ATR 57 – Is Barack Obama really black? – 01/29/2007

Carmen is joined by guest co-host Mat Johnson in this episode. Born and raised in Philly, Mat Johnson grew up in the Germantown and Mount Airy sections of the city. As an adult, he has lived elsewhere. His first novel, Drop, was a B&N Discover Great New Writers selection. His second novel, Hunting in Harlem, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He has written for a variety of publications, including a stint as a columnist for Time Out-NY. Mat Johnson currently teaches at Bard College. And his latest novel The Great Negro Plot, is out now in stores.

As expected, we got a ton of feedback in response to our discussion in episode 56 about Asian outmarriage, so listener feedback runs a little long today. To read all the comments to this episode, see here and here. After that, Mat and Carmen discuss two recent articles on Salon.com that question whether or not Obama is “really” black: Colorblind by Debra Dickerson and Black vs. “black” by Gary Kamiya.

This episode features the song “So Far So Good” (featuring Common & D’Angelo) from the late J. Dilla’s album, The Shining, courtesy of Spectre Entertainment Group.

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Duration – 1:05:36
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15 thoughts on “ATR 57 – Is Barack Obama really black? – 01/29/2007”

  1. Oy, now I know you mentioned that you didn’t use my whole comment to explain how it led up to the comment you used on this podcast, I didn’t imply that the issue shouldn’t be looked into an addressed. I actually suggest the opposite.

    However, it must be known that this belief that women “belong” to the men has been preached to men of any race for years and it’s simply foolish to ignore that aspect.

    Again, I find it pretty tragic that you would ignore the part on “why” that anger is projected towards Asian women.

  2. Rob, I did not “ignore” it, I simply disagree with you that Asian women should be the target of your anger, and am disappointed that you’re so quick to dismiss any discussion of sexism because it’s simply an “instinct.”

    The gender imbalance in interracial relationships among Asian-Americans is an extremely complex topic, with many overlapping and sometimes contradictory forces at work. I think it’s far too simplistic to suggest that only one party is to blame.

    Also, is it possible that you’re being a bit selective in terms of what you take to heart and what you notice? Just because you have met a few Asian women who think that Asian men are inferior, does not mean that this a common feeling among Asian women. Just because Kelly Hu and Gina from Top Model have talked shit about Asian men, does not mean that all Asian female celebrities talk shit about Asian men. Of the Asian women whom you have met who do support Asian men, have you shown them any support?

    You seem to focus solely on the negative – I never see you comment on or even acknowledge any positive developments. How about the fact that the gender gap is closing, as per Dr. Le’s colleague’s statistics? How about the fact that more and more Asian men are marrying interracially? How about the fact that Lost, one of TV’s hit shows, features a real, complex, loving relationship between an Asian man and an Asian woman? How about the fact that there are more and more Asian male characters on TV who are real, interesting, complex, meaty characters? How about the fact that at least two major TV ad campaigns (Helio and Volkswagen) this year featured interracial couples made up of an Asian man and white woman?

    Sure, we still have a long way to go in terms of combating negative stereotypes about Asian men, but I think that by ignoring these positive developments, you come across as someone who wilfully stays blind to anything that doesn’t fit in with your argument.

  3. Rob, as I just wrote in my response to your email, since you feel strongly about this issue, you should certainly have the opportunity to clarify your position on the podcast. Please send me an audio comment that is under 5 minutes long (you can either call it in as a voicemail to 206-203-3983 or record it yourself and email me the MP3 file) that I can play on the show. Or alternately, send me an email that is 500 words or less, and I’d be happy to read it on the next episode.

  4. After the whole charade with the quotes, the bland personal story, and calling himself a mongrel, Kamiya’s whole essay boiled down to one thesis: As a mixed race individual, monolithic racial descriptions dont describe him.

    Whoopty doo.

    What I found most offensive was his discovery of white privilege. Whats that Gary? Marking the “white” checkbox lets you feel “racial invisibility”? Without having to ignore your own backgrown you feel as if you dont have to defend yourself? Congratulations, Gary Kamiya, you are the fat man wearing the mankini of white privilege. Stop offending us all with your discovery of white privilege.

    That mixed race (especially partially white) individuals seem to ignore their non-white heritage is offensive enough. Garys self discovery on the porcelain throne of white privilege offends me because he isnt more sensitive to the massive damage that white privilege has imposed on others. It offends me that, because of his mixed race heritage, he feels like checking the “white” box is as inconsequential as putting on and taking off the nazi swastika, because he is both white and not white.

    Mixed race people who are part white are blessed with the opportunity to see, from birth, how white privilege has “influenced” (see Gary, I can use quotes too!) nonwhite people. To see clearly that the glass and marble cielings exist, and to point them out. But instead, Gary, like a simpleton, is socially unaware, like a baby wearing the fuhrers hat.

    What a damned shame.

  5. Sorry for having to repeat yourself since I sent you an email and asked you to respond to this thread.

    I will take you up on the offer to further explain the issue at a later time when I can better explain my perspective in detail.

    Thanks.

  6. Badly worded sentence. Sorry –

    “That mixed race (especially partially white) individuals seem to ignore their non-white heritage is offensive enough. ”

    I meant to say “that SOME mixed race…” I was just seeing red over Kamiya’s writing. No offence. loving the podcast.

  7. Hello, I am Dan Huffman, a fellow podcaster, and long-time resident of Japan.

    I thought you might be interested in this…

    There’s a racist scandal currently unfolding here in Japan. It started with a famous convenience store carrying a racist magazine titled “Niggar, get you hand off that Japanese girl’s ass”.

    I found out about this today when listening to episode #56 the excellent Japan Talk podcast:
    http://www.japantalk.org/
    http://www.japantalk.org/index.php?post_id=177983

    The store in question is Family Mart, and the incident is being reported by the blog, Japan Probe:
    http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1072
    http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=1075

  8. To Tokyo Dan. Hey it called freedom of speech. Maybe you dont like it, but it editors care about more about Japan then you ever will.

    I’m sure when racism is in your favor you wont be speaking against it.

  9. Hey Bill,

    I believe that a person should also have the freedom to date or marry anyone of any race without condemnation. I’ m a white American. And when I was living in the USA, racism was always “in my favor” as you put it. But if you really want to know what I think about racism, listen to these two MIJ (Mad in Japan) shows I made about growing up in a white racist society in the USA:

    http://www.podshow.com/showguide/?key_id=843&feed_type=pdn

    I hope for a world where all races can really get along, or at least a world where, through interracial marriage, everybody will be brown and beautiful, and finally, there will be no racism.

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  11. Obama ignores his white heritage. The only proof needed of this is the fact that when he is referred to as an “African American” he doesn’t correct people by asserting that he is also half-white. Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because he knows 90+ percent of the African American community wil probably vote for him because “he is African American”.

  12. obama is capitalizing on his blackness because he realizes that there are millions of white, liberal ellite willing to ease their “liberal guilt”
    by voting for him only because is black(and socialist).

    and we all know that whether obama claims his ‘whiteness’ or not—-at 3 in the morning when he’s trying to catch a cab–he’s black.

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