What Color is Your President?

The Pew Research Center recently released a report on racial attitudes in America. The report is based on a telephone survey conducted in October and November 2009.

The survey included a question about people’s perception of President Barack Obama’s racial identity. Here are the results:

Source: Pew Research Center

Question: How does Obama perceive his own racial identitiy? That’s discussed here in the post Barack Obama, Black, Biracial, Whatever.

Barack Obama, Black, Biracial, Whatever

Question: is Barack Obama black or biracial? And does it matter?

There have been discussions about that all over the Internet, and no doubt in living rooms and business offices across the country.

For many black folks, it’s this simple: if he has a drop of black blood, he’s black. So people just need to acknowledge that and deal with it.

But it isn’t that simple. Being biracial IS a different cultural experience than being black. Adrienne Maree Brown makes the point in COLORLINES magazine’s RaceWire blog:

…I have to just share this temporary moment of swelling heart boom boom because Obama, Barack Hussein Obama, a half-breed, Hafrican, mulatto, black and white cookie, creamed coffee, is-he-is-or-is-he-ain’t, mixed, multi-, biracial, more-than-a-drop, cafe au lait like me is going to be the Democratic nominee for President.

No one will want to remember it that way, it’s too advanced to get into, its big enough that he’s a black man, the black candidate who has been running against the woman candidate in our oversimplified media vomitorium of electoral coverage.

But as a woman who grew up with that special experience of visiting the far reaches of the American experience as represented by the racial spectrum in my veins, as a biracial woman who takes note of all the multicultural straddlers out there leading and supporting movements, I want to take a moment that we rarely get.

Mariah Carey, goddess that she is, isn’t out there forging the path of righteousness for those who are undefining the boundary. Halle Barry wants nothing to do with the gray space. We haven’t had many public figures giving speeches about their mixed heritage, out there publicly applying the unique ability to go beyond temporary bridge-building to the true and evolutionary, fusionistic type of movement building which is a survival mechanism honed at the dinner table for multiracial babies.

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