There's an interesting conversation going on around the internet surrounding an article about the Obamas that appeared in New York Magazine titled, Black and Blacker. Despite the truly idiotic headline, the article has some interesting tidbits that provide some food for thought. I'm not going to analyze the entire piece, but will use one passage as a jumping off point for a bit of discussion.
As much as any political campaign is an extended meditation on authenticity, the question of just how black the Obamas are has become particularly loaded. Michelle must project herself as black to one community, but she also must act white to another, whatever either adjective means nowadays.
Some are interpreting this passage as meaning Michelle is acting a certain way to fit in or to fool her audiences. In context it reads more to me that Michelle is expected to act certain ways by different groups in our society. I don't know what the writer meant and for the purpose of our discussion it doesn't matter. Reading that passage a question immediately popped into my head: What is acting or talking white? Which, of course, leads to another question: Am I doing it right?
I don't mean to make fun of what is for some a very important issue. I would never belittle anyone else's struggle to fit in or to be accepted as they are.
However, someone please tell me what is "White" and when did we get to claim ownership to a certain way of speaking and acting?
Is it White to pronounce words correctly? If it is, I know an awful lot of whites who just aren't White enough. Have you ever traveled to the North Carolina mountains? How about to our coast? Have you ever driven through any of our rural counties and had a conversation with local White folks?
Is it White to use words in the proper context? If it is, I know an awful lot of Whites who just aren't White enough.
Is it White to use proper grammar? If it is, I know an awful lot of Whites who just aren't White enough.
Is it White to be considerate of others and to treat your neighbors with kindness? If it is, I know an awful lot of Whites who just aren't White enough.
Is it White to work, pay taxes, obey laws and care for your children and parents? If it is, I know an awful lot of Whites who just aren't White enough.
Is it White to earn ad advanced degree? Is it White to dress fashionably? Is it White to be poised? Is it White to be gracious?
Seriously, I need to know. I may be White, but if the above is the list of what you have to do to act White, then I fear that I'm a failure. As a matter of fact, when I look at that list and review what little I know of Michelle Obama, I realize she is much better at all of the above than I am.
Maybe Michelle isn't acting anything. Maybe she's just being herself. Ever thought if it that way?