I’m not as fascinated with a new Pew poll that purportedly shows that most Americans identify President Barack Obama as “mixed race” as opposed to “Black.” Forgive me, but as much as I love Mariah Carey’s “Outside,” there are too many contemporary reminders that as long as you appear visibly Black in this country, your *ss could be 19 different ethnicities and still just be a “n*gger” to way too many Americans.
In the “Next America” report that the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza cites, 52 percent of Americans label Obama as “mixed race” whereas only 27 percent view him as “Black.” When broken down by race, while Blacks see him as Black over mixed race (55 to 34 percent), Whites are the opposite (53 percent as mixed race, 24 percent as Black). As for Hispanics, they overwhelmingly view Obama as mixed race as opposed to Black (61 percent to 23 percent).
Call me cynical, but I don’t believe most White people view Obama as “mixed race.” That sounds like political correctness for the pollster. A “Do It For The Vine”-like performance for the survey, if you will.
As far as Latinos go, given Latino is an ethnicity versus a race, perhaps they’re more inclined not to oversimply someone’s background. Or perhaps some of it is rooted in more dubious reasons. Whatever the case, I question the significance of this survey.
I agree with The Root’s Jenée Desmond–Harris that the terms “mixed race” and “Black” are not mutually exclusive. Desmond-Harris is correct when she writes:
“Whether you love or hate the legacy of racism and the “one-drop rule” that likely perpetuated this way of thinking, and whether you wish we could all stop talking about color altogether, this is the world we live in. And it’s not new at all.”
The President explained why he identifies as Black in a 2007 interview with CBS News:
KROFT: Yet at some point, you decided that you were Black?
OBAMA: Well, I’m not sure I decided it. I think if you look African American in this society, you’re treated as an African American. And when you’re a child in particular that is how you begin to identify yourself. At least that’s what I felt comfortable identifying myself as.
“In truth, debating how best to describe Obama’s race may become moot in future years due to the rise of interracial marriage, as Pew’s Paul Taylor documents.”
This sentence is so sweet that if I read it again I may need insulin before the end of the quarter. Unfortunately, it’s as naive as a toddler’s belief in the Easter Bunny.
What I’m more curious to know is the value people assign to those who are minorities or identify as mixed race.
Such answers provide a more thorough assessment of where we are in terms of racial attitudes. Having more leeway in how you identify yourself doesn’t matter much if you are ultimately bound to the same structural racism as any other “regular Black person.”
As of now, if you look Black, you still are treated as less than. Thanks to the poll, now we can confirm that there are a few more non-Black people willing to say they see the first Black president as “mixed race.”
To wit, here’s what the first Black Attorney General Eric Holder had to say about the treatment he and President Obama have faced last week during the National Action Network conference:
“The last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly, and divisive adversity. If you don’t believe that, you look at the way — forget about me, forget about me. You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee — has nothing to do with me, forget that. What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
But you know,”fascinating” poll, guys.
Michael Arceneaux blogs at thecynicalones.com, tweets at @youngsinick, and praises Beyoncé’s name everywhere he goes.