Is Barack Obama Black?

The answer is Yes, No, There’s No Such Thing as Black. This is the problem with being a pluralist.

Yes:
Well, he’s certainly black enough for the media. You’ll notice how rare it is that anyone discusses his heritage on his mother’s side, that being boring European standard issue. It’s pretty simple, you look at the guy, and he looks black, and that, for better or for worse, is what being black is. It means people are already worrying about things like assassination. There are people, disturbingly many of them, who will refuse to vote for him BECAUSE of the melanin in his skin, and the country his father was born in. The man is black.

No:
Barack Obama is not a Black man. Being a Black man in America means something. It means something about where you grew up, where you went to school, and what your parents, and your parents’ parents were able to do for a living. It means something about the images you saw on TV that represented, or failed to represent, your life. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, and did some of his growing up in Indonesia with his step-dad because apparently Ann Dunham has jungle fever. He does not, and cannot represent the Black American.

There’s No Such Thing as Black:
The point of all this is, of course, that “Black” isn’t one thing. How Black is Obama? Is he Half Black because of his heritage? Is he All Black because of his looks and the One-Drop Rule? Is he Not Black Enough because he didn’t grow up in the same lifestyle as the average Black American? “Black” by itself means so many different, often contradictory things that it doesn’t mean anything. Does a person’s heritage give you a head start in making some guesses about their history and culture? Sure. So does knowing that they grew up in a mountainous region. So does knowing if they’ve ever been a member of a country club. So does reading their bumper stickers. The terrifying thing is the degree to which we tend to allow information like this limit our views rather than expand them. A person’s heritage, region, culture and political views should serve to deepen the picture, not to define it in totality.