Guess Who?

Color is not a hot topic here at Altercation - nor should it be. In fact, it should not be a hot topic anywhere and especially not during this upcoming Presidential election.


At this day and time, to begin a discussion on a topic like "Is Obama Black" or "How would a Black (black?) President be Different" is to begin a conversation all the whilst sinking in quicksand. Other priorities avail. These terms we call color "white" and "black" are too amorphous to hold a serious discussion - even though they have been with us for centuries and form our daily thoughts, if not also our dialog. Still they are troublesome because they are so ill-defined.

Obama is black because he calls himself black - some will say - oblivious to the fact that they would not so willingly accept an Obama self definition of white. Obama is black because of the "one-drop" rule - others will say - regardless of how that de jure definition is no longer on the books. In reality - if I may be so bold - Obama is black because "color", when used to describe people, is purely a shared delusion, with which we amuse ourselves in the 21st century.

Oh - it used to have meaning. In the 17th or 18th or 19th centuries, being "black" meant you were a slave. Do not our history books describe it as "The African Slave Trade"? Does not our own US Constitution define a category of "non-persons" - in whom said slave trading could continue for years after that document was signed into Law? And I know there are many who will tell us that we did not fight a war over those slaves (especially these nice SCV members who plan to erect a large Confederate flag over I75 in Tampa, FL), but there is no doubt that when no less an authority as the US Supreme Court says that black people have no rights which need be respected - it meant something back then to be black. And it would be foolish of me to proclaim that being "black" did not mean something for the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries - what with those friendly young men in those white outfits, seeking to protect their homes from that black peril moving all across this nation - even right next door! (I hear they were even feted at the White House for a movie night - the first movie night, in fact); and onward through the Supreme Court decision you referenced yesterday and through the presidential campaigns of Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But that was then and this is now the 21st century and we know more about human DNA today, such that we know those outmoded concepts of race and color are just that (and we have known for a long time that our blood, our organs and our cultures are fungible too).

With the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, we can now look at these concepts as the historical artifacts they truly are. In the sub-set of the world that is the United States of America, no one questions that his mother was white; similarly, no one questions that his father was black; the question arises for the child of their marriage. Our discussion varies from black to biracial to multiracial - but it never extends to white.

The one thing we know about Obama, from the very first glance is that he is not white.


It cannot be his color: he is darker than Harold Ford, Jr. and we never question whether Harold is black. It cannot be his curly hair: Charlie Rangel has hair straight and narrow enough for the finest comb and we never question whether Charlie is black. No, Obama cannot be white because "whiteness" in America means entre into the most exclusionary (albeit not very exclusive) club there is. If your access to this club can be questioned in the slightest - then you are out, never to be granted appeal.

The debate over affirmative action programs - "they should be class-based and not race" - subsumes the fact that "class" in our society is as much a function of "wealth" as it is "race". Class in America should be thought of as a matrix - with poor, black as the lower left box and wealthy, white as the upper right. You can be wealthy and black in this nation - just ask Oprah - but although she is now considered to "transcend" race, she knows that she is one mistake away from being re-classified as black and one big mistake away from being re-classified as black and poor.

Michael Jackson learned this: at one point in time he did not know whether he was "Black or White"; get caught doing something criminal (allegedly) and he no longer wonders. OJ Simpson, Robert Blake - each participated in the time-worn tradition of murdering their wives; as upper-class men - wealthy men - they both were absolved of wrong doing. Yet one of these men is still pursued and one is forgotten.

Membership, does indeed, have its privileges.

Only be breaking this concept of "color" once and for all and recognizing the truth that grows clearer every day - there is only one race of people - can we ever free ourselves from this four-hundred year morass into which the lure of profiting from the sale of humans has ensnared us. There are no "white" people. There are no "black" people. There are no "brown" people. We long ago gave up calling people "red" or "yellow".

By all means, we should shift our focus to class, but this focus on class must seek to root out the vestiges of race (color) at the same time. That is the path to a class free society.

Let go of color and embrace humanity. We have so much to learn from one another and so little time.

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