He’s Black

Obama is black, first and foremost because he looks black. That alone triggers all of the reflexive prejudice and animus that define the black experience in the United States. One could engage in a philosophical discussion on the nature of racial identity, personal affinity, culture, etc., but for practical purposes, races are a product of racism and racial habits—not the other way round. And racism is rather crude and simplistic. The typical racist identifies and hates black on sight—he doesn’t care about the complexities of mixed parentage, Ivy League education, or immigration status. And even non-racists reflexively assign people a racial identity on sight. Because race is a social category and not a biological or genetic one, Obama’s mixed parentage does not determine his race. Mixed parentage may influence one’s appearance, and a person whose appearance is racially ambiguous can influence how she is perceived. In such instances, race may be a question of personal affiliation to some extent. And mixed parentage may influence how one chooses to identify. But for the most part, society assigns us our races. At any rate, Obama’s appearance is not ambiguous, and he unquestionably identifies as black.

Richard Thompson Ford, “Chats: Is Obama Black, Bi-racial, or Post-racial?Zócalo Public Square, September 7, 2011. http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/09/07/is-obama-black-bi-racial-or-post-racial/read/chats/

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