General Question

pekenoe's avatar

Does Barack Obama consider himself Negro, Black, White, or Mulatto?

Asked by pekenoe (1396points) January 19th, 2009

I have not heard him say? Has anyone?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

62 Answers

hahniam's avatar

Wow that is an OLD, kind of racist term, mulatto. Since I am not him I can not answer….but being of mixed race like him, I consider myself mixed race. Half of each.

Vinifera7's avatar

Does it matter? Would you expect a white politician to identify himself as “white”?

pekenoe's avatar

I’ve never considered “mulatto” a racist term, it’s a definition of an individual of mixed descent, white and black.

I’m starting to be offended by the term “white” Can you give me an instance where anyone other than “white” has used that term to describe me that it has not been racially motivated and uttered in contempt?

nocountry2's avatar

I don’t know what he thinks but it seems like in this country if you’re half or even a quarter black that’s all that counts – you’re black. Limited.

pekenoe's avatar

@Vinifera I did not say that it mattered, I’m just curious.

Vinifera7's avatar

That’s the “one drop” rule, as I’ve heard it called.

robmandu's avatar

< < has heard here on Fluther that mulatto is an accepted term more widely used in Europe… while at the same time it’s use in the U.S. is deprecated.

hahniam's avatar

If you were black, you would consider that term racist. Just know that and try not to use it. Negro is also not an acceptable term, just so you know.

elijah's avatar

He is a human being, same as everyone else. Why does he need to specify his heritage?

pekenoe's avatar

Know what, I’m fed up to here with crybabies screaming racism.

If a term is not used in a derogatory manner then it is not racist.

hahniam's avatar

Cause you are white, you don’t feel racism

hahniam's avatar

Just pointing out for you.

pekenoe's avatar

Why do you not think I feel racism, I feel it same as you when you use the term “white”

qualitycontrol's avatar

Well, hes our first black president. And I heard once you go black you don’t go back

robmandu's avatar

Seems to me that there’s no good term for handling the various (endless?) possibilities of mixed descent.

Obama is reportedly the child of a white mother and black father. But what’s the racial makeup of his progenitors and their anscestors? It’s entirely likely to be mixed more than that, like many of us.

The “one drop rule” to my way of thinking just exacerbates this problem.

In short, we lack the vocabulary to adequately describe mixed heritage.

If someone, like @pekenoe, wanted to write about Obama and was looking for a single word or short phrase to sum up his ancestry… well, he’s likely to be out of luck. Unless Obama has used such himself already.

And it’s in that context that I read @pekenoe‘s question.

pekenoe's avatar

@qualitycontrol : I’ve heard that too but comparing a president elect to the other reference could be a contentious comparison. :)

pekenoe's avatar

@robmandu Thank you, That is what I would like to know, exactly what Barack considers his race. Nothing more.

However I did know that this question would open a can of worms, but, worms are good in moderation.

elijah's avatar

@hahniam white people experience racism. Everyone does at one point or another. It will only stop when people stop defining others by their color.

elijah's avatar

@pekinoe I don’t think your question was bad, I just think people are offended by the terms mullato and negro. They are outdated terms.

pekenoe's avatar

@elijahsuicide exactly, racism will always be with us, human nature. Whenever racism is used (no matter how it is used) it is being promoted.

KKK uses it, but is their use of it any worse that blacks using it to try force other people to give in to their demands?

pekenoe's avatar

Political correctness is a whole nother post.

I’m fed up with that too. If anyone was offended by my use of negro or mulatto, that’s too bad. I didn’t use it maliciously, it was used descriptively. Will everyone quit calling me white if I would prefer to be called tan if I were to become offended with the term “white”

icebox355's avatar

I would say African American

JonasBrick's avatar

Mulatto is a particularly antiquated and loaded term. Unless you’ve joined us from the 1950s direct in a time machine I’m surprised you’re still using it.

The argument that something is human nature is weak and flawed. There is no consensus on what human nature is in any given situation from sleeping to politics. As such ‘human nautre’ is only ever wheeled out as a lazy answer to a question where the answerer has nowhere else to turn.

The idea that a term is only racist if used in such a context is ridiculous. You could come up with a list of terms on your own that are deemed offensive regardless of context and that is what this comes down to. It is not about the big slogan, ‘Racism’ or calling those possibly more considered than yourself crybabies.

Political correctness in public life is the idea that if someone flags up to you that a term is offensive you may want to consider not using it in order to limit the amount of offence caused. Being PC in the workplace means that you should recognise the power you yield over others, mostly those in your employ, and therefore realise that ignoring the offence caused by certain terms is ignoring an abuse of power. Being politically correct is no causing abuse through the use of terms that consensus states are offensive in nature. People who argue against it either want to purposefully cause offence or are intellectually and culturally lazy.

JonasBrick's avatar

There is no consensus that white is offensive. If you want to start a campain then i wish you luck. There is consensus that mulatto and negro are at the very least dubious, therefore you might want to consider not using them. Unless your aim is to offend.

JonasBrick's avatar

If you feel that everyone is calling you racist you might want to consider the validity of the accusation.

pekenoe's avatar

@icebox355 I take offense at the term “African American ” too, why are they not American Africans, since when should it be OK to put another nation first and live in America?

@Jonasbrick your argument is nothing more than smoke, if I wish to be offensive there are multiple terms that I could use but do not, I use negro on the simple reasoning that when I listened to Dr. King’s speech he mentioned negroes quite frequently, are you offended by that? I use the term mulatto because the only other descriptive term for a mixed race is “half breed” would you prefer that?

White is not offensive partially because we do wish to use it as a tool.

pekenoe's avatar

I never said I was racist or not, what you interpret from these posts is what it is to you and I cannot convince you otherwise.

If crybabies and whiners are races, then, yes I’m racist.

icebox355's avatar

Ok fair enough

JonasBrick's avatar

I would be interested to know how you think the argument is smoke. My views on your post are:

a) Dr. King was talking in a different historical context and terminology has changed, we can take that as given.
b) You know that people regard Negro as offensive yet you use it to make a point. I suspect that your use of it reflects your quite unique view on the matter. This can be proven by the fact that we would imagine on the whole that people would choose to avoid a given term if someone said they found it offensive, yet you choose not to do so on purpose. You are at least disregarding the common complaint.
c) Where you accuse my argument of being smoke I think you should consider the fluctuating immaturity of some of your posts such as the crybabies and whiners remark. Putting in something so weak undercuts your previous points.
d) You have a better term than ‘half breed’ in mixed race and you used it yourself. Why not stick with it?


Why would you assume that I am offended? You’re lack of intellectual engagement on the topic is shown by the fact that you do not imagine that someone could engage on these topics on the basis of principle and logic than on the basis of emotion – which is where you’re coming from when you moan about feeling fed up with things. Were you to think outside of yourself you might see that you feeling fed up yet making a few changes in your attitude may lead to you getting on with people more.

The broader question is if someone tells you they find something offensive why does that mean so little to you that you disregard it? The PC-hating view that people will complain about everything is not the case. People complain about what they find insulting and if you didn’t know that before you do after they’ve told you. To commit one mistake is human, to continue committing the same mistake is either malicious or born out of laziness.

squirbel's avatar

Welcome to the online home of MAVIN Foundation, the nation’s leading organization that builds healthy communities that celebrate and empower mixed heritage people and families.

Our projects explore the experiences of mixed heritage people, transracial adoptees, interracial relationships and multiracial families.

Mixed race people do not see themselves as one or another – this is a unique human experience that non-mutts cannot understand. We see ourselves purely as being “me” – and suffer the labels that others attach to us.

Just call us Mavins and be done with it.

squirbel's avatar

If you read President-Elect Obama’s biography “Dreams from my Father”, you will see exactly how he sees himself. He does not identify with one or the other.

President-Elect Obama is a strongly self-realized man, and his color is not a defining characteristic in his personal introspection. He becomes what you want him to be – he is adaptable. That is how he expressed himself in his biography.

The ones who apply labels are those external to his person.

Hopefully this response is a valid and straight-to-the-point answer to the original question, and I have provided a source for you to read. You can find “Dreams of My Father” in audiobook format, read by President-Elect Obama himself, or you can get the text.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [ABRIDGED] [AUDIOBOOK]

JonasBrick's avatar

@icebox355 @pekenoe

If you are making the point about American Africans to show that race is not the ultimate defining aspect of people then I would agree with you. By fixing it as being African American you are relegating people to a status where they are always African first and then American second.

Your point about it not being acceptable to put another country before America is a little bizarre to someone from outside of the USA. I would say that people are complex and therefore if someone immigrates and then takes citizenship but still sees themselves as being from their country of origin first and foremost we can understand where they are coming from.

Enforced patriotism is anathema to the right to free expression and at times comes across as being somewhat naiive when considering the complexity of people’s emotions and their sense of belonging.

Also in a country where people are racist towards others why would not you think it likely that people would put their origin country first? For an immigrant child to be told that they are different due to their origin and teased with a derived nickname relating to that origin would we not think it likely that the child would identify themselves as being different and maybe being from the origin country first and the adopted country second.

As simple rendering of the point above is, call someone a ‘negro’ (in your terms) and call their friend American for long enough and the first person will see themselves as being less American than others and probably as being a ‘negro’ first.

pekenoe's avatar

@squirbel : thank you, I am totally happy that Barack considers himself an American, now, wouldn’t it be nice if we all did that who live in this once great nation. Perhaps, instead of declaring the Obama election a great victory for “blacks” is will hopefully be viewed as a great victory for “Americans”

Nuff said, I’m done

pekenoe's avatar

@JonasBrick OK, one more. Great point, goes back to racism, why are we called whites, blacks, native americans, latino, oriental, that live here for a reason. Why are we not all Americans? I am, and damn proud of it. Less proud of all who keep trying to split this nation into colored segments. Barack can unite this nation and perhaps, just perhaps, we can all become Americans.

aprilsimnel's avatar

American woman of mixed-race here.

To answer your question: Obama has said that he is a mixed-race person, but that he calls himself “black” because he knows that that’s how he looks to people.

By the way, the only context to use a phrase like “The Blacks” is if you’re referring to the play by Jean Genet. Thanks.

Don’t presume that because you heard Martin Luther King use a word in 1963 that it’s OK to use nearly 50 years later. And “half-breed”? Are you kidding? People were laughing at Cher for using it in a song in 1974. I have nothing to say about your other contentions. I’ll presume you’re intelligent enough to know where to find information outside your comfort zone about this country’s racial problems if you want to.

dlm812's avatar

The following points I have to make may cause much disagreement or for people to look at me “different” on here, but seeing as how Fluther is a sight which allows people to express their opinions in a free manner, I am just going to let it out…

Has anyone ever noticed the choices for race on most applications, etc.?

The are usually somewhere along the lines of (give or take):
African American
Asian American
Native American

As a caucasian individual of Europen and Native American Dissent (as well as some “Afican American” reportedly very far back) I find it very offensive and racist when I am refered to, and classified, as white. Why isn’t “European American” or “Caucasian American” a choice? Every other ‘group’ is represented by heritage/culture, yet mine is represented by a skin color? How is this not racist when it would be considered so if the other “groups” were listed by their color references (i.e. “Black”, “Red”, “Yellow” etc.)? EVERYONE experiences racism personaly in some manner or form, regardless of race, color, culture, etc. I have personally experienced this through being called “that white girl” or a “stupid redneck” or “racist hick” simply because I drive trucks, hunt, live in the country, etc. Not EVERY “white” person who lives 20 minutes from town and owns a gun is racist.

And since I’m already on my soap box, why is there an “African American History Month” and “Native American History Month” (which most people are not aware of the later because it is not marketed the way the former is), yet no “Irish American History Month” or “Asian American History Month”? Other people of other nationalities suffered too, you know.

And why are people, who’s families have lived for many generations in America, still considered “African American”? Why not just American? I can understand this term for individuals who are recent immigrants from Africa, but for those whose families have been in America longer than mine – why are they not just considered Americans?

For me – the discussion of “what” Obama is starts and ends with the fact that in order to be able to become president, an individual must be American. Period.

PupnTaco's avatar

@pekenoe: It’s very easy for you to say “we’re all Americans” from a white/Caucasian/person-of-European-heritage perspective. Forgive me if I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, but it seems like you’re being dismissive of all the historical and ongoing racism in this country. And being more than a little flip by saying “well, I’m offended by the term ‘white.’”

Why do we define ourselves by color? Because color exists. Different cultures exist. Racism exists.

pekenoe's avatar

@PupnTaco So the mere statement that I’m offended is not good enough? Based on that, why are any words racist then? Is it not because someone did not like that particular reference? What do I have to do to become offended? What is the problem with all being Americans first? There is at present only one America, if we do not do her justice, then she will not survive. Infighting only serves to weaken.

pekenoe's avatar

@dlm812 : Great answer, American Woman, I’m proud of you, although at the moment that may seem a mixed blessing.

PupnTaco's avatar

@pekenoe: Thing is, I don’t think you really are offended by the use of the term “white.” I think you’re attempting a turnaround for using the term “mulatto” which is largely regarded in the same way as the term “colored” – a relic of the past with racial overtones. The term “white” has no such baggage.

Using these old, loaded terms – and more importantly, thinking the way we’ve done historically – only adds to the infighting and weakens America.

tinyfaery's avatar

I guess it’s okay to say the n-word then. It’s only offensive if the person saying it is being malicious. Just let me know when you do. I’d like to be there.

My white wife refers to white people as white all the time. It’s only negative when she says: “stupid white people”, which she does at times.

I was born in America, to American born parents, but I call myself Latina or a Chicana. My life experience, especially my childhood was not like that of a white American. I had a very Latino experience as a kid. My American culture is not the same as others, and I prefer to call it like it is.

Nimis's avatar

I have a problem with the term African-American as well.
But because people like to slap that label on people
who may not even be from Africa. Good grief.

Though the argument you pose, that you shouldn’t
put something in front of American is retarded.
First and foremost, these terms emphasize American.
That’s why it comes last.

Seems like a fine example of how you’re having
a hard time grasping how language is used.
Words are culturally loaded….not just things
to be plunked down descriptively.

btko's avatar

This question fails. Who cares what colour he is. He is American and that is reason enough to not like him.



Knotmyday's avatar

@btko: That was funny.

I’m proud to have an American President standing squarely in the gap of historical racial inequity.

dlm812's avatar

PupnTaco: Thanks for the links. It is nice to know that there are celebrations for other nationalities (although the link for Irish said only March 2006?) but I still do not like that they are not widely known and celebrated the way African American History Month is. I’m not saying that there should be less celebration of this month, just more of the others. Every person of every nationality should be able to celebrate their heritage – although this can be done every day – it is nice for an entire nation to join in.

Anyway, thanks :)

charliecompany34's avatar

he’s black. end of thread.

squirbel's avatar

Why, Charlie?

chyna's avatar

All news channels are calling him the first African-American president.

Nimis's avatar

Sorry for using the word retarded.
It was my knee jerk reaction and I should have edited myself.
Yes, I could probably stand to be more politically-correct.
But, perhaps more importantly, I shouldn’t be so mean.

Sorry ‘bout that.

bob's avatar

@pekenoe: We disagree about a lot here, but you might enjoy reading Obama’s 2004 address, where he said: “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

pekenoe's avatar

@bob check my posts, #34 n #35 above please. Let’s all pray that the rhetoric portends actual actions. All too many times, promises made are not kept.

PupnTaco's avatar

I just realized no one called you on “Negro.”

elijah's avatar

@PupnTaco I did, waaaay up there. I think a couple others did too…

PupnTaco's avatar

Must’ve missed as my eyes were crossing.

pekenoe's avatar

What he is was not the original question, I had not heard nor read what race he considered his…. I was curious, and so far have not gotten an answer. If I was to pose the question again, I would include mixed race and mavin in the selection.

Thank you everyone for keeping a civil tongue and having a semi reasonable discussion on this hot button issue. Without discussion and understanding, problems addressing our nation will not be settled.

The moderator threatened to shut down this thread soon after I posed the question, but allowed it after they saw the interest.

He has, however, said that any further questions along these lines would be banned. That is too bad, and if any of you disagree with that decision,please let them know.

Knotmyday's avatar

No disagreement here.

Amish_Ninja's avatar

Just plain American

Kbear's avatar

To pekenoe, feel your pain. I was in the cultural diversity club in my high school and during a meeting I used the term mulatto. I don’t know where I heard it but I honestly thought it was the correct term. They of course immediately corrected me by yelling at me, insulting me, and implying I was racist. At which point the teacher stepped in. My only point is that I’m not stupid but perhaps a little ignorant. All they had to do was correct me and explain why it wasn’t okay and I would never have used it again, but because I was was white they assumed I meant it maliciously. Although in my own opinion the fact that I had joined the Cultural Diversity club should have been a clue that my mind was more open than that.

mymalagasylife's avatar

Hi everyone, in his works “Dreams from my father” he considers himself as a Black… let’s see and check in his Preface to the 2004 edition where he talks about his victory at the Democratic nomination for a seat as the US senator from Illinois he wrote: “It was a difficult race (...) a BLACK man with a funny name, (...) winning in white areas as well as BLACK…”

squirbel's avatar

@mymalagasylife While it’s hard for you to understand this because you are not mixed, he was speaking in a tone of outsider’s voices. Others see him as black, and they see him as a black man with a funny name.

He does not see himself that way.

Sarkoloff's avatar

My take on all this is that “nationality”, “color” or “race” should not even be ‘used’ in things like the census, elections/ voting, applications, nor should it even be put on our driver’s licenses. If we are to truly become a nation of equal human beings and free of racism and being “labeled”; then this should be the conscience-effort being made currently. The only exception that I can reasonably see, would be in the event of the police trying to find a suspect; in order to “narrow it down”, possibly. One day in the future, color variation among us all will likely be very slight.. it’s just a matter of ‘time’ (for generational blending, that is.) Until then, why not practice what we preach, and stop ‘encouraging’ any ‘possible lines of segregation’ being drawn? Once someone realizes they are not being ‘recognized’ in terms of ‘color’ or ‘nationality’ or ‘ethnicity” by their government and community, then they can much more easily view others in that same perspective. It’s that simple. (My opinion)

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