Obama Only Marked Black on Census—Unfortunately

It could have been 'historic teaching moment,' writes Gregory Rodriguez
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2011 1:17 PM CDT
Obama Only Marked Black on Census—Unfortunately
This 1960's file photo provided by the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., shows Obama with his mother Stanley Ann Dunham.   (AP Photo/Obama Presidential Campaign, File)

When Barack Obama sat down to fill out his census form, he checked off one race: black. And as one of the most famous mixed-race people in the world, "he missed an opportunity," writes Gregory Rodriguez for the Los Angeles Times. In the 20th century, the idea of racial purity seeped into our legal system, with some states passing laws
"codifying the 'one-drop rule,' which held that anyone with the slightest hint of African ancestry would be considered black." We've come a long way, and beginning in 2000, the Census Bureau adopted a "check-all-races-that-apply" approach. And many are doing so.

The number of Americans who identified themselves as multiracial has grown 32% since that first year, to 2.9% of the population. "Given the history of the one-drop rule and Obama's own mixed-race origins," Rodriguez is surprised Obama only ticked one box. After all, wasn't "a large part of candidate Obama's appeal the facility with which he could communicate across racial lines?" Obama took the politically correct route, one political scientist told Rodriguez: "If he had come to Chicago calling himself multiracial, he would have had no political career. And I think if he called himself multiracial now, black people would see it as a betrayal." That's too bad, Rodriguez concludes. "America will just have to find its way into the new multiracial era without him." (Read more Barack Obama stories.)

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