Obama Can’t Escape Race

LYNNE K. VARNER – The Seattle Times

Copyright The Seattle Times
January 8, 2008
If my grandmother were still with us, she’d marvel that in the span of five decades, the opportunities for a man like Barack Obama have widened exponentially from porter to president.
I’d sit and marvel with her, my pleasure tempered by the reality that in 2008, Obama may ascend to the presidency but he’ll never transcend race. America just isn’t ready to move past the symbolism of an Obama presidential bid to the man within.
He would always be the black president. Similar to being the black columnist, the black CEO or the black coach. He should just think of it as a title preceding his name.
Race is always the subtext. No matter how broad our sensibilities become, racial identity remains the way our eyes make sense of what’s before us. This will get Obama votes in some quarters and hate mail from others.
Even those who deify the senator from Illinois are dazzled more by his skin tone than political hue. I swear, if I have to read another saga detailing the fine line Obama must walk being a racially mixed candidate, I may crawl back into yesterday’s champagne bottle not to emerge until after the election. It isn’t really a fine line; more like a major arterial, one navigated by many before him.
Obama may be the first black presidential candidate to come absent a racially identifiable agenda but corporate America is lousy with people walking the same path. He must appeal to a largely white electorate while not appearing to lose his black identity, so say the pundits. Been there, done that. I and others have the scars to prove it.
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