I know a lady, a close relative, shall we say, who has a few things in common with Geraldine Ferraro -- generation, ethnic experience, outer-borough accent. After Barack Obama, in his grand national debut, addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2004, she sent me an indignant e-mail, asking why everybody talked about him as this black star of the Democratic Party, when he was just as much white as he was black. In other words, she wanted to claim him, too (and perhaps claim his intellectual gifts as his mother's legacy).
Watching Obama (on TV) deliver today what I believe to be the most important address on race since Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, my sense of the uniqueness of Obama's candidacy was further distilled. The resentment of my kin notwithstanding, she had a point: Obama is as much white as he is black, and that matters in ways she may not have contemplated. For instance, his cross-cultural experience gave him a window on the ways in which white resentment manifests itself, and he has loved people who, were he not their kin, might have treated him poorly based on the color of his skin and the texture of his hair. (See Kate's post, with the excerpt from Obama's speech about his grandmother, and his dead-on description of white resentment as it exists among certain white "ethnics".)
Indeed, it is thrilling to see a man who, by virtue of his appearance, will always be a black man in the eyes of America, come so close to attaining the presidential nomination of one of the nation's two major political parties. But it is his biracial experience that gives him the insight to make the whole thing work, and to embody, quite literally, a deep longing for a closing of the racial chasm.
--Adele M. Stan
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