Woods and Obama

In provocative essay in the American Conservative, Steve Sailer contrasts the racial attitudes of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama:

Woods turned down Nike’s suggestion that because African-American celebrities are so popular today, he should identify himself solely as black. He didn't want to disown his mother. Woods instead calls himself black and Thai, or, at times, "Caublinasian," in tribute to his Caucasian, black, American Indian, and Asian ancestors.

From the age of ten onward, though, Obama desperately wants to be black: "I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant." Honolulu's paucity of African-Americans means he has to learn to be black from the media: "TV, movies, the radio; those were places to start. Pop culture was color-coded, after all, an arcade of images from which you could cop a walk, a talk, a step, a style."

He cherishes every cause for complaint he can discern against white folks. He is constantly distressed at being half-white. Obama says he "ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites," even though he surely realizes that his media-sensation status stems from how much white people love highly accomplished blacks who speak with white accents.

Sailer is often blunt, and somewhat callous, I think, in refusing to empathize with the real tensions and difficulties Obama has had to grapple with in a very multicultural life. But his essay is stimulating nonetheless. The account of Obama's alcoholic, absent, polygamous father is the kind of thing you keep in mind when considering the psyche of a possible president.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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