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Identity Politics Stands on Its Head

Who, exactly, decides “authenticity”?

Obama’s Appeal to Blacks Remains an Open Question

CHICAGO — Looking around at the overwhelmingly white audience that was applauding Sen. Barack Obama’s luncheon speech on Iraq at a downtown hotel recently, the Rev. B. Herbert Martin expressed both satisfaction and concern.

Martin, who said he was the only black person in the crowd, was thrilled that Obama, the only African American in the Senate, could engender such enthusiasm from a white audience because it offered further proof that the Illinois Democrat would be a formidable presidential candidate. But Martin also worried that in order to run successfully Obama would have to become a different kind of politician than the one who earned the trust of voters on Chicago’s mostly black South Side as a state legislator before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

“How does he identify himself?” asked Martin, who was pastor to the late Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. “Will he continue to be an African American, or will he become some kind of new creation?” (emphasis mine)

Now, I don’t know the good Rev. Martin’s lineage, but I know for damn sure Barack Obama has more claim to the delineation “African-American” than Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and mostly likely the good Reverend’s own, judgmental self. Barack’s father was born in Africa; Mommy in Kansas. Ipso facto, he has far more claim to that identity than damn near anybody, ever, operating in American politics.

After reading Mickey Kaus’s piece, where he cites Stanley Crouch’s “Not Black Like Me” piece regarding Obama, and recent polling of “African” Americans, I am left to wonder:

How soon, and how hard, until the “Barack Obama is an Oreo” card–like those played/aimed at SC Justice Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and, most recently, Condi Rice–will get tossed onto the Presidential primary poker table as a wild card, to deny Obama his heritage? How soon do we go through the whole Sixties/Seventies bullshit of changing the definition to fit a political agenda? Negro->Black->Afro American->African American->… what’s next?

American Black American” seems the likely candidate for the next definition. After all, what are the entrenched racial propogandists gonna do when all those West Indies immigrants start cutting into the “natives” action?

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