What’s Really Eating Obama/Wright? by Julia Gorin • July 28, 2008 • Printer-friendly
[The discomfort of light skin.]
Barack Obama has said that his mixed-race heritage would serve to make him a uniter. But the violently militant roots of Obama’s church of 20 years, which advocate “the destruction of the white enemy,” along with Obama’s well known associations with hate-mongers point to the opposite being true.
In fact, it is precisely Obama’s mixed-race heritage that handicaps him in the task of racial unifying. This is something that was explained to me several years ago in an email from a reader in Colorado, who seemed to be acquainted with the kinds of complexes that develop in “light-skinned” black people. He wrote, with my emphasis:
For those familiar with the Afro-American community in this country, black prejudice toward mixed race people is bitter, vitriolic, and in some cases homicidal . . . Blacks of lighter skin color, or who bear European features, are branded “chocolates,” and verbally and socially abused. Their racial and ideological purity is questioned . . . I am not a victim of a mixed race prejudice. But I have seen some of the consequences. I know the children of mixed race parents are subjected to school ground hazing. I know that some mixed race kids, especially those who are very light complexioned, over-identify with their “blackness.” . . . It’s as if they have to prove how “black” they are by repeating all the appropriate racial political mantras showing the proper amounts of disdain and anger and culture consciousness . . .
I grew up in a very bad home environment myself, so I recognize the symptoms of a life lived in fear…Anger is a survival emotion…Fear and shame are the main features of what emotional life these kids have left to them. A person who hates himself, hates others and lives on adrenaline…The great tragedy of the “successes” of the civil rights movement is that while they have achieved “rights and respect” they have bought their respect via anger and at the expense of intimacy. Nobody likes being around angry people…You can’t legislate intimacy, nor obtain it through political activism. And there’s the rub.
I’ve noted this over-identification with race myself, once in a light-skinned Guyanese man who as a baby had been adopted along with his twin brother by American Jews; he once told me casually that he was glad O.J. Simpson was acquitted, considering how many lynchings of blacks went unpunished earlier in the country’s history.
The racially over-identifying phenomenon also puts into perspective another product of a white mother and black father, actress Halle Berry. Recall the overstated emphasis on her blackness in her 2002 Oscar acceptance speech. As she repeatedly pointed out, it was the first Best Actress Oscar to go to a black woman (for Monster’s Ball). In the midst of laying the symbolism of herself on thickly, she thanked her family—her mother and “the only father I ever knew”, with the camera panning to a white woman sitting next to Berry’s white, Italian-American manager.
Children of mixed marriages often seem to choose their black half, invariably blaming “society” for “imposing” that choice on them. Another biracial child who made this choice is daughter of Color Purple author Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, whose father is a Jewish civil rights lawyer named Mel Leventhal (the more hands-on parent while Mom was out being famous). When Rebecca, who wrote a memoir in 2000 titled Black White and Jewish, grew up, she switched to her mother’s last name instead of her father’s, supposedly to preempt his rejection of her, which she always felt, rationally or not, was impending.
And now we have the case of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, who recently told Blender magazine that, according to FoxNews.com, “‘Gangsta rap’ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other”:
Keys, 27, said she’s read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ’em dead.” . . . Another of her theories: The bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled “by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing.”
As if the Black Panthers weren’t an inspiration for gangsta rap. But reading this item and thinking it smacks of overcompensation for something—given Keys’ mainstream appeal and success—I looked her up on Wikipedia. Sure enough, Mom was white. After her parents divorced, she was raised by the white mother.
Jeremiah Wright, however, does not come from mixed parentage, so what’s eating Jeremiah? It so happens that the man hates his own skin, for he is lighter than all the half-white folks above, and is a case study of the “too-white” syndrome. According to a March op-ed by Mort Klein, who attended the same high school as Wright, Central High School of Philadelphia was an elite boy’s school and 95 percent white. Wright was brought up in white upper middle class “in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in the Germantown section… a lovely neighborhood to this day.” Here’s what likely happened: As a kid, Jeremiah was ragged on and resented by fellow blacks because of his “lightness”, accused of not really being a “brother” and resented for being able to sometimes even pass for white and get better treatment—or at least no scared looks—from white people. As difficult as race relations were, Jeremiah may have even had white girls checking him out, which really would have been too much for his black peers. Poor Jeremiah didn’t fit in with the brothers, or with Whitey. So what could he do? Light bulb: out-black and out-anti-white them all by peddling the darkest kind of dark and becoming the uber-black leader of the blacker blacks.
I would bet money that this is what formed the good reverend, whose resentments attracted, and helped form, Barack Obama. The mixed-race Obama is the ultimate racial divider.
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