An Appeal Beyond Race

An Appeal Beyond Race
The New York Times
August 1, 2004

ON Tuesday, at about 9 p.m., Barack Obama was an Illinois state legislator running for the Senate.

A half-hour later, after he had given the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, he was the party’s hot ticket. Pundits even predicted he would be the first black president.

That’s a lot to hang on one speech. But the reaction to his speech tells you a lot about racial politics in the United States today.

Malcomson doesn’t realize that Obama represents one step forward and two steps backward. While his mixed racial ancestry and white family members are adding to his popularity, he is also being used to reinforce the old racist idea that even the closest white relatives are never a mulatto’s “people” but black strangers are. Obama’s mother and maternal grandparents are effecively reduced from the people who raised him to mere white gene donors to the “black race.”

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