Black and white and read all over

Black and white and read all over

A letter-writer maintains that our president-elect, Barack Obama, is not black but is rather “biracial as is Tiger Woods.”

I guess he’s referring to the fact that, as we all know by now, Obama’s father was black, a true African, and his mother white.

But most black people in this country are of mixed race – and in fact, as DNA testing is becoming more common, increasing numbers of so-called white people are discovering that they have mixed ancestry, that they are “mutts,” as Obama called himself on election night.

Yes, he is not the descendant of slaves and therefore may not be perceived as sharing the black experience – just as those Jews who are not descendants of Holocaust survivors may be presumed as not sharing in the experiences of the “second generation.”

Yet undoubtedly we feel an affinity for those who did and did not survive. Some of us may feel, in fact, almost a channeling, that they ask us to speak in their name.

Obama was a boy of color who has grown to be a man of color. He very likely has been on the receiving end of racism. He identifies as black, inasmuch as the world has so identified him.

Meanwhile, the letter-writer, responding to Friday’s editorial, denies that politicians, talk show hosts, and the like “sought to raise race-hatred.”

But the racial subtext was there – the accusation, for example, that he was not as “American” as “you and me.”

That was coded language spoken to crowds at rallies and radio audiences, who knew how to interpret it.

This is from an Associated Press report a few days ago: “Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting ‘Assassinate Obama.’ Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.
Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.”

Where did that come from? What was it in reaction to? Nothing has changed since the election. Obama has not, as yet, performed one presidential act. What has happened is that the crowds who heard those code words were whipped into mobs and the latent racists were stirred awake. Now they have awakened to the fact that our president-to-be is not as “American” as “you and me” – i.e., black.

America, said the civil rights activist H. Rap Brown, is a violent as cherry pie. (And the proof of that pie and that statement is that he is serving a life sentence for murder.) It would be terrible if this country and its new first family were to suffer through – I can’t even write it.