America is a ridiculously weird place because Americans, as most of the world knows, are obsessed with race and yet, at the same time, it is absolutely forbidden for Americans to have any opinion about race, with the possible exception of one: There Is Too Much Racism. Progressives do not even have to enforce this orthodoxy. It enjoys wall-to-wall support and is self-enforcing.
It is impossible to say something in America like, “Barack Obama looks white,” even though he obviously does:
Everyone knows that Obama is about 50% genetically African and about 50% genetically European, but everyone is also supposed to pretend that he’s black. In fact, blackness is about more than just skin color. I’d say that to be a black American is to have three things:
- black skin and typically west African facial features and kinky hair
- a heritage of ancestors being sold into slavery and being freed sometime before or after the Civil War
- the experience of being treated differently and of identifying as a member of the black community, as well as accepting as one’s own black culture
By these standards, Barack Obama is only sort of black. Though his skin is relatively dark, he has sharp facial features like an east African and like most Europeans – not a surprise, since his parents were a Kenyan and white American. His hair is typical of someone with one African parent and one European parent. Obama’s ancestors were never slaves in America – his only American ancestors were white and probably owned slaves. To some extent, I’m sure he has encountered anti-black racism. It was his reaction to other people’s reactions to him that made him “black.” But he is only black insofar as the people around him let him define himself that way. If his friends and family had stepped in and told him 15 or 20 years ago that he’s white, not black, or at least that he’s mixed, not black, he would not be the “first black president” today.
Today Barack Obama is America’s “first black president” because white progressives decided several years ago that he was just black enough to be considered black, but just white enough that he wouldn’t come off as too black. Does anyone seriously dispute this? It seems so obvious to me, and in no way does it detract from the very real possibility that his intelligence is extremely high and that he’s an immensely capable man (nb: there’s also a possibility that he’s not all that bright after all or particularly capable except with a lot of help). Harry Reid realized it, and now has to suffer for having once vocalized it. This is, of course, poetic justice, though it doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorry for him.
The amazing thing about this is that Reid gets a pass from luminaries like the Reverend Sharpton and President Obama himself because he’s known to be a progressive. Progressives can, when they intellectualize things, accept and realize that other progressives are racists, but emotionally, in the spirit of “no friends to the right and no enemies to the left,” a progressive will never admit that someone who’s not to his right is a racist, because that would make himself a racist by definition.