That depends on noticing the usually overlooked distinction between color and culture, race and ethnicity, and most of all on who we are (or, as Clinton would say, the definition of “us”).
If Barack Obama makes it all the way to becoming the Democratic nominee for President in 2008, a feat he says he may attempt, a much more complex understanding of the difference between color and ethnic identity will be upon us for the very first time.
After all, Obama’s mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan. Other than color, Obama did not — does not — share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.
So when black Americans refer to Obama as “one of us,” I do not know what they are talking about. In his new book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama makes it clear that, while he has experienced some light versions of typical racial stereotypes, he cannot claim those problems as his own — nor has he lived the life of a black American.
Does this matter? As Crouch says, probably not. What Crouch almost but does not quite say is that even being “descendants of plantation slaves” no longer means as much as it used to. He came close when he noted that Alan Keyes, who was stupidly imported to Illinois to run against Obama in 2004, “was unable to draw a meaningful distinction between himself as a black American and Obama as an African-American,” which was not surprising “since it was obvious that Keyes came from the Southeast, not the Midwest.”
One of the many tragedies of our current “diversity” mania is that it perpetuates the notion that color, culture, and identity are identical.