A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How African is African-American?

Oprah Winfrey had a show once, devoted to the subject of being an African-American. It was a well discussed debate, tempered by Oprah's good humour and gently inquisitive style. The end result was that it all depended on the person and on how they felt about themselves, so nothing new really. Interesting that the term "blacks" has been disposed of generally, but "whites" hasn't. There are virtually no "European-Americans" on the basis that most who could claim to fit into this grouping call themselves Italian-American, Irish-American and so on. But there are no English-Americans. Mr. Wilson of Boston or Mrs. Johnson of Montgomery are just Americans.

African-Americans covers a wide canvass. For the more politically conscious, it helps to claim descendancy from slaves. But to reckon with being from the slave owner's loins is less attractive. Oprah asked people who were patently not of a pure African descent if they thought they were white. Never, they said, they were not, thereby dismissing a hefty portion of their DNA. Where white or other race relatives fit into the concept of Africa-America is never really contemplated. I suspect that if you are one of these you take things as they come.

Barack Obama is often put forward as the first African-American candidate to have a serious chance of getting to the White House. African-American? Maybe it is more accurate to call him a Kenyan-American. His grandmother was on the television recently proudly espousing the talents of her grandson. She lives in Kenya. Obama's father married a white American, but this antecedence is left out of the equation. The American bit forgotten, the Kenyan bit confused, and the African bit promoted.

If it had been the other way round and Obama's mother (pictured with young Barack) had visited Kenya, Barack could now possibly be President of Kenya. Would he still be an African-American? I suspect not.

In a way, Barack Obama is the first genuine African-American to be in such a position, but maybe he should be called Kenyan-American first and foremost. If he gets to the White House it may just be the best thing Kenya could have. Africa, in general, would then have a US president who had more than a geography lesson's view of the continent.


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