Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro's Other Mistake - The "If" Word (Obama as a white man, Carey as a black woman)

I suspect that this post will be more controversial than my Toto/Journey post. Or perhaps not.

This will be my first official blog post about Geraldine Ferraro's weekend comments. Frankly, I didn't even know that she had done anything until yesterday at lunch when I read a @noahdavidsimon tweet:

Goodbye Geraldine Ferarro! Bitter Old Feminist Put her in a rubber room with Jesse Jackson

So I researched what she did, and eventually ran across the March 7 article in the Daily Breeze:

When the subject turned to Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Ferraro's comments took on a decidedly bitter edge.

"I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign - to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," she said. "For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued.

This the point where a good chunk of America freaked out over what Ferraro said. However, I'd like to take a different angle with Ferraro's remarks.

Specifically, over the last sentence that I quoted.

Specifically, over the first word in that sentence - the word "if," since a valid argument could be made that Obama is a white man.

Hey, you gotta figure. If someone is half black and half white, and if that person has been identified as "black" for the last forty-something years, why not identify him as "white" for the next forty-something years to balance things out?

But that wouldn't work in our culture, because people look at Obama and categorize him as black. The most apparent precedent for this can be found in South Africa's former segregation laws, which took the approach that if you weren't completely white, then you weren't white at all. Here is what Wikipedia says about Coloured people:

The Oxford Dictionary of South African English reveals that the word "Coloured" has been used since the 1840s to refer specifically to South Africans of mixed race, while the term Cape Coloureds came into use around the turn of the twentieth century. During the nineteenth century, the people of Griqualand, who would now be known as Coloured, were known by the Afrikaans term basters....

The idea of "Coloured" people developed partly to describe the complex position of those who were neither white nor members of groups that spoke African languages. In part, the ethnic category reflects the destruction of distinct Khoisan political structures and the decline of spoken Khoikhoi language. During the 18th century in particular, Khoikhoi people in the southern parts of South Africa were squeezed between white settlement and Xhosa groups, with Khoikhoi numbers reduced by smallpox and the loss of the range they required to run cattle, the basis of the pre-settlement Khoikhoi economy.

So while many Xhosa people thus also share Khoikhoi ancestry, the white power structure designated them as Xhosa along with any other Xhosa-speaking person. The Afrikaans-speaking and increasingly diverse groups of black people who lived on white farms and in cities, on the other hand, were the descendants of the Khoikhoi serfs, the African and Asian slaves brought to South Africa from elsewhere, and the white settlers — and they spoke Afrikaans. The "Coloured" identity then became a way for whites to describe this group concisely as both not white, and not the same as African groups like the Xhosa and later, the Zulu and other groups. lists some of the National Party legislation that codified this difference between whites and non-whites. Some of the acts that specifically referenced "Coloured" people include the following:

Group Areas Act, Act No 41 of 1950
Forced physical separation between races by creating different residential areas for different races. Led to forced removals of people living in "wrong" areas, for example Coloureds living in District Six in Cape Town.

Separate Representation of Voters Act, Act No 46 of 1951
Together with the 1956 amendment, this act led to the removal of Coloureds from the common voters' roll.

Extension of University Education Act, Act 45 of 1959
Put an end to black students attending white universities (mainly the universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand). Created separate tertiary institutions for whites, Coloured, blacks, and Asians.

Coloured Persons Communal Reserves Act, Act No 3 of 1961

Preservation of Coloured Areas Act, Act No 31 of 1961

So if Barack Obama had lived in South Africa during the apartheid era, he wouldn't have been either black or white. (Sorry, link-followers, no panther dance.) He wouldn't have had any choice in the matter.

And, if FrontPageMag had any say in the matter, Obama would not be classified as black. No fan of liberals, progressives, or whatever you want to call them, FrontPageMag wrote the following in 2004 after The Speech:

Ironically, Obama is the candidate of the racial segregationist. It is not because segregationists want him to be a Senator. It is because he is classified African-American using the standards of racial segregationists.

Obama is called an African–American. However, Obama is half-white. His father, who was black, abandoned him and his mother when he was about two years old. He lived with his white mother and white grandparents.

Considering a mixed race individual an African-American is a typical liberal practice. They routinely refer to anyone who is partially black as black. Tiger Woods, Halle Berry and Mariah Carey are all mixed race celebrities regularly referred to by the liberal media as black. Tiger Woods has had the gall to complain about this. (With good reason; his mother is Asian.)

Ironically, this custom by liberals and Democrats of referring to partially black people as black is simply a reiteration of the old racist, Jim Crow, "one-eighth law." In racist locales, such as segregation-era Louisiana, people with as little as one-eighth African-American ancestry were classified as black. This classification led to dramatic curtailments of freedom. In Missouri and Mississippi, "The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void." Obama is black only by the standards of white segregationists.

By insisting that mixed-race individuals be considered black, Democrats -- the party of the unreconstructed South -- are displaying their segregationist roots.

To be fair, if Obama were a Republican, you can bet that the GOP would want to label Obama as a black man to cash in on the kewl factor.

But these are all cases in which other people are making the decision. Rather than forcing a categorization upon someone, there is also the option of self-categorization. And this is what Obama has used:

"My black activist friends from here to Boston say that you are not black, you are multiracial, and I want to know how you self-identify?" he was asked....Obama replies: "I self-identify as African American - that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it."

Tiger Woods has made a different self-identification. Anna Kessel in the Observer commented on Woods' self-identification, and the uproar that followed:

When Tiger Woods went on Oprah to declare himself mixed race, not black, it caused outrage across the United States. Many saw Woods's declaration as a rejection of his black heritage. In America, a country where the 'drops of blood' mentality still exists - measuring black identity into halves, quarters and eighths - one drop means you are black.

Even senior political figures, such as the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, weighed in. 'In America,' said Powell, 'when you look like me, you're black.' But Woods rejected such polarisation. His heritage is Caucasian, Black, Native American and Asian. He has invented a word to describe himself: Cablinasian. The debate in the US highlighted that, hidden behind the idea that the colour of a person's skin is irrelevant, there is a real issue for people who consider themselves neither black nor white....

But if you really want to see some fireworks, take a look at the comments for A Mixed Media Watch (now Racialicious) article on Mariah Carey:

I think people like Mariah would make more sense saying their white, she looks like it.

Black genes over dominate white genes, so any one with I dont know some random number…..15% of black in them, can have overwhelming black features. Even if she wanted to call herself white, I don’t think that they would let her, because its obvious that she’s not all white...
But it’s not so hard to understand what Mariah has typically done. She has exploited her “Blackness” to make a buck. She’s only “Black” when it is convenient to be “Black”.
mariah carey is hispanic although she is really mixed race. why is it okay is someone who is mixed with white/asian, hispanic/white or indian to say that they are both races and they dont have to choose a monoracial label, but if someone is mixed with black/white, black/hispanic, black/indian or black and asian they must choose a monoracial label. that is very racist discriminatory and disgusting.
mariah carey is not black she is mixed race.
mariah carey is not black. she is a half white blaxican(black-hispanic).
Mariah Carey, or any other person who has negro ancestry, does not have to identify his or herself as black, but everyone who has negro ancestry is a NEGRO.
Mariah used to be good and it didn’t matter what she was until she started this whole im black bullsh#$. She knows she can’t be cool like the black so she has to hang out with them and feel like one of them. I’m tired of her pretending to be black and saying I’m black bla bla. She is just saying that to make more money and sound good like all the black artists. You can tell by looking she is white she is more white than anything. She looks hispanic and white. NO black.
Mariah carey is, from what i read, half white. she is 25% or so Black and 25% or so hispanic. so if she had to pick ONE race, it would duhhhhhh be WHITE!
i was completely thinkin why the hell is her hair blond? i know black women with blond hair look black, but mariah and her straight long blond hair??? get some traditional black hair do or something.
MARIAH CAREY is black…white + black = BLACK !
I am mixed race ( Black and White). I call myself black because I want to. I have an Italian father and I am proud of him. He has no problem with me embraces my blackness. If Tiger Woods can make up some ridiculous shit like Cablasian then Mariah Carey can be whatever she wants to be- Mariah Carey is a grown azz woman !! Just because she chooses to primarily celebrate her black culture does not making her a hater of all of her other “mixes”.
mariah carey is venezauelan and venezauelan’s are NOT black, they are not white either.
I totally agree and believe that it is self haters pushing the multiracial movement not rational minded mixed race people that just want to be respected and acknowledged. The self haters want their own category so they can be “exclusive” and viewed as better. Give me a break.

And that's a small excerpt - I didn't even read over 150 subsequent comments on the topic.

As Geraldine's hero's husband might say,

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'if' is. If the--if he--if 'if' means if and never has been universally recognized as such, that is not--that is one thing."

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