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.
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.
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.