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TwinSwords 09-11-2008 11:59 AM

Re: The State of the Race (race indeed)

Originally Posted by loumur (Post 90719)
I think it's so crazy that Obama, who was born of mixed black & white parents (essentially 50% of each) and was raised by a white mom, in a white cultural environment, all of the sudden becomes black by default.

What do you mean "all of the sudden"? And who, precisely, are you blaming for Obama "suddenly becoming black?" Whose fault is that? You're not clear about who you're attacking for this "crazy" characterization. I hope it's not Obama. Obama was black the minute he was born because of the way that race is socially constructed in American culture. He had no say in it. Yes, I am aware of Obama's embrace of his black identity in his early adulthood, but whether Obama embraced his blackness or not, he was always going to be defined in American culture as black, whether he, or you, like it or not.


Originally Posted by loumur (Post 90719)
It's ludicrous that he, or anyone else for that matter, default to being a member of a racial group for convenience or advantage.

For convenience or advantage? Is this the argument that says being a black man in America constitutes a form of convenience or some kind of advantage? If that's what you really think, I would ask, have you ever been to the United States? Are you familiar with the role race has played in our society since the first slaves were deposited on the continent in the early 17th century?


Originally Posted by loumur (Post 90719)
And even more ridiculous that Americans are so ignorant about race that we continue these absurd categorizations. As a matter of statistical fact, everyone that is alive on the planet today is directly genetically linked to anyone that was alive ~3000 years ago. In other words we all have a common ancestor.

Your science is solid: Race is a completely bogus concept. But there's a sociological side to this, as well: Race is socially constructed, a product of culture, rather than genetics.

Have you heard of the 1 drop rule? That rule wasn't established by blacks for their own convenience or advantage, despite (what I take to be) your suggestions to the contrary.

I would recommend for your edification this short but excellent essay on blackness by the African American writer Steve Gilliard, now deceased. Writing in 2004:


In America, there are two classes of people, white and not-white. If you are white, then you are white, but if you are not white, you are NOT WHITE. Have you ever heard of anyone described as half-white, unless they were visibly another race? No matter how pretty or how smart, if you are not white in America, you are not white.

But Obama didn't have to use the example of armed robbery, all he had to say is if he got into an elevator, some white woman would clutch her purse. The double Ivy League grad (Columbia, Harvard Law) is not white in America, to what degree doesn't matter, he could be half-Mexican like Bill Richardson or Jeb Bush's kids, and they are not white. It's not the degree of blackness you have, but the lack of whiteness.

In Latin America, any white heritage makes you white. Whiteness is the positive value, because when they were shipping slaves west, there were so few whites that interbreeding wasn't only essential, but encouraged. Of course, when you get to Brazil, which had slavery until 1888, blacks are still the vast majority, but still discriminated against based on skin color. One of my professors said that when he was in Brazil, the family he visited hid their black child.

But because of chattel slavery in the US, and the limited number and expense of slaves, meant that any black blood (later to be expanded to other ethnic groups) meant you were black. Now, my great grandmother was Native American, but no one calls us Indians. Most African-Americans from the Carolinas have some native heritage, but black is the catchall phrase used to describe us all.

Up until the last 10 years, interracial dating, if not taboo, was fraught with social and even personal perils. Now, I am race indifferent when it comes to dating, but I know other people who are not. But it's harder to be so.

My friend owns a bar on Third Avenue in the East Village. One day, we're drinking beer and sitting in the window, and watched all these couples pass by. Tall Asian men were with little blonds, so were the black guys, tall white guys had little Asian girlfriends, black guys were with Puerto Ricans. Meanwhile, my friends were sleeping with all manner of European Au Pairs, most of whom were definitely not black. Now, most of my friends date inter racially, without even considering it as an issue. Women are pretty and sleeping with them a positive goal. Who cares what color they are?

When some of Thomas Jefferson's black descendants were found, most of who looked as white as any other white person, some of their neighbors began to treat them differently, of course, this was on Staten Island, where racism is a local sport, but still. Any black heritage was seen to make them black, even though Sally Hemmings was only half-black to begin with. She was Jefferson's sister-in-law. It took decades for the white Jefferson descendants to allow their black relatives to be part of the family.

I was watching the Super Bowl with my friends and someone said something about being black. My friend said, well, I'm not all black. I said, "well, 25 percent makes you a member of the club and 50 percent gets you a seat at the table."

Italians love to insult Sicilians by saying they're part black. It's one of the most common jokes heard.

Barack Obama is black because he looks black. His actual heritage is not relevant. His upbringing is not relative. All you have to do in America is look black to be black. Because that is how people will treat you.

uncle ebeneezer 09-11-2008 12:53 PM

Re: The State of the Race (race indeed)
Just to pile on, didn't Obama choose to identify with the black side of his lineage like 25 years ago? (how many years were we reminded that he had gone to Wright's church?) So "all of a sudden" doesn't seem like an accurate description. It's like a child coming from a mixed family (protestant and Jewish) and choosing to identify with one in their teens and then 20 years later, everybody assumes it was politically motivated. It seems like grasping at straws. Obama is of mixed heritage and although he clearly embraces some of his "black" heritage, he also quite clearly embraces alot of his "white" heritage. That's because he's BOTH. Funny that almost nobody makes an issue of him being too white.

uncle ebeneezer 09-11-2008 01:37 PM

Re: The State of the Race
I enjoyed this diavlog. Jonah was much less annoying than usual.

I found the part about the conventions to be particularly interesting. Jonah's point about the way the parties differed in their approach to the war was telling. The GOP loves to talk about victory and heroes, but has a definite skittishness towards addressing the realities of war that aren't so rosy. While I agree that the Democrats could help themselves by not always being so opposed to championing victory (though you have to define that first), I will always have a tough time taking a party seriously (the GOP) that seems to only want to see America, it's warriors and it's policies through a prism of exceptionalism. Even his statement about the economy and the Dems focus on the negatives of the current situation, reminds me why I have such a tough time taking the GOP seriously. Millions of Americans are out of work (I'm one of them), debt has risen, energy costs are rising and yet the Republicans idea of a convention is to get together and cheer America's greatness rather than take a good hard look at the reality before us. But Llike I said, the Dems can certainly go overboard too with their eternal pessimism (at least as it is perceived by many.) Anyways, good diavlog. Peter and Jonah work well together.

Oh and what was that at the beginning? An advertisement/sponsor?!!! Way to go Bob.

bjkeefe 09-17-2008 09:59 PM

Wouldn't it be irresponsible NOT to pass this along?
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