Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Obama's Identity Crisis

The title link goes to an article in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer by Joe Hallett, senior editor at the Columbus Dispatch. In it he quotes Debra Dickerson, copied below:

" 'Black,' in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves," Dickerson wrote in an article for Salon magazine. "Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that . . . with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics.

"At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction. They're both 'black' as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term."

All I have to say is (as a starter), "Huh?"

You've got to be kidding. I admit I am from Northern New York, where I did not even know that people with different skin colors existed until I was 5 or 6 years old. When I did have that awareness become part of my life it was a descriptive term, not a family history.

Is this really how most Americans viewed the descriptive word 'black' as it pertained to skin color? That the person was from West Africa and descended from an American slave???

Is there a word that means, 'American born, descended from a farmer from Ireland'?, for example, or any other specific thing in a person's personal history?

The only word I can think of that pertains to descent and is understood to pertain to family history is, "royalty", and there is no royal class in this country. Family names sometimes reflect an ancestor's way of life, or where they were from, but that information is passed down through the name itself, not through group consciousness that 'certain people are descended from XXX so we will assign this word to them so we will know who they are'.

Is this really how is was? (The article says that the word is in the process of changing it's meaning.)

How many out there still think 'descendent of an American slave' when using the descriptive term 'black'?

This country was founded on the concept of freedom. Let us live it in everything we say, feel, and do.


Blogger Proxima said...

I think it is a broad term, as is the term "White" is. Many of us "whites" in America descended from the "Ulster-Irish" who's civil rights were suppressed by the British crown. When they came to America, they knew what it meant to be indentured servants. That hertiage of these people is found in the constitution because several of our forefathers, were this type of white settler. Many of them were not welcome here when they came either.
See Wikipedia "Irish Dispora"

6:15 PM  

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