Sunday, December 21, 2008

Black is Black?

So, I've heard this topic discussed on the radio, TV and I've even had a few of my friends call me and pose a question about Barack Obama's "black-ness" (if there is such a thing). The reasoning/logic behind this question is as follows:

The Logic: Because Barack Obama is bi-racial & was raised by whites in a less than urban environment & doesn't use many of the colloquialisms traditionally used by African-Americans in the United States & didn't chase the dime or the shine once graduating from Harvard & confused "Weezie" with "Elizabeth" while holding his heart stating, "this is the big one!"...he isn't really least not as black as most other blacks that live in these United States.

Useful Analogy: There once was a man who decided to have a Bengal tiger as a pet. He got it when it was only a few days old and raised it as a house cat. He fed and loved the tiger as much and many other folks in his neighborhood loved their dogs and goldfish. One day, the police came to his door and informed him that it was against a city ordinance to have an exotic pet at his home. The man tried to explain that "Simba" was not an exotic animal because he had raised him in his home for years. He'd never had any trouble with Simba and the neighbor's kids loved to play with the both of them in his back yard. Simba was de-clawed and had lost all his hunting instincts. Even after showing the officer video tapes to back his claims, Simba could no longer stay in the house because he was, in fact, an exotic animal.

Black Defined: Let's first take a look at the term black, and see if we can get a better historical perspective of what it means to be black in America [and I do question if CNN got it right too]. According to Wikipedia:
"In their attempt to impose segregation and restore white supremacy in the late 19th century, some southern states created laws defining a person as black if the person had any known African ancestry. This was a stricter interpretation than what had prevailed earlier. It became known as the one-drop rule, meaning that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person "black". Some courts called it the traceable amount rule, and anthropologists used to call it the hypodescent rule, meaning that racially mixed persons were assigned the status of the subordinate group."

So, according to the oppressor, if you have any black in you, you are black...period. The entire concept of being black was conceived as a tool to better discriminate, segregate and oppress. The truth is, when we think of it's origin, we ought to be as outraged at the term as we are at the infamous "N-Word", but that's another blog all together.
The ill-dichotomy of the questioning of Barack's black-ness is that I've mostly heard this question raised in black circles. The same circles that would want to march and boycott Hollywood and others for only portraying Blacks in a stereotypical light. We get mad when we are only portrayed as thugs, dope dealers, athletes, rappers, pimps, hoes, ignorant, hyper-sexual, greedy, funny, sexist, etc. and yet we dare to question Barack's authenticity because of his lack of stereotypically inspired black characteristics?!?!? A Bengal tiger is a Bengal tiger regardless of how it was raised and Barack Obama is black because of how the oppressor has defined the term.

But let's see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

I think that the posing of this question is only a symptom, and not the problem. Why would we question Barack's authenticity? Why wouldn't we want him to be black like us? I believe that many of us need to feel that there are certain heights we can not achieve because of the pigmentation of our skin or color class we've been assigned. Many of us need to know that even if we work hard, and do our best, we are destined to some level of failure because of America's history. Logically speaking, if a black man can become president in America, then surely I can become a college graduate or a business owner, or a dedicated father...right? If Barack Husein Obama can have an Oval Office, then I can avoid having an eight by twelve cell...can't I? I am in NO WAY suggesting that Barack's election as our president-elect signals the end of racism, prejudice and injustice in the United States. Quite the contrary. The truth is that America is still infested deep in her bowels, with a cancer that won't be cured with any one election. His election does, however, signify that America is going through a type of chemotherapy and is trying to rid herself of the ills of her past and present. It is my hope, that the day of her remission isn't as far off as I once thought.

I'm Thed Weller and I approve this message.


Thed Weller said...

when I use the term "we", "us" in this blog, I'm being facetious...wasn't sure if it came across in the text;-p

the boss hog said...


Trying to be as objective as I can(you know what my thoughts are about obama), it's undeniable what Obama has achieved and hopefully some of "us" will be inspired by this historical event. That being said, most black ppl will define "black" by what they have experienced or been exposed to themselves and of course Barack Obama doesn't fit that mold. You here the assertion made on comic view everynight that all of "us" have bad credit, multiple baby mamas and etc.

I don't agree w/ Obama on many of the issues, but here's an instance that I can relate with him on. Most black ppl assume I voted for Obama. I remember the wed. after the election, one of my black coworkers coming over to my desk saying "we did it!!". I got a text saying "drink plenty of water today b/c you'll run into alot of salty crackers today". I'm sure I don't fit the description of a "cracker" but I wasn't very happy that wed that b/c I did and still do think we made a terrible mistake as a nation. My point is, ppl tend to make assumptions and define certain situations based on their own experiences and based on that, I would not be considered "black enough", or even right along w/ Condi Rice, Colin Powell, JC Watts, and a host of other black repubs. At least Obama is not considered a "sellout". Even Mr Johnson on a prev blog post "assumed" I didn't care for ppl in need b/c I'm not a democrat, but I'd put my giving recd against anybody's. There are several spins that can be put on this issue and I agree w/ a great deal of what you said, but Obama's election still left several unanswered ?s. As it relates to racism, it will always exist and I think "we" as black ppl need to get rid of what I consider the, "give a dog a bone" mentality. Booker T. Washington got this race issue 100% right and if we had gone the way of his policies, black america would be much better off.

boss hog said...

Also, if you really want to know why someone "black" like me would ever decide to be a republican, hopefully this will answer it for you. Please listen with an open mind.

Thed Weller said...

@boss hog I watched the RNC...don't get the point you wanted me to see... I agree with much of what he said. I agree with many points the republicans make. Is it the overall point of self reliance? "Less Gov't"? Those are good ideals...we've gotten in some what of a bind the past 8 years with repubs at the helm though.
You think we're about to give up some "freedoms" when Obama gets sworn in?

Thanks again for chiming in though.

boss hog said...

okay, I'm glad you agree with the tenents of the republican party. If that's the case, it is beyond me how you could agree w/ these principles and at the same time vote for Barack Obama for any other reason than him being black(or to some,close enough)? Self reliance is not robin hood economics(take from the rich to give to the poor). These are the very principles that have set America apart from Europe. The nearly 1 trillion dollars that Obama's admin has all but passed will not solve our economic ills (although the infrastructure plan was originally huckabee's idea. He proposed it during debates about the 1st stimulus). George Bush is not a true conservative by many accounts. The point
i wanted to get across with the video is that the perception about the repub party is not reality and many more of "us" agree with repubs far more than we agree with dems on the issues.

On election day, a coworker saw me in the break room and jokingly asked if I had voted for McCain. When I said that I did, he said "man stop playin" Then when he perceived that I was serious, he asked why. I asked him was he pro life or pro choice. I asked him how he felt about gun laws. I asked him how he felt about gay marriage. On everyone one of these major issues, he opposed Obama's position on them except on Iraq (which is ?able b/c Obama doesn't even know what his position is on Iraq I then asked my friend why then was he voting for Obama, b/c it seemed to me like McCain was the candidate he agreed most with.

Thed Weller said...

@boss hog
i always try and look at the "big picture". The fact is that there are always gonna be some folks that can't do for themselves...period. There are always gonna be some folks that prey on the weak and the under privileged . This being the case, I believe it's the job of government to "help" those who can't be "their own champions". Seems like i've stated this in many a blog entry before but on issues like heath care, tax structure, energy, foreign policy, i think that Obama has better implementable ideas than did McCain..(drill baby drill seems some what antiquated now huh?). I'm not gay, but if two people of the same sex wanna get married, who cares? that's between them and their God, ya know? same with abortion and weed use too. That would be "less government" to me. get out of our bedrooms uncle sam.

many of the "talking points" that both sides used to "scare up votes" are not the "bigger picture". No body's gonna loose the right to bare arms...period. If you make more than 250k per year, your accountant can more than likely legally off-set many tax increases any way, so the bigger picture to me is who can over-all orchestrate a better America. i think Obama would be a better conductor than McCain.

Nashville_fan said...

"His election does, however, signify that America is going through a type of chemotherapy and is trying to rid herself of the ills of her past and present. It is my hope, that the day of her remission isn't as far off as I once thought."
Couldn't agree with the above statement more - BRAVO!

You have addressed President-Elect Obama's "blackness" very eloquently.

I always answer the question with a somewhat cruder analogy:

Would Barack Obama be black if he robbed a bank?

I think we all know the answer.

'Nuff said.

P.S. I very much enjoyed reading the thoughtful written dialog between Boss Hogg and yourself Thed - I'll just add one point.

Boss Hogg indicates that we should base our vote on a checklist of issues - gun rights, abortion, all the usual suspects.

I respectfully disagree.

Being President of the US is not about being a placeholder spouting out positions. It is about being a leader, a unifier, and a problem solver.

I don't expect anyone to agree with me on everything - we need a President who can break the gridlock and make some PROGRESS towards our COMMON GOALS.

We no longer have the luxury of arguing about whether to buy a turkey or a ham while watching hungry people starve . . . time to buy both and start FEEDING people.

boss hog said...

Thed said, "No body's gonna loose the right to bare arms...period. If you make more than 250k per year, your accountant can more than likely legally off-set many tax increases any way".

Okay, first about gun rights, remember the brady bill? Are you familiar w/ the DC gun laws just overturned by the Supreme Court? Losing gun rights is a very strong possibility. Also, here's the dirty little lie no one wants you to know about taxes, there is no such thing as just a tax hike on the rich. Politicams sell it as such to get the support of the ppl b/c in a democracy, poor and mdl class will always outnumber the rich. But are you familiar w/ the AMT(alternative minimum tax)? Its intent was to tax the wealthy but is now a noose around the neck of the mdl class b/c it wasn't indexed for inflation. Let's be realistic, do you think that w/ allllll of these bailout plans and government spending programs that taxes being raised on JUST those making over 250k will pay for it? Like my mom used to tell me "don't let someone piss on you and tell you it's raining"! I can hear Obama giving his tax hike speech in a couple of years so eloquently saying "This is a time when ALLLL americans must make the sacrifices to bring change to our nation". So don't be suprised when the Bush tax cuts are rolled back on you too, not just "the rich repubs". The irony of that is like you said, the rich will find a "loophole" out of it, but for the avg Joe that doesn't have a tax atty or know the benfits of holding assets in a coporation or LLC versus his/her own name. What are they going to do? They guy is working for money is going to always get burned more than the guy that has his money working for him, but what do I know, I'm just a black repub that as one other blogger stated, voted "against myself". Should I apologize for not supporting the "2nd" black president? That would be as obsurd as the assertion that Obama is not black.

Also Nashville Fan, I agree when you say the presidency "is about being a leader, a unifier, and a problem solver". But as a voter you have to make a decision of which candidate is the better leader based on their positions on the issues. That's going to determine whether or not you agree w/ the direction that candidate wants to take this nation. Tell me this, in what area has Obama shown superior leadership. I say that if Obama had been a white guy, all other things being equal w/ the same charisma voting recd, experience etc., HRC would be your dem nominee.

Thed Weller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thed Weller said...

@Boss Hog
if a tree falls in the forest...

you're of course familiar with this "hypothetical question". Let's not deal in them though... too many realy issues at play already. I don't really know who would make the "best" presidet for our country. I voted for Obama for several reasons...all of them were based on me believing him to be more than able to "lead". I think that be you a repub or dem, you can acknoledge that there are "good" leaders on either side of the isle. This being the case...let's not curse Obama's presidency prior to him even taking office. I think that we as Americans, have the right to bare arms...but the reality is that it's a dangerous country we live in today and our government has to try to keep our freedoms safe while keeping her citizens safe...sometimes one contradicts the other.

And I would agree with you...If Obama was white, things would probably be different. But that's another hypothetical. If Obama were not exactly who he is, he wouldn't be, "who he is..." ya know? He's bi-racial. In our country, that too has a certain meaning to some. does it not?

the boss hogg said...


I'm glad we agree on the "if Obama was white" situation, so this brings up another topic. It is widely believed that Obama is the manifestation of Dr King's "dream". Obviously I would disagree. I don't recall Dr King having a dream about a black president. I recall the dream being about men being judged based on their character and NOT their color. If you agree that the results would've been different had Obama been white, then certainly you can agree that dr King's dream was not fulfilled in this situation b/c race evedently was the determining factor, not character. I know it's easy to think that my intentions are simply to discredit Obama, but I unlike so many have the ability to separate the facts from the euphoria.

Also, based on your position on the issues stated earlier yes you probably should've voted for Obama, but there are so many that have beliefs contrary to yours that still voted for Obama. Aren't they the ones that "voted against themselves". Can we really say that Obama represents the beliefs of over 95% of black ppl? Like I've stated before, we are in a terrible political position as a ppl from a strategical standpoint. Dems don't even have to earn our votes. WE GIVE THEM AWAY!!!!

hope you had a merry christmas and I look forward to your response.....

Thed Weller said...

@boss hog
My Christmas has been really kewl...been in Oakland all week with it my hope that you're having a blessed holiday season as well...:-D
Now, down to brass tacks. Let [me 1st apologize for any errors, no computer access to the blog but me & my blkberry are hanging in]

King's dream being fulfilled I "think" could be argued either way...the fact of the matter is that no one can win a presidential election in America with "just black voters". And for SO many voters from so many races to support Obama's campaign does say that many of them were participating in more than just "identity politics". Most voters (not just the ones of color, i.e. Reference [the republican project post]) give their votes away. During this election cycle, many traditional "non-voters" were inspired by the "content of character" they thought they observed in Obama. In this way, I'd have to say that Dr. King's dream is @least more in focus than it's even been if not realized.

Anonymous said...

Black is hard to define because we keep using dumb measuring sticks. So much of our culture is determined by poverty from cuisine, to slang, to family structure that some people say it's our culture.

the boss hog said...

When I'm referring to Dr King's dream being fulfilled, I'm referring more to Black America than anything. It's no secret alot of "us" voted for Obama, and to a great degree, character had nothing to do with it. You agreed earlier that things would've been different had Obama been white. If that's the case, how can "us" be upset when someone doesn't vote for Obama simply b/c he's black? How can someone that voted for Obama because he is black be mad that a white guy voted for McCain because he's white? Some of the same ppl that think Dr King's dream was fulfilled in Obama are still upset with me b/c I didn't vote for him. How does that make sense? Maybe I didn't properly interpret the dream. Like I said earlier, I thought the dream was about a black man/woman getting a fair shot regardless of his/her race and if someone of a different race was better for the position then the best guy/gal gets the position. Someone tell where Dr king said I'm supposed to vote for the black guy even though I don't agree w/ him on the issues. Why is Bob Johnson an "uncle tom" b/c he supported Hillary? How can "the dream" be fulfilled in mainstream america when black america is soooo far from it within ourselves?

Shakedown Crews said...

"according to the oppressor" are right on the money. Now, the oppressor "is you." By that, I mean, Blacks who are defining what "black" has to be. Have you read Juan William's book? Excellent, and it hits it right on the head.

Good blog. I couldn't agree more.

Thed Weller said...

@boss hog
Q: "How can someone that voted for Obama because he is black be mad that a white guy voted for McCain because he's white? Some of the same ppl that think Dr King's dream was fulfilled in Obama are still upset with me b/c I didn't vote for him. How does that make sense?"

A: most "anger" is misplaced of misdirected...if someone is "mad" @ you (or @ another black person because you [they] didn't vote for the "black guy" then this is misplaced anger...period. it doesn't have to make since.

A part 2: as far as Dr. King's dream being fulfilled... I think that the truth is we're just much closer to it being fulfilled then we've ever been as a nation. A qualified candidate that isn't "white" won the presidency of the USA...this DOES have a certain "wow" factor...doesn't it?

Dr. King's dream is, in my humble opinion, "utopianistic"...meaning it can NEVER REALLY LITERALLY be fulfilled. There will ALWAYS be folks that can't get past race, religion, sexual orientation, etc, and use that as a sole basis for voting.

Thed Weller said...

@Shakedown Crews...

I have not heard of Juan William's book... but i shall check it out... Thanks for chiming in;-)

Shakedown Crews said...

Thed, no analysis of Obama's coronation? Come on, man, get with it.

I've got a reaction to it...if you're interested.

It's shorter than my usual fare.

anyway, hope you had an uplifting day yesterday