Apr 4 2011

DeBlackifying Barack Obama

Barack Obama and his Maternal Grandmother

The fact that President Barack Obama is the product of an interracial marriage has led folks of every ethnicity to argue about whether he should be calling himself “Black.” Many people are of the opinion that he should identify himself as “Biracial” to more accurately reflect his ethnic mixture.

It seems to me Obama’s own rationale for referring to himself as a Black man is the opinion that matters most, because what is being identified here are his life and his experiences. It astounds me that so many people have taken it upon themselves to inform the man that he is “not Black.”

It is true that in some places in the world Obama would not be referred to as a Black man because in some cultures the term Black denotes an African phenotype in which European characteristics are not visible–that is, the person does not appear to be mixed with anything that is non-indigenous African.

On this continent, however, “Black” is not a reference to dark skin or “full-bloodedness,” but to membership in a community of Americans of African descent who share similar cultural experiences  and are exposed to similar social challenges that cannot be fully mitigated by economic or educational status (or by being mixed with European genes.)

Being Black is membership in one extremely diverse group of people who are daily responding to a supremacist construct in which any measurable deviation from Whiteness can make one socially “cast out” and deny one the many privileges White folks take for granted.

Being wealthy, well-educated and/or lighter-skinned can (and very often does) significantly mitigate racial discrimination, but smart, rich, light-skinned Black Americans will still experience countless instances in their lives where they are viewed (not just by Whites, by the way) through a supremacist lens that labels them LESS __________ (insert positive quality here) than their White counterparts. Driving While Black does not require much pigment, nor does being denied justice, housing or employment. All that is required is for the decision maker in the situation to view you through a lens that tells them you are less trustworthy, less civilized, less attractive, less responsible, less intelligent, less law-abiding, etc.

If the discriminating lens of white supremacy did not exist, ethnic identity would not be such a big deal. Racial labels would not come with such political and social baggage and Obama might actually choose to describe himself as bi-ethnic or multiracial, but so might millions of other “Black” Americans who do not have one white parent.

My Black father was mixed with White, but both of his parents were considered Black. Just how far back in our lineage should we be reaching to rename our black ancestors “Bi-racial” or “Multi-ethnic” when we discover they have some mixture of European, Native American, Asian or Hispanic DNA?

If Obama is not Black, then neither is anyone else who has a non-black ancestor or two. Spend a few hours on Ancestry.com and you’ll quickly recognize that millions of so-called “Black” Americans are actually “Multi-racial.”  So, in America, “Black” already means “mixed” most of the time anyway. At some point the insistence on deBlackifying folks just becomes ridiculous and redundant.

How Black is Barack Obama?

He is as Black as it takes to be Black in America.

This is old news, so why am I writing about it today? Because it is reflective of one of the major themes in my novel, Skin Deep, and this blog/fansite is dedicated to all things Skin Deepish! (My novel’s protagonist looks white, but has been raised by her famous Black jazz musician father to identify herself as Black.)

Dec 13 2010

Nicole Richie Designs a New Life

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for any story that at it’s heart is about transformation. I think that’s why I love HGTV so much–you know–the creativity and elbow grease and coordinating fabrics of it all.

Watching those funky old fixer-uppers being transformed into stunning new homes just gets me giddy. It’s like a metaphor of sorts for how hopeful we can all be about the caterpillar-to-butterfly potential we humans possess.

So, it’s no wonder Nicole Richie’s very public journey from awkward/wayward teenager to mommy/mogul/author/wife is my kind of true-life fairy tale.

In a town like Hollywood, where so many of the young up-and-coming are sidelined by alcohol and drugs, it was no real shock to anyone when Lionel Richie’s adopted daughter Nicole began her early slide into getwastedness (along with her then best friend Paris Hilton). At age 22 Nicole was arrested for DUI and charged with possession of heroin. By the time she was 25, she had racked up another DUI charge and was sentenced to jail time. She lost so much weight we all diagnosed her with an eating disorder (which she says was never true), and then, to make matters worse she (gasp) went and got herself knocked up by a rock star. Well, damn. Go ahead and throw in the towel on that little privileged chick, right? Not so fast…

Don’t tell Sarah and Bristol Palin I said so, but the best thing that ever happened to Nicole Ritchie was unprotected sex with Good Charlotte  front man Joel Madden. Not that I’m advocating that for the average spoiled, out of control, rich reality television personality. Heavens NO. But I do think that becoming pregnant and being in a loving relationship with a man like Joel turned out to be a perfect storm that blew Nicole out of the fast lane and onto a path towards real maturity.

Nicole sat down with Robin Roberts in September to talk about her new, extremely busy life as the mother of two children, owner of four successful businesses, and author of two novels.

On Saturday, December 11th, Nicole and Joel stood before Reverend Run at her father’s Beverly Hills estate and became husband and wife.

Congratulations to you and your family, Nicole. Your metamorphosis is nothing short of awesome, and I hope you never stop reaching for the sky.

Little known facts about Nicole:

  • She was born Nicole Camille Escovedo
  • She was blessed with two super-talented godfathers: Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.
  • Her clothing lines are named “House of Harlow” and “Winter Kate” after her daughter Harlow Winter Kate Madden.
  • In February 2010 her Richie-Madden Children’s Foundation funded the development of a playground in Los Angeles to encourage children to get outside and play
  • She plays cello, piano, and violin.
  • She stands to inherit 200+ million from her father’s estate.