I was reading an article in Newsweek about Barak Obama's presidential campaign and how easily he traverses the racial divide. He's been criticized by many black leaders for not being 'black enough'. They say, 'How could a man with a Kenyan father and raised by a white middle american mother be really black?' As a people we are quick to call out someone that we think is not holding it down for 'the people'. But, do we even know what it means to be black?
If a white person were to attribute certain stereotypes to our ethnicity, we'd be up in arms and ready to get the NAACP on their asses. For example, 'they' can't say anything about our hair, nappy, conked, fried dyed and laid to the side and destined to always be short without us getting up in arms. But, we've got 'leaders' like Al Sharpton walking around with a press and curl because James Brown told him to do so and we embrace him without question. (If you've never heard the story, James Brown was a mentor/father figure of Sharptons. Early on in their acquaintance James suggested that Al keep the hairstyle until the event of James' death.) THEY can't attribute promiscuity or adultery to us but, when President Clinton was caught with his hands in the cookie jar and LIED about it, WE were quick to assign him the title, 'First Black President'. What does that say about us? When Clinton was campaigning he was known to hit jazz spots and pull out his saxaphone for 'jam sessions' whenever, wherever. Not once do I remember anyone in our community saying this man wasn't 'Black enough'. He is white and he got more of a black pass than Obama is getting by some of our Black 'Leaders'.
I know that Obama's mixed heritage is part of his appeal to white america. But, we are quick to claim mixed people in our community. In fact, we are OFFENDED when a person who even seems like they could be part black doesn't acknowledge us. Unlike the Colin Powells, and the Condoleezas this man has never diminished or denied his heritage. Condi would have us believe that her childhood growing up in the 50s deep south was nothing but empowering and magical. How can that be? Clearly she's from the old school. Before 'I'm Black and I'm proud', before anybody had any 'Dreams'. She hails from a time where the black middle class wanted to distance themselves from the common black folk and assimilate to the best of their ability into the white mainstream. Obama is no Condi.
Our forefathers fought specifically for us to be able to attend the best schools so that the best opportunities would become available to us. Obama has benefited from that fight. Yet, we have trouble identifying with him. Why is that? However, when Jesse Jackson ran for President, I don't remember people saying that he shouldn't run because he's 'inexperienced'. One of my friends used that red herring to justify her reasoning for why Obama couldn’t win. I don't think experience comes into play unless you're black. On the flip side, Bush is super 'experienced' (especially if nepotism counts as experience) and look how well that's working for us. I think just because Obama can traverse easily between mainstream America and our world, he's infinitely more experienced than a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.
Why isn't anyone offended that Jesse assumes that we won't be able to follow his speeches unless they have rhymes in them. What the hell is that? I listen to rap music so all of my information must come in via 8 bar and 16 bar chunks? Why do we let people pander to our worst stereotypes instead of choosing someone that will elevate us?? I'm not saying Obama will make the best President. I don't have enough information yet to decide. But, I'm NOT going to discount him because he happens to be the only candidate that looks a little like me.