8 November, 2008
Rat Fink

Random Neuron Firings

Instead of my usual list of RNFs, this will basically be one big one. It’s not a huge deal, but I must admit that it bugs me. Just a bit.

I find it exceedingly strange that people refer to Barack Obama as the “first black president.” Why does this bug me just a little? Um…because he’s not “black” – he’s biracial. Hate to break it to some folks, but brother’s white, too. And let’s face it: it’s not tragically hip to be white right now. And I’ll go one further: if you’re going to go all race-y about it, saying he’s “black” insults the brilliant woman who was his mother: a white girl from Kansas. But I digress.

I’d suggest referring to him as “a new beginning,” or “a great man,” or “just what the country needed,” or “the guy who beat my choice.” Or, if you positively must bring the color thing into it, refer to him as America’s “first biracial president.”

So here’s what kind of honks me off. Much has been made of this “historic” decision by the American people to finally recognize a person of color to lead the country. So much so that an outsider might think that dozens of African Americans were running for president every four years, but being summarily slapped down by stupid white people for not being WASPs. I mean, really. Consider this:

  • In the history of modern American politics, only two (2) African Americans have ever made a serious run for president, and, for whatever reasons, didn’t make it past the convention stage: Shirley Chisholm – a respected educator and political reformist, who received more delegate votes at the 1972 Democratic Convention than Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey; and Jesse Jackson – ran in 1984 and 1988, losing the nominations both times to Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, respectively. As to why they weren’t successful — you’d have to ask the Democratic delegates at the time.
  • Two others (that I know of) made repeated and/or serious attempts, but never made it to the convention floor: Alan Keyes in 1996, 2000 and 2008, and Al Sharpton (sorry, dude’s a wackjob), who dropped out when he realized he couldn’t beat John Kerry in 2004. And he dropped out of a lot of other races, too, upon realizing that he was a long shot’s longshot.

So back to the original issue — what makes him a “black president?” Is it that he devoted much of his career to largely African American issues? Is it that he looks more black than white? Is it that he married a black woman? I found this interesting article in the London Observer, which states it would likely surprise us to find that many of us white folks have African, Asian, or Native American heritage somewhere in our past. (In the interest of fairness, here is another view on that article.)

But no doubt about it, Barack’s mom was white.

So what’s the big deal about color, anyway? Well, unfortunately, it’s always been a big deal to someone. A Time article I read this morning about Ann Dunham (Obama’s mother) said it thusly:

Ironically, the person who mattered most in Obama’s life is the one we know the least about—maybe because being partly African in America is still seen as being simply black and color is still a preoccupation above almost all else.”

Ok, this can be taken one of two ways:

  1. Because Obama appears to be black, nobody is interested in what mattered to him. (Ludicrous, whiny.)
  2. It’s a shame that color is an issue at all, to anyone. (Realistic, pragmatic, forward-thinking.)

I’d like to think it was 2. Regardless, it kind of irks me that the very people who often chide and deride others for “making race an issue” are now the ones who are making it an issue themselves.

I have lots more thoughts about this, but I’m out of time, alas. One more performance tonight — I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got most of the bugs worked out, and the cast are all nailing it after 2 shows (ain’t that just the way?).

Fink out.

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8 November, 2008 9:41 am

My, my, aren’t you feeling froggy today. Touchy subject but you pulled it off deftly. I doubt I could have talked about it as well.


8 November, 2008 3:09 pm

“the guy who beat my choice.”




9 November, 2008 6:58 am

For the record, you overlooked Channing Phillips in 68, and in response to “for whatever reasons [they] didn’t make it past the convention stage”, if you’d like a reason, look at the name above Chisholm’s: George Wallace. While I admire your post-election idealism, racism has not quite landed in history’s dustbin. Now come on, it has everything to do with how he looks. he doesn’t look black to you? go to wikipedia’s wikicommons page to see the portraits of all 44 presidents (the 44th portrait is unofficial, probably from the Senate) call me crazy, there’s something … I dunno, something… Read more »

10 November, 2008 1:22 pm

I should have included a caveat: All I can do is kill ants with atom bombs. It allows me to create strawmen, slippery slopes, and commit a host of other fallacies. Without them, I would have very little to say.

Thanks for the welcome!