Thursday, 8 November 2012

Racial Identity

Is Obama black?  The first time I saw him on TV, when he was running to become the Democratic Party nominee, I laughed when he was referred to as potentially the first black nominee of the Democratic Party.  'He's not black, he's mixed race!' I thought.  It's funny how when I look at him now I see him as a black man, primarily because I've read one of his books (Dreams of my Father) in which it was quite clear where his personal racial identity lay.

So, what determines our racial identity?  Is it what others see us as, or how we see ourselves? Is it a mixture if the objective and the subjective?  Is it a variation of the 'one drop' theory, where any mix of Negroid and Caucasian is termed 'black' and only 100% Caucasian is termed 'white'?

Why on earth do we have the terms black and white anyway?  A 'black man', as far as my eyes can tell, is in fact largely brown, and a 'white man' is closer to cream or pink; certainly not white.  Were these terms really chosen by our ancestors in more racist times to delineate the purity and darkness of the respective races?  I find myself increasingly hating the titles as I ponder this possibility.

What I find sad is when a person views himself as a particular race and "his own" reject him.  Where then would that person find a sense of racial identity?  If a mixed race person feels more "black" than "white", but the black community says "he's not really black" what does that do to his sense of racial identity, I wonder?  How about a person who is so mixed that he doesn't identify with any particular race? Tiger Woods comes to mind.  The African American community tried to claim him.  Some point out that he is more Asian than anything else.  Tiger himself says he's Cablinasian (Caucasian, Black, American Indian and Asian).

I'm not proposing answers, just raising the question.  What is more important?  How others define us, or how we define ourselves, and which of these, if any, is the 'true' definition?

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