barack-obama

According to new survey data from the Pew Research Center, only a 27 percent of Americans consider President Obama “Black,” while just over half (52%) view him as “mixed race.” The data prompted many declare the findings “fascinating” and wonder if this signals yet another (slow) shift toward Post-Racial America. But there’s just one problem.

Can’t a person be both?

As Jenée Desmond-Harris writes in The Root, biracial people with a Black parent have historically identified (or have been seen) as Black. It’s not an either/or proposition.

The only thing fascinating (read: frustrating) is why Pew would force people to choose between these two options. By setting up “black” and “mixed race” as mutually exclusive, as it appears to have done in the “Obama: Black or Mixed Race” (emphasis mine) portion of its poll, it offered Americans a misleading choice that doesn’t reflect their social reality, and certainly doesn’t tell us anything new about how they see their president.

If participants were, in fact, forced to choose between the two options, knowing that Obama self-identifies as black and knowing, too, that he has a white parent and a black parent, it makes sense to assume that many people simply picked the most specific option: “mixed race.”

That does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean they say “no” to his being black.

…So, although some people with President Obama’s same background might adamantly choose “biracial” or “mixed race” or “just human,” for many others (this writer included), being mixed race is simply the specific way in which they’re black.

In other words, asking Americans whether Obama is black or mixed-race is like making them decide whether he lives in the White House or in Washington, D.C., whether he’s the president or a lawyer, and whether his wife is the first lady or the founder of Let’s Move.

Asking respondents to answer whether President Obama is mixed race or Black seems like a curious question, especially considering Pew did not also have an option to classify him as White—but we already know why that option wasn’t available.

Despite half of respondents classifying the President as “mixed race,” being biracial has not protected him from the racist arrows slung by his most ardent critics looking to delegitimize his presidency because a Black family now occupies the White House.

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  • tsaun

    I believe at the end of the day most blacks are mixed. But really who cares how one wants to perceive themselves, when people look at you they see what they want to see. The POTUS has been treated like sh*t as a mixed black biracial or whatever you want to call him! This should be a wake up call to those whom identify as anything but black out of pure shame oppose to just really being proud of both parents alike, which the latter is perfectly okay.

    • Liz Vasquez

      Well…I wouldn’t go that far to say that most blacks are mixed….Do we really know that? I know many black families that ‘keep it in the family’ so to speak.. Black folks–generation to generation–just like we all know white families that don’t believe in mixing. It comes down to pride at the end of the day. And I also believe that there are different degrees of mixing–someone who has a small percentage of White-European DNA, which goes back many generations, in my opinion isn’t mixed…but someone who clearly has a white parent and a black parent, clearly, they are mixed….And if it shows, then you certainly can’t dispute that. In the POTUS’ case, yes, he does look black, so it’s easy to understand that he experienced many of the crap that any other black person endures, especially black men who get it the worst. But, for instance someone like me, who doesn’t display obvious signs of Black-African ancestry, my experiences are different. There are white people or other races of people, in general that will talk to me or around me about blacks in a derogatory way, because they don’t realize that I’m mixed as well. It’s all according to what that person experiences in their life.

  • Cynth

    If he was robbing a grocery store, they would all say he is black. He looks black to me. Would you ever point to him and say “look at that white guy over there”? Come on. People are tripping. His mother is white, he is her son but the man looks black and said he is black. So he is black. Now move on cause y’all can go claim Tiger Woods, he said he ain’t black. Go on now.

  • Me

    i saw on another news site that it’s mostly black folks that consider him black. when they split out the numbers the other races were close to 75% saying they think he’s mixed or white & only black folks had majority (over 50%) thinking he’s black instead of mixed or white. and pew did have the option of white, they just didn’t show it. it was around 15-20% of people that consider him white. (blacks only had 11% in that category)

    • noirluv45

      Maybe it’s because HE considers himself Black. Who are we to dispute that.

      I still don’t get why so many Black people are so concerned about how mixed race people identify. I don’t get. Our own children have enough issues identifying with their Blackness, so why are we so up in mixed race people’s business? What does that have to do with Black folks and how we function and live?

    • Liz Vasquez

      That’s a question that I ask myself from time to time as well. I don’t understand why it’s anyone’s business really. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures. One biracial will look black, while another will look white, and yet another will look in-between, and if they were raised in a different family, culture, neighborhood than another, who are we to question their own reality. Just because your black friend down the street, with green eyes and blonde hair, calls themselves Black, and another who clearly looks mixed, will simply say that they are mixed (and not black), who are we to question them? Everyone has their own experiences and it’s not for us to judge them. People need to concern themselves about their own issues and their own communities, and you can’t look to someone else to deal with your issues or problems, you have to take care of your own. That’s how the world works.

    • jmjg

      But you are on a Site for Black woman. Shouldn’t you take your own advice? See, that is part of the problem. Folks want to not be considered a part of, but arrogantly believe they have a right to interject.

    • Liz Vasquez

      Please read my previous response to you on your response about Latinas and Mixies being on this site…hopefully, it will answer your questions here about why we’re on this site. We have common interests, even though you don’t seem to realize it right now.

    • jmjg

      There is no common interest. I am older and I know the deal. The young black women will begin to realize there is no common interest. They will see you for who you are.

    • Liz Vasquez

      Well, I don’t think you realize how old I am either, and I am probably older than you. You don’t know me, so you don’t even know me for who I am, even though I’m trying to spell it out for you. But you choose to ‘read between the lines’ and you’ve already formulated your own pre-conceived ideas. I can only give you my truth, because its all I know, and I don’t have any agenda behind it, because at the end of the day, what purpose will that serve? I’m not the wolf in sheep’s clothing that you want to think I am.

    • jmjg

      But nothing you stated explains why you choose to interject yourself into Black women’s lives. People can choose to identify how ever they want. That is not my business just like Black women’s lives are none of yours. It is really simple. That is my truth.

    • Liz Vasquez

      Okay…well, I guess I was just put in my place…in the corner. Fine, I have nothing more to say then.