Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm not (Black) like the rest of them

In the last couple of weeks I have noticed something interesting concerning race and two of the most well known people of color in America and the world for that matter. Recently a golf channel anchor woman made a remark about lynching in reference to Tiger Woods. Also recently Hillary and Bill Clinton seemed to go out of their way to interject race into the Democratic Presidential campaign.

The reactions of Tiger and Barack were amazingly similar. Both seemed to want to down play the incidents. Tiger said he wasn't bothered by the lynching remark and Barack quickly accepted explanations from the Clintons who said their remarks were misinterpreted.

I found it interesting how quickly both Tiger and the Senator wanted to get away from the race topic. Could it be that they both don't want to remind White Americans that they are Black or at least part Black?

What reasons would they have for trying to down play their respective Blackness? In Tigers case could money be the driving factor? I'm pretty sure White people spend more on golf than African Americans.

And for Senator Obama could it be he doesn't want to be known as the Black candidate?

If Tiger made a big deal of the lynching statement would that have tied him too closely with being Black? Did Barack and his camp fear showing outrage at the Clinton remarks would make White people say "yep he's just as Black as the rest of them"?

Is being Black or part Black a hindrance to them both in both their minds? Do Black people have to down play their Blackness to be accepted by Whites?

Obviously I don't have any direct knowledge as to why both Tiger and Barack seemed to handle these situations in such similar fashion. I can only speculate that each has been advised to not act (too) Black. That may mean not reacting to racist overtures and not being offended publicly by such incidents.

If what I think is true then will Barack Obama go out of his way if elected President to not seem too Black? Will he ignore Black issues as to not draw attention to his own Blackness?

What Tiger Woods does doesn't really concern me. However having a Black President who is shy about appearing Black or at least too Black does concern me.



What do you think? Was Barack Obama trying to down play his Blackness?



23 comments:

Anali said...

Very interesting post. I really think that Barack knows he has to focus on the big picture and not get distracted. I really think that the Clintons are throwing out everything they can to distract him. He's too smart to let it get to him.

Now Tiger is another issue. I could be totally wrong, but I don't think that the remark bothered him, because I really don't believe he identifies as being black.

tasha212 said...

I think that Obama is in somewhat of a precarious position. He has to be careful not to alienate white voters. As for Tiger, he's not black, he's caublasian.

Tasha
www.thesowincircle.blogspot.com

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

I agree with the previous posters. I'm guessing that Obama doesn't want to focus on race (his) because he wants American voters to know that he will do what he feels is in the best interest of all races, not just African-Americans.

trina said...

hmm, an additional question would be are we trying play UP the fact that barack is (part) black? with all the expectations placed upon him that go along with that.

in the end, the president of the united states should be a representative of ALL americans. to me, that means a qualified person from ALL of the groups that make up america should have a chance at holding that office, not that the person holding that office should be biased towards his/her sub-group.

that's why i also think it's legitimate to want to be "the candidate who is black" instead of "the black candidate".

Nick said...

I think it's true that black politicians still have to play down their blackness to appear 'normal' to the white folks (and maybe some black folks as well). If they appear too black then all the white stereotypes of blacks emerge i.e. they'll only do things for blacks, they're black militants, they're pro-Bin Laden and all that nonsense. The unfortunate reality is if you want to get elected you have to avoid alienating prejudiced voters.

Brianna said...

I think people too often put their own ideas on what "black" is and how black people should respond, act, say, do, etc. In the case of Tiger Woods, I would never imagine that he would have the same emotions or reactions as other Blacks might. First of all, he's mixed. That doesn't mean he necessarily should act one way or the other, but it does mean he has a lot of other influences and such that factor in. I think he focuses on just being Tiger and I think that's ok. Whatever he feels, however he identifies, is ok.

In the case of Barack, I think it's important that we don't lose sight of the fact that he is trying to become the president of the United States, not just any old black guy who gives his opinion on things. Whether or not that is his true, gut reaction is something we can't really know. If he really wasn't that bothered, I don't necessarily think that means he is downplaying his blackness because that would mean that all Blacks must think and react the same way and how can that be? We are still individuals and our feelings and emotions are compromised of more than just the fact that we're black, even though I'm sure that is a huge part of it. I have always had the impression that Barack is very secure with who he is. I think his goal first and foremost is to get elected and hopefully he can do that and not alienate people while still staying true to himself at the same time. Personally, I don't want this election to be about race, I would rather it be about the best person for the job. Personally, I think he is...and he's black. Bonus.

Dark & Stormy said...

I'm tired of hearing talk about Obama not addressing his "blackness" or not discussing race. What does that have to do with his being a qualified candidate?

Will the approval of only 12% of the U.S. population get him into office? If this were your typical white candidate, race would not be a topic. Why not? Is white not a race as well?

I also think that Obama nor Tiger really give a damn. Sure, the news anchor's comment is disturbing. But we are only 50+ years off Jim Crow's tail. Therefore, we [unfortunately] still expect comments from folks like Imus, O'Reilly, and Ms. Golf Channel.

Sometimes the most efficient way to kill is with kindness.

Lisa said...

I totally agree with Anali's statement. . . I'm disappointed that the Clinton's are now throwing in the kitchen sink, but I'm not suprised. And, just from what I've seen of Tiger Woods' reactions in the past, I don't really think he gives a damn. . . not at all.

Tami said...

MDC,

Great minds think alike. I wrote about this today on my blog, but I did have a different perspective:

http://whattamisaid.blogspot.com/2008/01/do-you-boogie.html

I agree with several of the posters above. I think Obama CAN'T respond too vociferously to the Clinton's race-baiting, and still win the Dem nomination.

SheCodes said...

I think that Barack knows Black Americans much better than we think he does. He knew that we would explode all over Hillary, and cling to him over any whiff of racial bias. We would do all of the dirty work, and he will come out smelling like a rose.

It worked for him. Blacks are being cunningly played from both sides.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Anali,

I agree about Tiger. And the Clintons were desperate after Iowa. Expect more of the same if Barack wins in South Carolina.

_____________________________________

Tasha,

I'll never forget that cablinasian thing.
___________________________________

Brown Girl Gumbo,

I agree that seems to be his strategy. He is unchartered waters so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
___________________________________

Trina,

Maybe but isn't that normal? Don't you think Italians are having similar conversations about Rudy and Mormons about Mitt?
___________________________________

Nick,

That is a terrible position to be in, trying not to alienate bigots.
___________________________________

Brianna,

I don't think we will be able to escape the race element in the campaign. This will be especially true if Barack continues to win in the primaries.

And I don't really have an idea of how he should react, I'm simply examining how he did react.

I certainly agree that a Black person should not be expected to react in a certain way.
____________________________________

Dark & Stormy,

First; I'm not people, I'm me and I'm in the process of figuring out who I want to vote for. That means, I will examine how Sen. Obama reacts in certain situations.

You say "If this were your typical white candidate, race would not be a topic. Why not? Is white not a race as well? "

My answer is don't you think Mormons are examining Mitt as to how Mormon his platform is. Don't you think Italians are examining Rudy in a similar fashion? And do you think so-called Hispanics were not examining Bill Richardson's "Hispanic - ness"?

Also don't you think feminists are examining how Hillary reacts to perceived attacks on her gender?

I think if Barack may become President it is legitimate to examine how he handles situations that involve race.

If Barack is loathe to discuss race now for fear of alienating some in the White community, what happens if he's elected?

If he is he will be looking toward re-election 4 years later. So will he spend those four years avoiding the topic?

I think these questions are just as legitimate as questioning Hillary Clinton's feminist credentials after she hooked up with misogynist Bob Johnson. Which I did in a previous post.
___________________________________

Lisa,

I think it (the Clintons attack) is going to get worse before it’s all over with.

Lol, I agree about Mr Woods.
___________________________________

Tami,

I left you a comment on your post.

___________________________________
___________________________________

Mes Deux Cents said...

SheCodes,

I think you are right about both sides tryng to play Black voters.

If Barack wins in South Carolina all heck is going to break loose.

Tami said...

MDC,

I forgot to say...I'm with you on Tiger, though. (smile)

I answered your comment on my blog.

Thembi said...

After realizing that many bloggers that read your blog also read mine, I just had to come over here and am not at ALL dissapointed!

I think whats interesting here is that the slave descendant black person is not really fully represented by either Barack or Tiger, and the reaction that such a person may have to such an incident, considering what I learned from my parents about the things they went through at the hands of white supremacy and how they lived before finding each others brown selves (one from Bmore, one from Trenton, NJ), I am not surprised.

In no way do I want to diss Africans or mixed people, but I think they were just groomed a lil differently than I was when it comes to such incidents. I love seeing some color doing great things but this is a good example of the difference between 'race' and 'ethnicity'. Black is just your skin. I'm afraid that as a descendant of American slaves the legacy of white oppression in America has given me a bit more of an 'edge' than it has either of these guys.

poitou said...

Dear Mes Deux cents, could you tell me what is Blackness exactly?what it is "acting black" or "acting white"? What about individuals? Is everything you do in your life is related to your "blackness"? Do you have a "libre arbitre"? do you take your own decisions?
And if Obama becomes President I hope he won't forget black issues, hispanic issues,asian issues, gay issues,white issues,teachers issues,iraki issues,african issues,auto-maker issues,blue-collar issues, farmer issues,fishermen issues...and above all MANKIND ISSUES

ongonwou@yahoo.com

Mes Deux Cents said...

Thembi,

You make a great point about the difference between race and ethnicity.

I think more and more African America is broken up into ethnic groups based on such things as economics and education.

Also as you mention both Tiger and Barack have some what unique backgrounds that may make their world view some what different from the perceived standard.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
___________________________________

Poitou,

I really can't tell you what Blackness is in general since it is defined by each individual.

However in a political context, which is my reference in the piece, it means issues that are important to the African American community. Some of those issues are apparent such as education and family.

Also I make no reference to acting White or Black in my post.

It seems that you have not really grasped the question I ask in my post.

No one seems to mind if feminists analyze Hillary Clinton's reaction to attacks on her gender. But if someone tries to analyze Barack Obama's reaction to racial attacks all of a sudden it's a problem.

As you say if Senator Obama is elected he will be everyone's President, and that includes African Americans.

So just as I have taken a look at how Senator Clinton speaks about women's issues I will look at how Senator Obama speaks about issues important to me as an African American.

If you have a problem with that then I would assume you would have a problem with any group such as fisherman taking a look at each candidate based upon issues important to them.

Thanks for commenting.

poitou said...

Thanks for answering. I do agree with you I just do not understand the word"blackness". Or that "Obama is shy about appearing black??." And by the way Obama's mother is white, and when we listen to him he is also shy about appearing white.
But I get your point you are concerned about African-american issues and it is fair.
But my point is if he does not care enough about black issues, it is because his program on it is not clear or it is lacking a vision.Not because he scared to appear to be black.
Trust me everybody knows that Barack Obama is black and he knows that we know it.
And I answer to your question.From my point of view he is not trying to downplay his "blackness".

Ehav Ever said...

In terms of Obama and Tiger, I can actually relate to them a lot. I didn't grow in a totally black or white world view. That is one of the things I love about not living in America. I don't have to deal with its narrow views of identity, I could be me without that baggage of what others want in terms of skin color.

I used to get tired of people telling me I wasn't black enough as a kid, or I was downplaying my blackness as an adult because I didn't fit into their views of what being black meant, so I can totally identify with both Tiger and Obama.

In terms of downplaying blackness how exactly does a person "downplay" something like that? What EXACTLY does blackness mean to begin with? What is the accepted and uniform "black" response that Tiger and Obama are supposed to have? Where are such rules written and who wrote them?

At what point are people like Tiger and Obama defined by who they are and what they stand for, instead of the things that other people do or don't stand for? If Obama isn't black enough for some people they should just simply not vote for him, instead of trying to make live by their standards. If Tiger isn't black enough for people, they should just ignore him and leave him alone. Tiger has more than enough money and status to not have to be concerned with what people say. Same with Obama. Besides both men are made up of a number of ethnicities and world experiences. They can define themselves as what they want not what others want. The fact that they are still successful, being who they are is a sign of that.

In terms of Tiger I have never heard him downplay his ancestry. His father Earl Woods was of mixed African American, Chinese, and Native American ancestry. Tiger's mother Kultida Woods, originally from Thailand, is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry.

As far as I have seen Obama has never downplayed his Kenyan heritage. Besides if Obama wanted to identify himself as something, he could say he is Kenyan way before he chooses to call himself black, based on the American standard of what that word means. He still has family in Kenya that he is contact with, and he has also been involved in trying to help end the conflict in Kenya.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

I think that you misunderstood the point of my post. If I wasn't clear then I apologize.

I think that when I use the word Blackness it has been misinterpreted.

The point of the post was to analyze Barack's reaction to a racist situation.

I think it's important to look at how he reacts to such things as it may be an indicator of how he would deal with these things should he win the Presidency.

I am not one of the people who have ever jumped on the "he's not Black enough" bandwagon.

I'm looking at his actions the same way I looked at Hillary using Bob Johnson as her spokesperson.

I think that is a good indicator that she does not have very good advisors with regard to the Black community.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

Please don't misunderstand, I understand where you are coming from. No need to apologize. I think it is a very good question that needs to be asked, and it has many layers to it for people who are mixed or have family roots outside of the US.

I guess what I am saying is that both Obama and Tiger are in positions where the concept of "being black" may mean something completely different because of their ethnic makeups. There was an author on the Colbert Report last year who said that Obama wasn't black in the American traditional sense, thus people who vote for him really aren't voting for a black man. Her logic was that African Americans whose families were once slaves were black. Of course Colbert had a field day with that one.

Also, both men are in positions of power where "race" has a whole different set of circumstances. It is like I said earlier. Me living outside of the US, race takes on a completely different meaning than it did when I lived in the US.

I know if I were, for example, in Tiger's position I wouldn't worry about it. Especially, when at the end of the day those people who make those kind of statements end up having to apologize when they make such statements. The same for Obama, based on what the Clintons are doing it is having an affect on the Clintons. If I were him I would just let them bury themselves. Obama in one interview said something I found interesting. He said how it is strange that Hillery is focusing so much of her campaign on him instead of dealing with issues that affect the American people.

If I were Obama I would be glad that the Clintons are aligning themselves with shady individuals. The Clintons have a past of those kind of dealings. Just look at all the controversy that surrounded them when they were in the White House. If Obama really wanted to take a blow at them he could talk about their integrity issues.

I guess my second point though deals with what exactly is considered an acceptable response to racism? This is kind of a general question. The response in many cases varies based on social economic standing. A racist statement doesn't affect the rich the same way it does the middle class, or the way it affects the poor.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

When a comment is made about lynching it isn't only about the person who it was directed toward. It's about the thousands of Black people in this country that suffered being lynched or the fear of.

So I think people are upset that Tiger is not even interested enough in Black America to speak out in those terms.

It really doesn't have anything to do with Tiger being personally offended.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

I understand where you are coming from, but if it doesn't have anything to do with Tiger being personally offended then it shouldn't matter if he were offended or not offended. As I said before, when people get a certain status or money level there are just some things that they can choose not to be affected by. Especially if they don't live in an area where lynch mobs run rampent.

It is like I said about myself. I don't live in America so there are some things that are specific to America that no longer affect me. Some of them didn't affect when I lived in America, depending on where I lived.

Tiger may not even relate to the Black America side of things you are talking about. Besides Tiger's father was only half African American. This all depends on what he grew up with as his focus. What if he focuses in more on the Asian side of his heritage than the African American side? Where is it written that he has to have an interest in Black America? I think by now people should know where he stands on race. He made it clear when he said he was Cablacian, or however he put it. I also think he has been pretty consistane in his racial concerns, so people shouldn't be surprised at this point.

Besides we live in a generation that is somewhat becoming distanced from the events of lynch mobs and such. For example, I remember in the 90's when Ice Cube started a rap group called the Lynch Mob, and their symbol was a group of hands holding nooses, torches, etc. I don't remember very many complaints about that even when their album went gold.

All I am saying is that Tiger and Obama are both in situations where the American concept of what should or shouldn't bother then in terms of race doesn't have to fit unless they really want it to. This also depends on how they were brought up with the issues.

Don said...

Mes, stop starting stuff. lol.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron