There have been arguments here and there about whether Obama is really “black” or “African-American,” based on 1) the fact that he has one ostensibly white parent and 2) the fact that his father was Kenyan and not the descendant of slaves.
Because Obama has one white parent, some have said that he is not really “black,” or that he is “biracial.” In addition, some have said that he is not really “African American” because of this same reason or because of point #2 above.
First, let’s get out of the way that the concept of race is pretty much bullshit. We can agree, I think, that genes affect a wide variety of characteristics and that various genes can be found in some groups more than others, yet “race” is so crude a way of identifying a person likely to carry a certain gene or gene combination that it is practically useless.
First, as regarding whether Obama is “black,” he self-identifies as black, was undoubtedly based on his appearance treated as “black” for most or all of his life (he may or may not have been treated differently, but he certainly looks “black” enough to have been treated differently, if he was in an environment in which he would be), he married a “black” woman, attended a “black” church, etc. Anyone who heard his voice only would identify a tone and cadence characteristic of a “black” person (i.e., he sounds “black”). All this granted, is there anything that makes him not “black”?
Second, as regards whether Obama is “biracial,” I have read that, on average, African-Americans have 80% African heritage, 20% non-African heritage (white, American Indian, etc.). If we assume that Obama’s father was of 100% African heritage and his mother of 100% European heritage, Obama would be of 50% African heritage–similar in percentage, undoubtedly, to many self-identifying African-Americans. I’m not sure that “biracial” or “half-black” have very much meaning when it comes to African-American-ness, but perhaps African-American dopers will have a different take.
My take is based on having reproduced with a Japanese person. Once you know a person as a person, the notion that s/he belongs to any particular “race” becomes almost insulting. I don’t think of my daughter as “half-white” or “half-Japanese”; she just has the heritage she does, and that’s that.
Race does matter in that humans, being ignorant and limited, are eager to use surface appearances to categorize and separate people. And the culture of various groups can definitely matter. In my judgment, Obama is culturally “black” by his own choice and has at least a bare minimum of the genetic content that people require to consider such membership authentic. Whether he is “African-American” or not depends on one’s personal theory of such membership, but to my eye he is based on the experiences and personal culture he has chosen for himself.
By the way, he’s going to crush that idiot McCain–yeah, baby! Um, sorry. Just an outburst.
Thanks for your feedback.