Saturday, May 24, 2008


In the kicker of this New York Times piece about the Puerto Rico primary is another, relatively unexplored (underexplored?) dimension of race in America:

As in other recent primaries, race may also end up playing a role in determining how people vote. But here, Mr. Obama’s “bi-racial” identity is perceived as working to his advantage, not as an obstacle to be overcome.

“On the mainland, Obama is black, but not in Puerto Rico,” said Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, the island’s most distinguished political commentator. “Here he is a mulatto, and this is a mulatto society. People here are perfectly prepared to vote for someone who looks like them for president of the United States.”

A few things struck me about this. Number one, race isn't an "obstacle," racism is an obstacle. The problem isn't that Obama is black, the problem is that some folks have a problem with the fact that Obama is black.

Two, are we at the point where we can stop pretending Obama is winning just because he's black?

Last but not least, this is a reminder that we are living in a society where skin tone often matters almost as much, if not as much, as race itself. As wonderful as it is that PR can look at Obama and see themselves, it reminds you they wouldn't feel the same way about someone who was darker or didn't have a white parent.

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