People on both sides of the aisle have been tripping over themselves to support Michelle Obama’s proclamation that the question, “Is Barack black enough?” doesn’t matter.
In a certain sense they’re right. There’s no blackness test for president, and if there was, every single leader up to this point in time would have failed it.
The problem is that the people making the charge aren’t asking whether he’s fit to be president, or whether the American public should support him; they’re asking whether blacks specifically should vote for Obama in the Democratic primary. In other words, they want to know if he’ll represent black interests more closely than will, say, Hillary.
On that issue, the question “Is he black enough?” is far from nonsense. A black person will have an intimate familiarity with black issues and can represent that viewpoint better than someone who’s never stood in those shoes. Rational black voters will give him points for this.
But actually, in many ways Obama is no more an American black than Hillary is. He’s half-white, and his black genes come from Kenya, whereas American blacks are West African in descent. Obama has no Southern slave ancestry. If he’ll represent black interests better than Hillary will (and that very well may be the case), it will stem either from personal convictions or from whatever common experience he shares with blacks from growing up dark-skinned in America.
Blog: Robert VerBruggen