Race: Obama opts for ‘black’

The White House confirmed that the president checked “Black, African-Am., or Negro” when filling out his 2010 census questionnaire.

“It is official,” said Sam Roberts and Peter Baker in The New York Times. “Barack Obama is the nation’s first black president.” The White House confirmed that the president had checked “Black, African-Am., or Negro” when filling out his 2010 census questionnaire. The form provides “more than a dozen options” for race, and given Obama’s mixed parentage—he’s the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya—he could have checked white; both black and white; or the final category, “some other race,” which can then be specified in writing. The form contains no specific category for mixed race, but Americans have been permitted to check more than one box since 2000, when about 6.8 million people reported being of two or more races. Obama, however, bypassed that option, staking his claim squarely on his father’s heritage.

“Had he checked ‘white,’ all hell would have broken loose,” said Jonathan Capehart in WashingtonPost.com. Obama’s decision to declare himself African-American simply matches what everyone sees “with their own eyes.” From “the cadence of his voice” to “his gait as he struts out to Marine One,” Obama is unmistakably a black man. By making it official, he merely shows he’s “comfortable with who he is.” What choice did he have? said Earl Ofari Hutchinson in OpEdNews.com. In America, where a single drop of black blood once relegated citizens to second-class status, we are all still defined, first and foremost, by our skin color. Not even a president is “exempt from racial loathing,” as witnessed by the Confederate flags at Tea Party protests and the “ape and monkey depictions” of the president and First Lady on websites. If Obama had tried to identify himself as biracial, neither whites nor blacks would have believed him.

Obama’s hardly the only American who’s had to “struggle over his racial identity,” said Oscar Avila in LATimes.com. In the growing “multiracial community,” many people were disappointed that the president hadn’t used the census to celebrate his racial complexity. Nonetheless, “the days of easy categorization are numbered,” said Samantha Smithstein in PsychologyToday.com. The number of interracial marriages has soared 300 percent over the past decade, and one in 13 marriages now unites people of different races. In coming years, the “social construct” of race will be transformed—to the point that it no longer fits inside a neat little box.

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