Debating Whether Obama is Black, White, Biracial or “Other”?

During the long electoral campaign, and now after the election, there has been continuing debate over how black President-elect Barack Obama is. Media reporters and pundits have recently, even excitedly, accented questions about whether he is black, white, biracial, or some other mix. Many like Associated Press reporter, Jesse Washington, have recently asserted that increased intermarriages and a “decline of racism” in the United States have been

dissolving ancient definitions. The candidate Obama, in achieving what many thought impossible, was treated differently from previous black generations. And many white and mixed-race people now view President-elect Obama as something other than black.

These post-election efforts by various people to make President Obama substantially or mostly white, not really black, fit well into a white racial framing that cannot accept a highly talented and successful black American for what he (or she) really is, but must find in him (or her) some white-like aspects in order to make him an “exception to his race”—to favor him, vote for him, or regard him with respect. Blackness is so negatively viewed within the dominant white frame that the majority of whites seem to feel it necessary to assert his whiteness (e.g., his light skin color or his mother and grandmother) over his blackness (e.g., his father or African relatives).

Washington notes later on that this new, mostly white (but some biracial) folks’ questioning of the blackness of Obama will create negative reactions from many black Americans

who feel that at their moment of triumph, the rules are being changed to steal what once was deemed worthless — blackness itself.

We also see in this reporter’s words more “decline of racism” talk that will curse us over the coming four years because it fits well into the contemporary “colorblind” version of the old white racial frame that, among other things, insists there have been shifts in numbers of individual actions such as blatant frontstage bigotry and hate crimes (which actually may not have decreased in the last fifteen years–we do not have good data), yet always ignores the continuing reality of institutional and systemic racism.

Over the next four years, how will President Obama be viewed by most whites? As fully black American, or as more white than black?

And will he be willing or able to act aggressively against racial discrimination in this society?

What is your take on all this?