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Pique'n'yer interest

Reshuffling the race cards



By now everybody on planet earth, and all the little green men monitoring planet earth from their flying saucers in low earth orbit, know that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic Party nomination.

Given the current political and economic climate in the U.S., the Geiger counter-shattering radioactivity of the Republican Party, and Senator John McCain’s advanced age and inconsistency (see YouTube), it’s also a virtual certainty that Obama will be elected the next leader of the free world. This is significant for so many reasons, not the least of which is Obama’s race.

If you haven’t noticed, Barack Obama is not a white man. He’s still a man, which comes as a blow to many Hillary Clinton supporters who hoped this would be the year that the U.S. would finally elect a female president, but his candidacy still breaks new ground for America. And Canada. And the U.K. And dozens of other countries where white men hold power.

Obama’s race would be of small distinction if he were running for any other job, but race and religion are still contentious issues in the U.S. There are people that won’t vote for Obama simply because of the colour of his skin, or because his middle name is Hussein and his last name rhymes with “Osama” (if you buy into the whole “secret Muslim” conspiracy theory, which would make more sense if Obama pretended to be “John Smith”). And then again, there are a huge number of people who will vote for Obama anyway, which suggests that the country is not as racially divided as we’ve been led to believe, and mature enough to look past a funny sounding name.

But while black Americans deserve to celebrate the ascension of the first black president, it’s really only a half-truth in Obama’s case. To be accurate, Obama is half-black and half-white, 50-50, and the proper name for someone of mixed race is biracial or mulatto (the debate’s still out on whether the term “mulatto” is racist). Barack Obama is a biracial candidate, although you won’t hear that word used very often during the campaign.

That’s no reason for black Americans to stop celebrating, a half black president is still a 100 per cent improvement over past administrations. But it’s almost more significant that Obama is a person of mixed race. To my mind that makes race, often the most divisive measurement of human beings, completely irrelevant — white Americans have just as much claim to Obama as black Americans, so at the end of the day he can only really be judged by the content of his character.