Over President’s Day
weekend, my cousin
told me of her plans
to attend the
Brotherhood of Skiers 2007 ski
summit in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
The Brotherhood of Skiers is a predominantly black snow-skiing club.
Since this year was her fourth summit, my cousin planned to finally
ski because a couple she befriended
on past trips planned to teach their
4-year-old son. I reminded her that
family members. My sister and I
heard the following regularly as we
grew up: “You have good hair. You
have thin lips. You speak white.
You walk like a white guy. Black
guys don’t play (insert ‘white’ sport
here). You have a white guy’s butt.
You’re built like a black woman.
Do you like black guys? Do you
like black girls?”
White people also get in their
digs: “You’re not really black” is
what I’ll hear from whites.
U.S. senator from Illinois who is
campaigning for the Democratic
nomination for president. Since
announcing his intention to run,
the media has been abuzz about the
response from the black community, or lack thereof, to Obama’s candidacy. Headlines scream, “Is
Obama Black Enough?”
Some black Americans doubt
whether the son of a white woman
from Kansas and a black man from
Kenya, who was raised in Hawaii
A PERSONAL ACCOUNT
I, too, learned to ski at 4 and that
when skiing, I regularly watch children zoom down the slopes. “But
you’re half white,” she said. “And
white people ski. Black people don’t
ski.” And that thought process
describes the life of a biracial person.
You’re split between two worlds, and
people who are not mixed see you as
a partial member of their group.
Some even question your allegiance.
My cousin meant that because
my father was white, I was exposed
to things, such as snow skiing, that
most black kids are not. So while
she sees me as being black, I’m not
as black as she is (for the record,
my cousin has a dark complexion
and wears her hair in locks, while I
have a caramel complexion and
wear a small Afro).
Throughout my life, I’ve had
these discussions with my black
BY YOJI COLE
And that brings up the question:
“What is black and what is white
in the reality of mixtures?”
My black cousins, who also
could be very loving and supportive, saw my whiteness as an added
attribute or key to opportunity that
they lacked. My white cousins
never brought up race, I assume,
because they saw it as my problem
and not theirs.
“You’re half white and black and
cannot relate to me being seen as a
‘real’ black person, and I definitely
cannot relate to a biracial individual,” my cousin said to me.
That sentiment is real. It’s a
dynamic playing itself out in the
country’s fascination with Barack
Obama, the half black/half white
and educated at Columbia and
Harvard universities, can relate. But
if Obama is perceived as a black
man and accepts that identity, then
isn’t his experience also part of the
“Other than color, Obama did
not—does not—share a heritage
with the majority of black
Americans, who are descendants of
plantation slaves,” wrote black
columnist Stanley Crouch in his
New York Daily News column.
But does that mean he is not a
black American? And can’t Obama’s
experience be another aspect of the
white-American experience as well?
Political radio talk-show host
George Wilson explained to CNN
that, “When white America has
embraced a candidate—as they
have with Barack Obama—there is
a certain amount of distrust that