In an otherwise excellent editorial in the New York Times (“Deracialization: It’s a Different Country”, Monday, June 9), Prof. Krugman points out that: “we’re about to elect an African-American president … racial division, which has driven US politics rightward for more than four decades, has lost much of its sting.”

To further decrease the sting, I propose some psycho-semantical antiracist advance.

Why to systematically call Obama an “African-American” candidate? If this is an allusion to his father’s origin in Africa, by making this labeling systematic, one is giving African origin more weight than to his mother’s origin in Kansas. Is then his father’s origin more prominent than his mother’s because his skin was black whereas his mother’s skin was white? Would one label him “African-American” if his father had been white, born in Cape Town? So then it’s all about color? Is black such strong stuff that it warrants a permanent, hereditary label?

Now, according to the Nazis, a person was Jewish under two conditions:
a) that person had more than one Jewish great grandparent, and,
b) Hitler had not given that person Honorary Aryan status.

(Even pure Jews could be made Aryan by Hitler’s pen. Thousands were.)

To keep on calling Obama an “African-American” rather than a European-American is a marker of racism and sexism. Indeed, on the face of it, Obama is just as “European-American” as “African-American”. Thus, by not calling him a “European-American” one weighs black more than white, and father more than mother. It’s similar to what the Nazis were doing; if one had some Jewish origin, then one was labeled a Jew.

Distinction is the first necessary step towards discrimination. To avoid the later, better to root out the former. Ironically, at the very least, one could at least be at least a bit more modern, follow Hitler, and make Obama an Honorary Aryan. After one of his Marshals, a pure Jew, had done well in Norway, Hitler made him and his family honorary Aryans, thus not defining them according to their origin anymore.

Racial divisions start with sharp semantical divisions, where there should be none. Obama is a US citizen, end of the story. Such is the non racial future. Stop calling them names, if you don’t want to insult them.

Patrice Ayme.

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  1. Leah Says:

    From a European perspective, I understand your point.

    From the perspective of the black people in the US, I beg to disagree. The kind of pride his nomination gave the black community (in both America and Africa) is enormous. Don’t take that away from them.

    Strategic essentialism works both ways. But no black Americans are fooled to forget that Obama has a white mother. Only bigots outside the black community forget his European heritage.

    The hyphenated words regarding race and ethnicity in America, created for the purpose of political correctness, have been debated and there is nothing new. The question we should ask, really, is to what extent, a sincere, enlightened, insightful, forward-looking, mix-raced presidential candidate, hopefully eventually a mixed-raced President elect, will be able to mitigate the racial and ethnic schism in American politics and society?

    If Obama can really do some good to the black communities in North America and/or Africa, because he feels the sense of obligation the label “African American” gives him, so be it. People will be thankful to his Kansian mother.


  2. patriceayme Says:

    I understand the pride thing, and my heart goes to them, as Bill Clinton would say. But I had a serious point. Feel-Good is never a serious point, as far as I am concerned (I do it all day long).

    The US administration, government, people, procedures, semantics are impregnated with the concept of race. Laws used to prevent “interracial” marriage (up to Obama’s times!). One cannot have a non racist society if one is obsessed by race. The USA is still obsessed by race, and enough is enough.

    I tried to point out how grotesque the racial obsession was in the case of Obama, and that there was a not-so-hidden hyper racist way of thinking behind it: a touch of black, and it has got to be the black plague, marking one for ever, down the generations…

    Time to handle racism with high philosophical explosives. Obama is an excellent occasion to be done with Nazism light, once and for all. Soon people will not see his race, and that will be excellent.

    Obama’s hidden strength is that he was brought up in a non racial society (Hawaii), by white grand parents, and went to one of the best (private) schools in the USA (Punahou). So he did not come out as damaged goods, but as superlative mental material, primed for ultimate leadership. Amen.


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