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Forum Puts Obama's
Heritage in Focus

A day before Barack Obama speaks to the National Association of Black Journalists at their convention in Las Vegas on Friday, a forum will be held to ask a question that annoys the Illinois Senator's wife: is he "black enough?"

A session hosted by Michel Martin of National Public Radio, according to NABJ's program, will grapple with "a question that no one else is confronting. This candidate is Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama, and the question he cannot seem to shake -- is he black enough? Is this an unfair question? What is the measure of blackness and who gets to decide?"

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times published Monday, Michelle Obama, the candidate's wife, said "The truth of the matter is that as I was growing up, talking too proper, going to certain schools, people told me that. We are still struggling as a people with what is black," she said.

"The thing that I worry most about . . . is not what it says about me and Barack," Michelle Obama said. "What does it say to our children? [T]hat somehow Michelle Obama is not black enough? Well, shoot, if I'm not black enough and Barack's not black enough, well who are they supposed to be in this world?

"I did exactly what leaders in my community told me to do. They said do your best in school, work hard, study, get into the best schools you can get into and when you do that, baby, you bring that education back and you work in your communities," she said.

She disputed the notion that Obama's upbringing in Hawaii was much different than hers in Chicago's predominantly black South Side.

"We are not that far apart," she told the Sun-Times. "He was raised in his grandmother's home, and his grandmother is from Kansas, eating tuna with pickles in it. The same conversations that we had around my kitchen table, we have at her house on Christmas. We are not that far apart. It's just that it feels like people have benefitted from us feeling and believing that we are far apart."

"I'm fundamentally a girl from the South Side," Obama said. "I may change the cadence of [my speech], you know if you are home, you're just home, but the stories are the same. I think people want leaders that they can connect to," she said.

The issue of Obama's racial heritage, as the son of a white mother from Kansas and an black father from Kenya, has been much discussed. The writer Debra Dickerson created a firestorm earlier this year when she wrote a piece questioning Obama's racial heritage that included the line "Obama's isn't black."

The question of race and the perception of black politicians not steeped in the Civil Rights Era is not new to Obama. It was a factor during his losing battle to Rep. Bobby Rush, a former
Black Panther, when Obama sought to win Rush's House seat in 2000. Post writer Michael Fletcher detailed that contest and questions about Obama's racial appeal in a piece in January.

--Perry Bacon Jr.

By Post Editor  |  August 7, 2007; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Barack Obama  
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Clinton's Comments


Does anyone believe that Barack Hussein Obama is not going to get 99 and possibly 100 per cent of the black voters ??.

This is just another event, in my opinion to get more press coverage for Barack Hussein Obama !!

What if a WHITE organization, if there is any , continually held these events for a WHITE candidate ? RACISM ??

Posted by: burlupus2000 | August 8, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

We know that DON IMUS wasnt BLACK enough BUT we do know the BLACK musicians that USED the same language that DON IMUS used were CERTAINLY BLACK ENOUGH, NOW DONT WE ??

Posted by: burlupus2000 | August 8, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

when the election is over and we have a new president the issue of who is black, red, white, orange, or brown enough and who is the right gender should disappear. if obama would not respond to these inquiries about his race "it" would become a non-issue. anyone out there think hillary believes she is going to garner the majority of female votes just because she is a woman? frankly there are more women than blacks in America so lets listen and vote based on qualifications and real answers.

Posted by: lindafranke1952 | August 7, 2007 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The best comment I've seen on this (non-)topic: Is Hillary black enough?

Posted by: marj.raunig | August 7, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I believe the MSM wants people like Sharpton to be "black" leaders. That is why he dislikes Mr. Obama. Here is an example. Mr. Obama does not cow tow to Mr. Sharpton (Mr. Sharpton does not represent the entire black community). Mr. Obama isn't a race baiter like Mr. Sharpton. Mr. Obama is the total opposite of Mr. Sharpton. Like I said in a previous post Mr. Obama is a man of inclusiveness, eloquence and enlightened thought. I wondered why he is so hard on Mr. Obama. I strongly believe Mr. Sharpton realizes an Obama presidency means his stint is over and Mrs. Clinton is more of the same. That is why Mr. Sharpton is supporting Mrs. Clinton.

Posted by: shanay4363 | August 7, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Are they asking, is Obama black enough to be president? It might be useful to consider a white person's perspective. I'm German/Dutch/Irish descent, about as white as can be, I'm an Obama supporter/contributor, and he sure looks black to me. That's not why I support him, but it helps. I say this to suggest that a whole lot of white/red/yellow/brown Americans will also see Obama as being black. How many won't be able to look any deeper than that?

Posted by: michaelmelius | August 7, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I call it "Reaching"

Its what people do when in distress, frustration, or just plain ignorance they make up anything to justify there point.

All of his critics can't say that he is not intelligent, charismatic, and one of the best "non-pandering" candidates out there. Even when he is challenged by all of his competitors he has made them look stupid, and I have watched every debate.

So, the only thing media critis, black and white can say is "Is he Black Enough?" So I guess these people felt Rev. Al Sharpton is the epitome of blackness as a candidate...if so then we are all doomed...

Posted by: Kappazkupid | August 7, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

The younger generation like my self knows better and we aren't easily inclined to believe everything we read or see especially with the African American radio, news and TV shows. They are stuck in the old ways and Obama is a shock to the system. Most of my friends support Mr. Obama. (See the generational gap with older and younger African Americans in reference to the democratic presidential race.) We are not beholden to the old slave and civil rights era mentality that a black man can't win. To the elders in my community for once give this man a chance to win.

Posted by: shanay4363 | August 7, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I am a big supporter of Mr. Obama. He is a new breed of leadership that threatens the stereotype of so called black (I say anointed by the MSM) leaders. When he talks about children he says our children. Meaning all children. I love that. He is a man of inclusiveness. The old guard of black "leadership" is still stuck in the battles of the civil rights era. I thank them for the battles they fought. The truth is with the emergence of Sen. Obama, Mayor. Fenty, Mayor Booker Gov. Patrick and Mr. Ford jr. their time is over. Still the old guard is fighting to keep the "power" and questioning his "blackness"

Posted by: shanay4363 | August 7, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

If you think about it we are just getting past the segregation laws and white and black America has just started to deal with the harsh reality of our past. My parents went through that time and know it so well. My generation can't understand or imagine that just in the late 60's and 70's America was dealing with segregations and the scars it left. Blacks are now in a dialogue on can Obama win the Presidency of the United States of America. This will take time for my parent's generation to grapple with. So the question isn't he black enough but can he win. I'm here to say he can but only if the black communities as a whole support him because a good portion of white American community has. Is Hillary black enough?

Posted by: crews2me | August 7, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

WHAT A PITY...only if journalists could focus on real issues. Whether black or white, we breathe the same and smile the same way and die the same. What a wretched thing to micro-dissect the race. It is this attitude that keeps race an issue. Articles should instead be written about how OBAMA's have risen above the odds to come to where they are. Be an inspiration and a hope. But that obviously is not the focus since then MM will be different from the sleazy hollywood mags. I really hoped for something better in journalism.

Secondly, I just cant get these black folk. I mean BO is as close to th best it can get and still they dont want it. Its disgusting and disappointing to see that they cherish the swine behaviour. Live in the muck and be satisfied with it. I admire Michelle Obama extremely. She is TRUE and her voices rings in my heart. She did (or her parents) truly believed in teh prusuit of happiness and proved it is possible. Yes, this country provides possibilities and one may have to work hard against obstacles more than a white but in the end, it will pay off for those who persevere. I wish blacks could understand this and have a change in attitude. They still believe in Frisky Clinton's era but times are different and fundings and economy is different. I hope blacks can see one among their own making it possible so that generation afterwards can aspire and hope for greater things. I am a minorit and I am tremendously inspired by him even though I stand republican only based on pro-life stand. Cheers Go BO

Posted by: paulchacko | August 7, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This is irrelevant to Obama's ability - I believe he is the most capable candidate of all those running - to unite the country behind a sensible agenda which will benefit everyone. Tell you what, let's ask Giuliani if he is white enough.

Posted by: bokonon_ | August 7, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

How pathetic, that these journalists are debating whether or not Obama meets their artificial criteria for blackness when this country is facing real problems that need to be addressed, least of which are the killings in inner-city neighborhoods that are going unsolved due to the "no-snitch" code of silence.

Posted by: wizinit1 | August 7, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

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