High Yallers And Yo, Yo Darkskins

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Guys, I want to expound on that earlier post about Michelle Obama and white ancestry. One very consistent theme in comments is that this is news mainly because white people--in large measure--don't know that black people--in large measure--are a mulatto people. That's short-hand, but I hope you guys get my drift. I understand why one might not know the specifics of housing segregation, slavery, Jim Crow, or the grandfather clause, but the case for black/white admixing seems, uhm, very, very evident. Harold Ford has two "black" parents. But I'm not sure he looks any "blacker" than Barack Obama. There's a reason for that, no?

There's also the fact that, historically, so many prominent black people, (Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Shemar Moore, W.E.B Du Bois, Halle Berry, Muhammad Ali) actually do have white ancestry. This isn't because of some kind of color caste elitism, it's because it's so common. I don't raise it to highlight anyone's ignorance, or to browbeat people, or argue for Black History Month starting in January. I raise it because this is as much about my ignorance as yours. Put bluntly--I thought you knew.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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