Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That Obama is Black is Anything But Special (Unless One Only Considers the Democratic Party Side of History)

I. Some Concepts

In the United States there is the so-called one-drop rule that asserts that "a person with any trace of African ancestry is considered black unless having an alternative non-white ancestry which he or she can claim, such as Native American, Asian, Arab, or Australian aboriginal". This means in practice that, for instance, a person with seven white great-grandparents and one black great-grandparent is considered black.

This rule can be considered a form of hypodescent practice, which means "determining the lineage of a child of mixed-race ancestry by assigning the child the race of his or her more socially subordinate parent".

There are countries, like Brazil, that follow the opposite hyperdescent practice.


II. What is Very Interesting but Will Not Be Discussed in this Post

We are not going to discuss in this post what are the origins of the one-drop rule in USA and whether that rule has an effect in perpetuating some aspect of racist mentality or whether that rule enhances the struggle for civil rights and power of blacks in USA because with its use the actual number of blacks is bigger and a bigger number contributes to bigger power.

We will oversee as well whether refering to the descendants of European emigrants in USA simply as "Americans" while at the same time the descendants of forced African emigrants in USA are referred to as "African-Americans" is a racist practice or not.


III. When Finally We Say What We Wanted to Say in the First Place

Since we have decided to leave undiscussed the points in section II, we then consider Barack Obama as a black person (when actually, and not only because we are Portuguese, we really consider him a mestiço or mulato or, simply, "half-white and half-black", not necessarily in this order).

Now, what we want to say in this post is that it is simply ridiculous all the fuss the European lefts have been and are doing about the fact that USA might have finally a black president. Of course it is something big, important and GOOD that in a country with such a history of racism - a black person ascends to the highest political position.

But it is not true that this possible fact is that new or even revolutionary:

In the USA, the Secretary of State is the second highest position of the President's Cabinet: "The United States Secretary of State (commonly abbreviated as SecState) is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence".

Now, for the period 2001-2005, the Secretary of State was Colin Powell, a black person, under the President George W. Bush. And he was followed by Condoleezza Rice, a black person, also under the same President.

This is, since January 2001, that the second highest political position of the most powerful country of the world has been held by black people. Our good friend Wiki tells us too that Powell was the first black to serve as Secretary of State and that Rice was the second. She was also the second woman taking that post.

That is why the fact that a black might ascend to the first political position of the USA is not that new or revolutionary.

But then, why the fuss? Is it because the ascension in politics of black people is only important and meaningful when it takes place on the "left" side of the political spectrum? When the Democrats make it happen that a black person gets a high political post then that's all great and revolutionary but when the Republicans do it, and do it BEFORE, then that's something to ignore? One contribution to the dissipation of racism against blacks is deserving of notice and celebration only when it comes from the "left"? Or is it that only the position of President counts, anything lower is just peanuts??!

And it is also really very strange that Europeans consider Obama as a black. Of course, the (mixed) race of Obama is much more important an issue in USA than in Europe. And the relevant context for this discussion is not Europe but USA and, in that context, Obama is definitely black. But no European would seriously refer to Obama as a black should Obama be an European politician. If that happened, another European would normally make the correction and say that Obama is not black, he is mestiço, or would just mention that Obama is as much black as he is white.

It is even stranger that people celebrate so much the possibility of a black becoming President of the USA while at the same time that same people never celebrated that the Secretary of State of the USA has been for the last eight years either a black man or a black woman.

Considering the European lefts, it seems there is some kind of political racism or politicism: it is very good and very historical and great that you are a highly successfull black politician but only and as long as you are left-winger. Black people in major political positions, as long as they are right-wingers, are simply irrelevant.

Finally, it is also strange and ridiculous that some European left-winger intelectuals and politicians talk about the USA finally assigning important positions to blacks. Where are the blacks in European politics? Have someone seen them? Where are they, say, in left-winger political parties? How many black Foreign Affairs Ministers are there (or were there) in Europe? Why and "where" from, then, comes this moral superiority of some European intelectuals?? If someone is to learn a lesson in social mobility of minorities from the examples of Powell, Rice and Obama - that someone is definitely not the US.


And really finally, it is also very strange that so may European lefts talk about the left-winger Obama and talk about the Democratic Party as a left party. Obama a leftist? Democratic Party left-winger? From an European perspective??

But oh well!.... that's another interesting thing that is going to be discussed only in another post...

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