Rupert Murdoch has a very thoughtful question: Is Obama black enough? OK, maybe it’s not so thoughtful. The media mogul posed the question on Twitter:
Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) October 8, 2015
Apologies! No offence meant. Personally find both men charming.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) October 8, 2015
What does Rupert Murdoch mean by a “real black”? And how many of them does the 84-year-old Australian-born billionaire denizen of Manhattan’s fanciest districts know? The implication is offensive, sure, but it’s also remarkably banal. “Is Obama black enough?” is a question that’s been raised, debated, deplored, gnawed, and then shallowly buried, only to rise again, for as long as he’s been a national political figure.
What’s interesting—other than to see how many editors resorted to “black like me” jokes— is how the context for that question has changed over time. In the first phase, the question centered on whether Obama was “black enough” to both win over black voters and win a general election; as often as not, it was raised by black journalists. During the second phase, which lasted from Obama’s election until the end of his first term, Obama’s blackness was largely questioned and interrogated by white observers. (One might see this as a natural consequence of a society built on white supremacy: Having finally proved his blackness, Obama faced predictable pressure from whites.) In the third phase, the pendulum has swung back, as those questioning Obama’s blackness again seem to doubt his ability to connect with a demographic from which they believe he is alienated.