded the Illinois Democrat concealed his prior Muslim faith and education.

"The background investigation will provide major ammunition to his opponents," the source said. "The idea is to show Obama as deceptive."

In two best-selling autobiographies—"The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" and "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance"—Mr. Obama, born in Honolulu where his parents met, mentions but does not expand on his Muslim background, alluding only to his attendance at a "predominantly Muslim school."

The sources said the young Obama was given the name Hussein by his Muslim father, which the Illinois Democrat rarely uses in public.

His father was black and came from Kenya. Mr. Obama’s mother, the daughter of a farmer, came from Wichita, Kansas. Mr. Obama's parents divorced when he was two years old. His father returned to Kenya.

Later, Mr. Obama's mother married an Indonesian student and the family moved to Jakarta. Mr. Obama returned to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his maternal grandparents.

The sources said the background check concerned Mr. Obama's years in Jakarta. In Indonesia, the young Obama was enrolled in a Madrassa and was raised and educated as a Muslim. Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state, the U.S. intelligence community has determined that today most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims.

Although the background check has not confirmed that the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended was espousing Wahhabism, the sources said his Democratic opponents believe this to be the case—and are seeking to prove it. The sources said the opponents are searching for evidence that Mr. Obama is still a Muslim or has ties to Islam.

Mr. Obama attends services at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago’s South Side. However, he is not known to be a regular parishioner.

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/pol/265950385.html
 

jillian

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The hilarious upshot of this is that it now appears that racial discrimination in the U.S. is not really based on the color of one's skin as has been proclaimed for years since the Civil Rights days. It appears to only be if you are specifically a descendent of down-trodden, former slaves from West Africa. Per usual I think it just boils down to "follow the money".


So, anyway, if Obama is not black - or at least not "black like me" - what is he really?
Rumor has it that he is a black Muslim which is another story altogether.
Seems it's more a function of shared experience. The article does seem to indicate, though, that he will be judged on his own merits, rather than his race, which is how anyone should be judged in any event.

As for him being a muslim, well that's a rumor and I don't put much stock in them.

Will be interesting to see what happens.
 
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ScreamingEagle

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Seems it's more a function of shared experience. The article does seem to indicate, though, that he will be judged on his own merits, rather than his race, which is how anyone should be judged in any event.

As for him being a muslim, well that's a rumor and I don't put much stock in them.

Will be interesting to see what happens.
"Shared experience" or whatever you want to call it....it still blows a big fat ole hole in the whole "racial discrimination" argument made by Democrats.
 

William Joyce

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judged on his own merits, rather than his race, which is how anyone should be judged in any event.
But for some reason, Obama and his Democrat friends never seem to think this applies to affirmative action...
 

UnAmericanYOU

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Heh, they have the same definition of black as the KKK, one drop of it, and you're a brother or sister.

With regards to Barack Hussein Obama, he's "sort of" Muslim, like he's "sort of" black. He went to Muslim and Catholic schools overseas, he's just soooooooooooooooo multicultural!

He's been accused of being a follower of Islam, which he denies. He's been a member of this Christian Church, whose mission statement is:

We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
http://www.tucc.org/about.htm

No mention of Jesus, hmmm. You know, I think that church IS political the more I think about it. And then there's the black separatist rhetoric...
 

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