That was the question CNN or some other mainstream news organization posed in one of their major pieces the other day. The problem with the question is the basic problem with our society in general. We have an insane need to categorize, to fit everything into neat little boxes. And making that instinct worse, is the further need to define everything in “black and white terms.” You are either this or that, is the conventional wisdom. You cannot be both.
At the end of the day, the nature of Barack’s family tree gives him the freedom to choose to identify himself any way he chooses to. That is his personal choice and one he seems to have made based on how people see him when they look at his skin tone. While I would love it if he had chosen to bring light to the mixed ethnicity moniker by identifying as mixed, multi-racial or bi-racial (despite my being against any usage of “race”), I do understand why he has made the choice he has, as I do when Halle Berry calls herself black. Though for Obama it is much more political since he risks great push back from his black base if he were perceived to be shunning “blackness.”
But back to the main point. It is not necessary to say whether Obama is Black or Bi-racial. He is both. It would also be equally correct to identify him as White, Hawaiian, Multi-Racial, any of the above. They are all absolutely correct. Now I do applaud the media for trying to get this right. I have been known to write to editors and journalists myself to make sure they noted a person was mixed and not “black” when they did not acknowledge the distinction. My purpose in doing so is always to point out that to simply label a person black (or any other single ethnicity) when they are more than that, buys into the racist concept that whites are pure and blacks and others are not. But to move that discussion into a pure either-or question is still missing the point.
Progress won’t come easy I know. At least they did bring it up, is one way to look at it. But hey, I’m still pushing for them to go all the way to accepting and understanding the new reality.