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Barack Obama is Not America's First Black President

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Googling the words "Obama first black president"- returns almost 2.4 million Web pages. But no matter how many times we say it, it's just not true. Barack Obama is not America's first black president. We haven't had a black president, yet.

Barack Obama is half-black and half-white. His father was a black man from Kenya. His mother was a white woman from Kansas. We all know this. So why do we call him our first black president?

Imagine a time in the future when America has its first actual, 100% black president. That person will be incorrectly "" and unfairly "" known as America's second black president.

What it boils down to is racism on two fronts.

On one hand, it's anti-black. If you are one-half black and one-half white, you're not white "" you're black. So when we say that Obama is black, the implication is that if you have some black in you, you're black. To be white, you need to be 100% white "" that is, "untainted"- by the black genes. Calling Obama the first black president reinforces this racist viewpoint.

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On the other hand, calling Obama a black president is anti-white. What about his poor mother? Do her white genes not count for anything? Imagine calling Obama a white president, completely discounting his black background. We'd have a race war on our hands. But calling Obama our first black president, then, is the same as calling him just another white president.

But because of our racially-divided history, calling him our first black president is acceptable and actually preferable. In a way, it has a conciliatory nature. But this practice further highlights the racial divide by looking backwards. We had a bunch of white presidents "" now here's a black one. Now it seems like the beginning of some kind of balance. Does that mean we'd need over 40 more consecutive "black"- presidents after Obama to make things right?

Of course not. But he should be called our first mixed-race president. That is not only correct, but it's forward-looking. It's a way to help heal the country's racial wounds. Obama can say, "Look at me, I bring am the best of both worlds. In me, racism has been solved. He is a symbol of the power of miscenegenation.

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Mr Obama is a product of equal parts black and white. Shouldn't both aspects be celebrated equally?

To the future and true "first black president of the United States," whoever you may be: You will be called the second, but always remember, you are the first.

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Reynard Loki is a New York-based artist, writer and editor. He is the environment and food editor at AlterNet.org, a progressive news website. He is also the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio whose projects (more...)

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