Social Question

chucklmiller's avatar

Is Obama really the first African-American president? Maybe I just need clarification on the definition of "bi-racial"?

Asked by chucklmiller (386 points ) February 4th, 2010

I ask this question with the utmost respect for our Commander-In-Chief, but isn’t he actually our country’s first bi-racial president?

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21 Answers

Snarp's avatar

Ugh, this again? Before civil rights if you had one drop of black blood, you were black. You couldn’t use white water fountains or lunch counters and heaven help you if you fraternized with white girls. There’s a book called—Life on the Color Line, by the current president of the University of Cincinnati, it’s his autobiographical account of growing up under segregation. Here’s the thing, if you saw the author you would say he is white. But one day he moved to a town where people knew that his father was actually black, and suddenly his life changed and he couldn’t do all the things he used to take for granted. Overnight, just because people knew he had at least one drop of black blood, he became a black man and subject to all the racism that went with it.

In the post segregation world racism is directed against anyone who is visibly different, and Obama is visibly different. He has experienced racism (and he still does), he has had the experience of being African-American.

Finally, many, if not most, African Americans are multi ethnic. They have Native American and white ancestors (and other ethnicities as well). Go find Strom Thurmond’s daughter and ask if she’s African-American. Or any of Thomas Jefferson’s African-American descendants.

Steve_A's avatar

And if he wasn’t?

JLeslie's avatar

Good Lord, his father is African.

fireinthepriory's avatar

GA @Snarp! African-American and biracial are not mutually exclusive terms, at least not at this point in time. Barack Obama is our first African-American, our first biracial, and our first black President.

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

I once read an article which stated Abe Lincoln was rumored to have been part black !
I have been wondering about Obama ,,,Why is it that white people insist he is not black but black people praise him as being the first black president ??

ucme's avatar

Well I hear Jimmy Carter was hung like a mule. Not sure if that qualifies him though.

john65pennington's avatar

Here is a very simple answer: he has a white parent and a black parent.

chucklmiller's avatar

@john65pennington So what are you saying…??

KatawaGrey's avatar

Personally, I have always wondered about the definitions of race in today’s society. Obama is bi-racial but he calls himself black which is good enough for me. However, I do not think he would call himself black necessarily if this country was not so nasty about black people. Let’s face it, the one drop rule is still in effect it’s just not supported legally anymore. If someone looks as if they have some relatively recent African heritage, then they are labelled as African American.

What I’d like to know is if Obama’s father was from the Caribbean, say Jamaica or Haiti, would people still call him an African American?

ucme's avatar

@chucklmiller Ye gads another one! How many bastard offspring are there out there?

eponymoushipster's avatar

He’s the first president with the word “bam” in his name, too. so what?

aprilsimnel's avatar

Look, back in the day, it was easier to just call the offspring of any white-black union black, and enslave them. Profitable, too! There were daddies selling their own kids into slavery (and angry, jealous wives as well). The idea that a mixed-race person is “assigned” by the powers that be into the “lowest” racial stratum is called hypodescent; set up to keep the People In Power in power and with access to all the good stuff. I feel that that has been the entire point of racism/classism/sexism in the world, to keep the resources and privilege in as few hands as possible.

It’s not like American chattel slavery was that long ago in historical terms – only 140 years – so Americans are still shaking off this idea that people with any African descent are inferior to the descendants of Northwestern Europeans. It’s not that we’re inferior, it’s that certain Euros got their hands on the good stuff here and want to keep it. I don’t like the mindset and am working on my part to change it, but I understand it. Read How the Irish Became White or How the Jews Became White or how the Italians and other non-Anglo-Europeans became white in this country. Anything to keep African-Americans from being the equals of whites. Feh.

And bottom line, that’s the thing the US battles with regards to black people. If someone has attractive personality characteristics, white folks will say, “Oh, well, you’re not like those people”, or “You’re not really black.” I know, because I still hear these things in 2010. Yet, even with light skin and long, wavy hair, I’ve still been stopped by white cops and asked for ID for walking around in white neighborhoods. In America. These cops weren’t looking to ask me out, but assumed that I was casing their neighbourhoods. :P

My maternal grandmother (seriously, one drop) passed for some time until she met and married my not one-drop-of-anything-else-but-African grandfather. Good for Obama for making his one statement, but otherwise not addressing this stuff, and getting on with the business of governing.

JLeslie's avatar

@KatawaGrey it seems in America they would. You could argue the black people in the Carribbean came over as slaves from Africa also I guess. None of my black friends from the Caribbean want to be called African American, in fact supposedly many people from the islands don’t want to be put in the same group as black Americans, but that is a whole other issue. Actually, none of my black friends at all care either way about the term African American, they are all fine with black.

Here is my funny, true, story from a different thread:

I had a neighbor who was considering enrolling her son in a new magnet elementary school (magnets are public schools that have specialized programs). The school has a quoto, holding spaces for minority children in the county. The students apply by lottery, meaning you put your name in and if you get lucky they pick you out of hat basically, but for minorities you had almost a guarantee, because the area is very white. Anyway, my neighbor checked the box African American to give her child a better chance. She is a cute, white, blond, barby doll of a woman, BUT she is South African, came to the states when she was in her teens. I always found it odd that somehow people in the US have decided that being from the continent of Africa means you’re black.

Pseudonym's avatar

look. Do you think that racists care at all? They’ll still call him discriminatory names and hate for no good reasons. The point is, we elected him even though he wasn’t 100% White. And he has dark skin.
But, IMHO, we elected him because he was the better choice. If he lost the election, I think he would have because people thought that he wasn’t. We proved by electing him that the majority of the country is not racist, though if we didn’t elect him, it would probably show the same thing.

majorrich's avatar

He’s half black and half white.. Sounds Grey to me, but he’s brown. There is an error here somewhere. My Mother is Japanese and my Father was white. I should be Cream, but I am brown too. Does that make me black or racist?

eponymoushipster's avatar

you know who needs to be president? a half-japanese girl. then rivers cuomo would be all up in them presidential undies.

plethora's avatar

Nix african-american, please Jesus God. I pray I never hear that friggin term again. He is not caucasion

majorrich's avatar

Until I registered for the draft I held dual citizenship and surrendered my Japanese citizenship when I enlisted in the Army. I really was a Japanese-American. Now I am just an American.

Snarp's avatar

I dream of a day when we’re all so mixed race that there’s no one left to be the minority any more.

Ron_C's avatar

This story probably doesn’t answer the question but I think it is pertinent. I was in China for about 6 weeks and haven’t heard American accented English for a long time.

I got in the elevator and there was a black guy there. I’m thinking YEH, an American. I said hi, and he answered with an accent. Turns out he was a damn Frenchman. I was very disappointed.

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