I know, it’s hard to believe, but some people are still having trouble with it. I offer a takedown over at the Prospect:


If identifying biracial people as black “validates the separation of the races” then there is perhaps no one contributing more to the cause of these neo-segregationists than Barack Obama himself. “My view has always been that I’m African-American,” Obama told Chicago Tribune reporter Dawn Turner Trice back in 2004. “African Americans by definition, we’re a hybrid people.” In seeking a validation of her own ideas about race and racial identity, and by casting Obama as the victim of a reductive racial vocabulary, Arenas simply ignores the will of her subject. But racial categories are only unjust insofar as they prevent people from identifying how they wish. Arenas is doing exactly what she is attempting to prevent, forcing Obama into the racial category of her, rather than his own, choosing.

Part of the problem with the American conversation on race is the bizarre license that people take when writing about it on the basis of their own biography. But being “biracial” does not make one an expert on race, or on racial hybridity, any more than being a Republican or a Democrat makes one an expert on politics. So much of the writing on Obama’s racial identity, or on his political impact is muddled by our own subconscious racial desires. We want Obama to mean something specific, either to us or to others, with little regard for how he actually sees himself. As it stands, Arenas seems ill-prepared to talk about how biraciality operates in the African-American context. The black community in America has always accepted people of varying shades, cultures and backgrounds. Originally, this was a consequence of racial oppression; racist laws that determined that anyone with black ancestry was black. We may not have chosen to be a hybrid people, anymore than we chose to come here in the first place, but that’s what we are now. And it’s a beautiful thing.

The rest is over here.
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