Why Obama is Black, not White
By PHILIP OCHIENG
WHY IS THE WHITE MEDIA SO preoccupied with Barack Obama’s race? Is it because the young Illinois senator could become the first black person to be elected president of a predominantly white country? If so, then it is a sad commentary on white psychology.
In the 1970s, the Anglo-American media showed little or no interest when an African country elected a white man as its president. To be sure, the Seychelles is as multiracial as the United States. But make no mistake about it. It is a black country.
Albert Rene is a Caucasian of French extraction — the Indian Ocean archipelago having once been a French colony. Yet his racial category did not bother the voters. They chose him only because, at heart, he was more African than most members of the OAU heads of state summit.
Detractors see nothing but racism in the excitement over Obama’s blackness. The white West seems electrified that the scion of an adventurous “tribesman” from deep inside the Dark Continent may become the most powerful man in a white-dominated world.
The question is: Is Obama a black man? There are, of course, two ways of answering that question — first by his attitude and then by his skin colour. Looking at how he habitually responds to social cues, some of his fellow black Americans are tempted to dismiss him as an Uncle Tom.
An Uncle Tom is the American equivalent of our Afro-Saxons — jet-black individuals so mesmerised by white bourgeois values that they fawn shamelessly on any white person they meet.
But, evidently, Obama is not an Uncle Tom. Therefore, we must say that, if he is black, it is only on the surface — that is, skin deep. Most people do not see how strange that statement is. By what figment of the imagination can Senator Barack Obama be called black even on the evidence of skin?
In my reading, I have met only one person struck by this absurdity. Indeed, Richard Dawkins, the outspoken Oxford evolutionary biologist, is germane here because he shares something vital with Barack Obama Senior and myself: All three of us were born in Kenya many decades ago.
But although Dawkins is as white as gypsum, he knows much more than most of mankind about mankind’s “raciation.” That is why he “lights no torch” — a phrase which I borrow from him — on the scourge of racism. That is why it appals him that Obama is called a black man.
Of his many books, Dawkins is best known for The Selfish Gene and, more recently, The God Delusion, a book which puts him in the same bracket as two other Kenyans — an equally controversial white evolutionary biologist called Richard Leakey and a charcoal-black man called Philip Ochieng.
I am still in the middle of A Pilrimage to the Dawn of Life: The Ancestor’s Tale, Dawkins’s latest work. But I have reached the page where he demands to be shown the logic of a system which makes you black even when your blood is 90 per cent “Caucasian” and only 10 per cent “Negroid.”
Writes Dawkins: “People who are universally agreed by all Americans to be ‘black’ may draw less than one-eighth of their ancestry from Africa, and often have a light skin colour well within the normal range for people universally agreed to be ‘white’.”
He draws the reader’s attention to a “…picture of four American politicians, two of whom are described in all newspapers as ‘black’ [and] the other two as ‘white’.” The picture is of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. Dawkins asks an inevitable question:
“Wouldn’t a Martian, unschooled in our conventions but able to see skin shades, be more likely to split them three against one? Surely, yes.” Why? Because, in the picture, Rice stands out “darkly” against the other three, not to mention that her attire (female) would also strike the Martian’s eye as oddly out of line.
Dawkins goes on: “But in our culture, almost everybody will immediately ‘see’ Mr Powell as ‘black,’ even in this particular photograph, which happens to show him with possibly lighter skin than [even] Bush and Rumsfeld.” What exactly can it mean?
Many members of the American intelligentsia would boast that it is a manifestation of “pluralism.” But many others have sneered at this claim. Carl Friedrich (in The New Belief in the Common Man) agrees that “The … United States [is a] ‘teeming nation of nations’.” He asserts: “Here all the nationalities of Europe have come together…”
But he hastens to point out that there is a great deal of phobia even between the white immigrants from Europe, saying that, “…while they are all Americans, it would be a great mistake to think that the different nationalities embrace each other in loving affection.”
As H. L. Mencken wrote long ago in his American Language, Americans have coined numerous derogatory terms for each European ethnic group — pejoratives like wops, chinks, limeys and yids.
In The Evil That Men Do, Brian Masters informs us: “In the First World War, the Germans were called Huns by the British and Boches by the French. The Vietnamese were called gooks by the [white] Americans, Jews are referred to as yids and almost any dark-skinned person is a wog to many Englishmen. While it may not be acceptable, except to a sadist, to tear a peasant lady’s head off as her children watch, the feat can be accomplished with ease if she is only a gook, a wog or a yid.”
THE QUESTION IS: SHOULD Americans be patted on the back for hurling these unfriendly tribal epithets at one another?
Is this the significance of what Daniel Easterman (in New Jerusalems) and Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg (in The Great Reckoning) brag about as “cultural pluralism” or John Naisbitt (in Megatrends) as “multiculturalism”?
In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom avers that “… anybody can become an American in an instant…” But Friedrich points out that America’s social groups, even ethnic whites, have to think twice whether they really belong fully.
If this were not so, America’s mega-cities would long ago have amalgamated their “Chinatowns,” “Polack towns” and the “spa-ghetto” in which New York City’s ethnic Italians languish.
They would also have banished from their vocabulary the word Wasp (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), given its connotation of superiority over all other white groups and racial minorities. Even Naisbitt recognises that the American “melting pot” of races and white ethnic groups is a myth.
For him, there exists something much better than a melting pot — cultural pluralism. Writes Naisbitt: “We have moved from the myth of the melting pot to a celebration of cultural diversity.
“It is a far cry from the way the Americans handled ethnicity in the past. We seemed to put new immigrants through a metaphorical blender until they came out [as] homogenised Americans, with little remaining of their former heritage.” So what has replaced the melting pot?
His reply: “One key factor behind the increasing acceptance of ethnic diversity has been the rapid growth of two minorities in particular: Spanish-speaking Americans, who [in the mid-1980s] officially number l5 million … or about 6.4 per cent of the population, and Asian Americans, about 3.5 million or about l.5 per cent of the US population.
“With three sizeable minorities now in the nation — the largest being the blacks, with 26 million or about one-tenth of the US population — the either/or world where Americans were either black or white is over for ever. That was a world structured to encourage uniformity rather than diversity.
“Blacks, as the only recognised ethnic group, encountered racial and ethnic prejudice; whites, who were themselves ethnically diverse, tried to emulate (subconsciously perhaps) the Wasp ideal. With more racial and ethnic groups now (think of Asian Orientals and Latins, who are black, white and brown), uniformity is impossible…
“And white Americans are identifying with their own ethnic roots to join the new game of diversity. Even major ethnic groups are diverse. Latins are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Guatemalan, San Salvadorean, Columbian, and from a variety of Central and Southern American countries.”
Note this. By “Asians,” Americans mean Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Indonesian and other Mongoloid immigrants. The word Asian has nothing to do with the British or East African “Asians” of subcontinental origin.
So, in Naisbitt’s account black Americans are just another “ethnic group” — indeed, even as “the only group recognisable as ethnic.” Why? Is it because they are recognisable by a common colour, their blackness?
But why can’t anybody else be seen as ethnic through his white skin? The truth is the opposite. Blacks are the only non-ethnic community of non-natives in the entire North American landscape. They are the only genuine nation in the United States.
For they are composed of all African (and, given Barack Obama and others of mixed race, even all European and Native American) ethnicities so well blended together that their various ethnic peculiarities (such as Africa’s Bantu, Hamite, Nilote, Bushmanoid or Luo, Wolof and Kongo) have long disappeared.
Slave conditions (and this may have been a blessing) forced them to unite under a single yoke, discarding their narrow original African (and European) costumes.
Moreover, Naisbitt’s advocacy of racial and ethnic diversity in conditions of economic and intellectual injustice that themselves follow racial and ethnic lines is clearly amoral. It is not based on each group’s natural right to existence but merely on the fact that their presence in America is unavoidable.
He seems to say: “History has dumped us all here and since — because of our chauvinism and economic greed— we are unable to unite as races, let us celebrate our racial and ethnic diversity. Let us not worry about our material differences (even though they are based on these very racial differences).”
Naisbitt seems to say: “All the races and tribes of America are here to stay whether you like it or not. You gain exactly nothing — and even injure your own selves — by making so much noise about it and burning one another’s houses and churches.” Bully for him.
But it poses a good question for Americans that, if its ruling classes were longer-sighted, the country would have asked itself long ago to save its citizens and other members of the human family the unnecessary suffering that white racism has inflicted on other races as well as on the whites themselves for so many centuries.
Yet, by neatly avoiding the fact that self-interest underlies these tragedies, Naisbitt is able to make the simplistic claim that the American people are consciously making the choice against the “melting pot” and that the “game” now is “cultural pluralism.”
The fact, however, is that this trend is a result of Wasp chauvinism rather than of any choice freely and consciously made by “Americans.” It does not result from any realisation that such pluralism is better than a melting pot. One hopes, moreover, that Naisbitt is confining his statement to the US because others have made diametrically opposite claims about Europe.
But if Naisbitt is right to say that there is no such thing as a blend or a melting pot as far as the ethnic spirit goes, surely Allan Bloom, the respected Chicago educator, is also right. Fundamentally, all these European ethnic groups and other immigrants have, over a protracted period of time, become homogenised.
Yet this is correct only up to a point. Only in the liberal ideology of individualism — only in greed, in the go-getting spirit, only in the ferocity with which that quest is pursued — is it possible to become an American overnight — not in terms of essence, not in terms of ethnicity and race.
Bloom states that any immigrant can become an American the minute he or she lands on the Atlantic shores of that country. In other words, there is nothing easier than to become an American. But there is a racial element even in this. Bloom’s assertion is correct only to the extent that it refers to white individuals.
IT IS OF THEM THAT HISTORIAN Maldwyn Allen Jones speaks. In Made in America, Bill Bryson quotes him as saying: “Culturally estranged from their parents by their American education, and wanting nothing so much as to become and to be accepted as Americans, many second-generation immigrants made deliberate efforts to rid themselves of their [ethnic] heritage.
“The adoption of American clothes, speech and interests, often accompanied by the shedding of an exotic surname, were all part of a process whereby antecedents were repudiated as a means of improving status.”
Bryson reports that it was an immigrant from Western Europe who coined the phrase melting pot to describe this phenomenon of overnight Americanisation of what a detractor called “the dregs of Europe.”
“By the turn of the [19th] century,” Bryson writes, New York had become easily the most cosmopolitan city the world had ever seen. Eighty per cent of its five million inhabitants were either foreign-born or the children of immigrants.
“It had more Italians than the combined populations of Florence, Genoa and Venice, more Irish than anywhere but Dublin, more Russians than Kiev. As Herman Melville put it: ‘We are not so much a nation as a world.’”
But, reports Bryson, it was a British Zionist called Israel Zangwill who, in 1908, wrote a play depicting this immigration avalanche. He called it The Melting Pot and thus gave the Americans and the rest of the English-speaking world an unforgettably expressive term.
THE QUESTION, HOWEVER, IS: has America ever really been a melting pot? How deep was this Americanisation of Europeans? When the Europeans left their ethnic settings to settle in America, they were quick to learn American ways — but only what it took to be accepted as Americans by mainstream Americans.
And we learn that what it took to do that was extremely superficial. Here is Bryson: “Once across the ocean, the immigrants tended naturally to congregate in enclaves. Almost all migrants from Norway between 1815 and 1860 settled in just four states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
“In much the same way, two-thirds of the Dutch were to be found in Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Iowa… In the first half of the 19th century, several German societies were formed with the express intention of… concentrating immigration in a particular area [so] that they could take it over.
“One German spoke for many when he dreamed of Pennsylvania becoming ‘an entirely German state where… the beautiful German language would be used in the legislative halls of the courts of justice’…”
We learn that “Pennsylvanian Dutch” nearly became the official language of that state, a language so called by corrupting Deutsch, the German word for “German.”
This was the beginning of the white ghetto system in America, and the increasingly rapid stream of immigrants from Eastern and Mediterranean Europe soon revealed the age-old arrogance of people of Northern European origin.
This Nordic conceit was not native to America. It was imported from Europe. In Africans and Their History, Joseph Harris, a black American historian, describes the attitude of one 19th-century European exponent of it: “Some critics have observed that Joseph de Gobineau’s Essai sur l’Inegalite (‘Essay on Inequality’) was the most directly influential publication on racism in the 19th century.
“Gobineau, a Frenchman, extolled the racial purity of the Nordics and explained that as the Franks [Nordics] mixed with Gallic [Celtic] stocks, the former became weaker and more decadent, which eventually led to their overthrow by commoner elements, the leaders of the French Revolution.”
According to Gobineau, then, France’s alliance of aristocrats and priests ruled France by dint of their Teutonic (Frankish) blood. To disturb this arrangement — through the demand for justice that culminated in the great bourgeois revolution of 1789 — could only be the work of the “lower blood” Celto-Latin admixture extant in the French nation.
Harris reports: “In his book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Houston S. Chamberlain, an Englishman who later became a German citizen, expanded on Gobineau’s ideas. Chamberlain attempted to show that almost everything worthwhile in history [was] accomplished by Nordics.
“He combined ideas on the evolutionary struggle with the will for power and presented a doctrine of the master race similar to that later adopted by Hitler.” Both Gobineau and Chamberlain were writing at a time when immigration into the United States from Southern and Eastern Europe and the Balkans had become a flood.
According to Bill Bryson, “In 1907, to give vent to the growing concerns that America was being swept to oblivion by a tide of rabble [from Eastern Europe], Congress established a panel called the Dillingham Commission.
“Its 42-volume report concluded essentially that immigration before 1880 had been no bad thing — the immigrants, primarily from Northern Europe, were (by implication) industrious, decent, trustworthy and largely Protestant, and as a result had assimilated well.
“But immigration after 1880 had been marked by the entry into America of uneducated, unsophisticated, largely shiftless and certainly non-Protestant masses from Southern and Eastern Europe. It maintained that the [immigrant] Germans and Scandinavians had bought farms and become productive members of American society, while the second merely soaked up charity and acted as a [drain] on industrial earnings.”
It was the same Teutonic conceit that the world has since become familiar with.
And yet when a black man, Andrew Young pointed this out (when he was Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations), there was great uproar from Wasps in America and Europe.
An otherwise intelligent white writer makes this fatuous claim about the British, especially the English: “Although they often behaved tyrannically in their empire, the British are not by inclination a tyrannical people.” No statement can be more meaningless.
No race, nation or tribe is ever tyrannical or chauvinistic “by inclination,” that is to say, genetically. The British Empire was tyrannical in whatever way you look at it. But “inclination” had nothing to do with it. It is not the British people who are to blame — although all classes of British society were seduced into racism by the propaganda of the upper classes.
It was the economic interests of these classes that come into play. Such interests are what propel all empire-builders. Tyranny and empire-building are attributes of civilisation, culture and opportunity.
Moreover, it is a class question: Lower-class members of the same race, nation or tribe will equally suffer from it under the illusion that they are actually beneficiaries — as Kenya’s own elite Gema grouping seduced the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru masses into believing that their interests are identical even as their Kamatusa counterparts were doing the same to the Kalenjin, Maasai and Turkana masses.
Tyranny over other nations can assume national proportions only to the extent that the ruling class of one race can turn a whole nation of a different race into a class targeted for exploitation. Racism becomes a national thought-habit only to the extent that the lower classes are deeply swayed by the prejudices, trappings, ideas and practices of the ruling classes within the same nation and race.
Only bourgeois Britain — and not the British in general — colonised and tyrannised, for example, Kenya, though, of course, British propagandists gave the British working class the illusion that they were also beneficiaries.
Ali Mazrui writes somewhere, “It is worth distinguishing between Germanic whites … on one side, and Latin whites … on the other. Germanic cultures encompass not only the Germans but also the Anglo-Saxons (British and mainstream United States) and the Dutch.
“Latin culture embraces not only Italians but also the traditions of Spain, Portugal and France… On the balance, Germanic cultures have been more obsessed with separation of the races than have Latin cultures.
“It may not be an accident that the most elaborate cases of segregation, and the most fanatical forms of racism in the 20th century, have been perpetrated by Germans (Nazism), Afrikaners (apartheid), Americans (the Jim Crow culture of lynching) and the British (with their segregated empire). All these racist traditions are culturally Germanic.
“Of course, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians and the French have had their own versions of racism. But their brand of ethnocentrism has been less segregationist, less obsessed with the social and sexual separation of races. Latin whites have intermarried more readily with non-whites and mixed socially with other races with greater ease than have Germanic whites.”
By separating “the Germans” from “the Anglo-Saxons,” Mazrui forgets that the Angles originated from Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein and the Saxons from Germany’s Nieder Sachsen (Lower Saxony).
Among the Germanic peoples, Mazrui does not mention the Danes, Norwegians, Swedes and Icelanders (and a part of the Swiss), probably because the Scandinavians, being shielded from contact both with Mediterranean whites and with blacks and other races, have never shown very intense racist attitudes.
Nor does the professor mention the other great European culturo-linguistic groups, such as the Celts (Irish, Welsh, Scots and the Bretons of France), the Slavs (Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Serbs, Croats, etc.) He is also silent on the Basque, Suomi (Finns) and Magyar (Hungarians), who, linguistically at least, are not Europeans.
But he is right on two scores. Racism is a cultural phenomenon, not a genetic one. The apparent reason that white racism has been more intense among the Germanic peoples than among the Latins — despite what I have just said about the Scandinavians — is that the Latins have been contiguous with the blacks and browns for millennia.
Once upon a time, they even looked to black peoples — like the Danaans of Greece, the Copts of Egypt, the pre-Arab Libyans, the Moors of Mauritania and Spain and other “Ethiopians” — for intellectual, scientific and religious inspiration and guidance.
The Germanic peoples, on the other hand, have met with these brands of humanity only relatively recently, namely after the Germanics had taken over world leadership in technological and intellectual matters.
NEVERTHELESS, THE ASSUMption by David Lamb (in The Africans) that racist attitudes belong only to the uneducated lower classes of whites, is wrong. Racism, as we have seen in America, is more an economic expression than a question of skin colour.
Moreover, it should be patent that only the upper classes of the Germanic race — as opposed to the lower classes — had the opportunity to travel overseas to meet other races and form opinions about them, including racist opinions. Anybody familiar with the intellectual history of Europe will see that racism was not propagated by the lower classes — who, at any rate, had no access to the media.
The greatest apostles of racism include such highly educated intellectuals as Luis Agassiz, Cyril Burt, Havelock Ellis, GWF Hegel, Richard Herrnstein, David Hume, Arthur Jensen, Cesare Lombroso, J. Murray, Albert Schweitzer, Joseph Seligman, Hugh Trevor-Roper and HG Wells.
But in this way the Germanic peoples — especially the Germans, Dutch, English and Yankee — have brought onto the world (and onto their own selves) a great deal of completely unnecessary suffering, bloodshed and death.
It is through their colonies — intra-European as well as overseas — that the white dregs and other racial groups were taught to look down upon one another in a descending order and prevented from tackling the main problem.
In his Autobiography, Malcolm X has a fascinating report on this graduated intra-white stupidity: “[New York City’s Harlem] hadn’t always been a community of Negroes. It had first been a Dutch settlement, I learned.
“Then began the massive waves of poor and half-starved and ragged immigrants from Europe, arriving with everything they owned in the world in bags and sacks on their backs. The Germans came first [to Harlem]; the Dutch edged away for them, and Harlem became all-German.
“Then came the Irish, running from the potato famine [in Ireland]. The Germans ran, looking down their noses at the Irish, who took over Harlem. Next, the Italians; same thing — the Irish ran [away] from them. The Italians had Harlem when the Jews came down the gangplanks — and then the Italians left.
“Today all these same immigrants’ descendants are running as hard as they can to escape the descendants of the Negroes who helped to unload the immigrant ships. I was staggered when old-time Harlemites told me that while this immigrant musical chairs game had been going on, Negroes had been in New York since 1683, before any of [the whites] came, and had been ghettoed all over the city.
“They had first been in the Wall Street area; then they were pushed into Greenwich Village [south Manhattan]. The next shove was up to the Pennsylvania Station area. And then, the last stop before Harlem, the black ghetto was concentrated around 52nd Street, which is how 52nd Street got the Swing Street name and reputation that lasted long after the Negroes were gone.
“Then, in 1910, a Negro real estate man somehow got two or three Negro families into one Jewish Harlem apartment house. The Jews fled from that house, then from that block, and more Negroes came in to fill their apartments. Then whole blocks of Jews ran, and still more Negroes came uptown, until in a short time, Harlem was like it is today — virtually all black.”
We know it cannot be genetic. It must have been some event remembered only in the subconscious that made the European so extremely intolerant of any but the closest relatives. This kind of behaviour is unknown among other ethnic communities in human history.
I reiterate that, in this way, the whites, especially the Germanic peoples, have brought totally unnecessary suffering upon mankind, including upon themselves. John Griffin, a self-liberated white man, once swallowed chemicals to blacken his skin in order to be able to experience firsthand how the Negro felt in the face of this white ferocity.
Griffin subsequently wrote a book called Black Like Me, in which he observes that whoever causes suffering to other people on the basis of such totally false assumptions as racial superiority causes an equal amount of suffering even to himself.
For racism is hatred; and hatred, self-evidently, is not a peaceful mental condition to be in. Racism is mental agony, a disease more acute than any bodily ailment. The white race in general and the Germanic peoples in particular continue with this degradation of human beings — and of themselves — at their own expense.
But nowhere is this self-consciousness of racial differences as acute as in the United States. This is perplexing because America is also the country in which science has made the most profound discoveries of the indivisibility of the human species.
In Origin and People of the Lake (both written with a white American called Roger Lewin), our own Richard Leakey repeatedly remarks that, although, externally, Homo sapiens is among the most raciated of all species, it is also, internally, probably the most homogeneous.
All evolutionary scientists I am familiar with — Dawkins, Dennett, Gould, Halacy, Morris, Sheppard, etc — affirm that raciation is good for a species because it makes it possible for it to put its survival eggs in many baskets (in case of an environmental holocaust).
This puts Barack Obama in a much better position than any “pedigree whites” or “pedigree blacks.” He is 50 per cent European and 50 per cent African. And, if he is conscious of this double heritage, he might serve America with a much keener sense of justice than any “pure Caucasian” or “pure Negro.”
Dawkins, then, is right in a double sense. It is the height of injustice to think of a person as “black” just because his blood is “tainted” with “black,” whereas, if “taint” is what it is, then his blood is equally tainted with “white,” in which case, he equally qualifies also as white.
The anthropologist Lionel Tiger — I learn from Dawkins — called it a “contamination metaphor.” It is perilous because it emphasises the inessential (external appearance) at the expense of the essential (the internal composition) of the individual, whatever his or her race may be.
In this way, the United States — a great country in every other way — has denied itself potentially excellent leadership for too long by putting a premium on such superficialities as race, sex and religion.