• What black president?

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Many years ago, on an episode of “Star Trek,” the noted impressionist/actor Frank Gorshin played an alien who was being pursued by another alien from his planet, bent on his destruction.

The Enterprise crew couldn’t understand why the two hated each other for being “different.” They were, after all, one half black and one half white. Eventually, it was explained that one was black on the right and white on the left, the other vice-versa. Thus, shades of difference.

That came to mind when I began pondering why seemingly everyone, the new President-elect included, insists we have elected our first “black” president?

In truth, race had no influence on which way I cast my vote this year, but the continuing references to race kept me thinking about it more than I otherwise would have.

In the earlier days of our nation when slavery was legal, and even up to and throughout the civil rights era of the ’60s, the idea that someone had even a drop of “black blood” in their makeup was viewed as a negative by many “white” people.

They even came up with a system for encoding the degree of “black blood” one had, using such terms as quadroons, maroons and octaroons. Many parts of black society also had a way of reckoning such things — “high yellow” being one of the descriptors for people of mixed race and light skin.

Such designations have largely faded away … until this presidential race when it became fashionable, and politically correct, to refer to Barrack Obama as “black.”

Usually when one says someone is “black,” they mean both parents are black. However, as is common knowledge, Obama’s mother is white. In my view he, therefore, shouldn’t automatically be regarded as “black,” even though that is the descriptor he has chosen for himself. In fact, mathematically — if not socially — he could just as accurately be described as white.

I suppose it depends on one’s individual view whether not having “pure” white blood makes someone “black,” but to me that smacks of the days when being even partially black was a bad thing, something to be hidden or regarded as a negative.

That was wrongheaded. But have we reached a point at which it now has become a negative to be “white,” and ignore one’s white heritage by calling oneself black? That smacks of merely one more type of racial prejudice.

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About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

One response to “• What black president?”

  1. bob Hendrick says :

    Right On! Those thoughts have been going though my head since I discovered that President-elect Obama had a white mother and a black father. The best comment I have heard to date was on CNN (I believe) by a black bishop from Texas who was being interviewd shortly after the election. He said, “I choose to view the new president as a man who happens to be a person of color”. If this nation is ever to come together as one people, that perspective should be burned into our collective brains.

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