(STILL THINK OBAMA'S NOT BLACK? SEE MY 2008 UPDATE ON THIS HERE.)
My great thanks to Debra Dickerson for pushing the plunger that officially blows up the Barak Obama and race spot. The well-regarded essayist and author went "there" in too many ways for one post, but let me begin with just one aspect of the most obvious of her bombs: “Obama isn't black.”
Let’s leapfrog for the moment the obligatory and deserved howls of "why you (of all black pundits) have to go laying down rules for who is and isn't black?" The first fifty or so of the more than 350 (and rapidly counting) letters in response to her January 22nd Salon piece bombed her back pretty good on this score.
Instead of contesting her assertion that Obama isn't’t black, let me call her on it and raise Dickerson one rhetorical point: so what?
What planet will stop turning on which axis the day after Barack Obama might become the first (fill in the blank) to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States? What part of the racial justice macrocosm will be rent asunder should he actually be elected?
Dickerson seems to think a president or even a nominee Obama will allow white folks to make a wholesale transfusion in their sin-soaked racial souls, exchanging the flow of guilt and shame over slavery and its still toxic legacies for the mixed yet pure blood of Kansas and Kenya in Obama’s veins. Yes, white America seems poised to trip over itself on the way to answering a perceived Obama altar call, homing in on a frequency many black folks don't want to hear. Like Dickerson, there will be more than a few African-Americans (dare I say authentic African-Americans?) who feel that coming to "Jesus" in the body of Obama this way lets white folks off way too easy.
White Americans, Dickerson complains, are still not ready to 'oooh and ahhh' over the most worthy ‘conventional’ African-American politicians who are not only descended from American slaves (very important to Dickerson, however ironic since slaves were technically not Americans) but approach the throne of power in the name of their enslaved African ancestors. In hitting white Obama-mania on that point, Dickerson could be speaking for a significant number of black folks.
None of this will stop black America from flying to the polls for Obama on winged feet, as Dickerson concedes. But the stake she has driven into the ground for the pundits to pound or pull out amounts to this: in whose blood must white guilt and responsibility be washed, Barack Obama’s or Martin Luther King’s? Which one is the true lamb, worthy of taking on 400 years of American racial sin?
My question, of course, assumes we take Dickerson's premise of Obama’s non-blackness at face value. Because if King and Obama are of one blood, bitterness because white folks protesteth their love for Obama too much will quickly be dissolved in it.
Time, and a really good time it will be for this conversation, will tell.