Monday, February 12, 2007

Is He Black Enough?

Pam has an excellent post up about the already frustrating racial conversation going on vis-a-vis Obama. The upshot: he is not black enough. Oh, why can't identity politics go away?

There’s no such thing as a “post-racial” candidate when you look black. In this country, Obama can still be followed in a store suspected of being a shoplifter, be passed by a cab driver afraid to pick him up, or stopped by a police officer for “driving while black.” In none of these cases would it matter if Barack Obama pulled out a family picture to show he’s half white.

I think this is what frustrates me with well-meaning white people who say they “don’t see color.” Of course you do. Our culture is steeped in race, and the history isn’t pretty; its legacy plays itself out today. That’s not said to engender guilt, but simply to say that race is irrelevant or has no impact on today’s society because you or recent generations of your family didn’t own slaves isn’t helpful. Denial short circuits difficult discussions that need to occur. The defensiveness of these vocal blacks in regards to race is playing itself out so pathologically in the case of Obama — I welcome it, I only hope that it might lead to more productive conversations about why people think about him the way they do.