Issues of color still ripple through identity
DEAR ABBY: “Wondering in Goldsboro, N.C.,” asked why President Barack Obama is considered to be African-American when he’s biracial. While your response was accurate, you missed an opportunity to educate your readers by failing to give the historical context as to why most people refer to him as African-American.
There was a time in this country when “blacks”/African- Americans were considered only to be three-fifths (3/5) of a human being. Also, if a person had one drop of “black” blood they were considered black. Although as a society we have progressed intellectually and in our understanding of what a human being is, we continue to hold on to archaic beliefs about skin color that not only pigeonhole an individual, but may force an individual to choose what so-called racial group that he/she identifies with most.
I can clearly see that the conversation regarding “race” and skin color must be continued in this country. Though we’ve “come a long way, baby,” we still have a long way to go in understanding this country’s deep-rooted responses to skin color. — LIVING IN AMERICA
DEAR LIVING: I think if one digs deep enough, we will come to the realization that there has always been a component of economic exploitation and perceived economic threat that is, and has been, at the root of racial discrimination. (But that’s just my opinion.) Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In Obama’s book, “Dreams From My Father,” he calls himself a black man of mixed descent. His decision to do that is as much a political decision as it is a personal one.
Most people of color of mixed race in our society have felt we had to choose to be the darker color because we can never be white.
In our society, most people who do or don’t know of Obama’s mixed background would treat him as a black man. (If you saw him walking down the street, would you say, “Hey, that guy’s half-white!”) By embracing his political identity he supports and strengthens all black people in the U.S. by standing proudly as one of us. — NICOLE IN MARIN COUNTY, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: African-American does not denote skin color, but an ethnic culture, a term that describes those of us who are descendants of captive Africans in America. It holds the same level of pride as it does for those who pronounce they are Italian-American or Asian-American. — MICHELLE IN MARYLAND
DEAR ABBY: You write that the term African-American is used in this country as a label that describes skin color. I believe you are correct, and that’s the problem. “African- American” identifies origin or ancestry, not skin color. Furthermore, if the anthropologists are right, then — going back far enough — we are ALL African-American. — AFRICAN- AMERICAN MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RACE IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR ABBY: Why can’t we all be called just plain AMERICANS if we grow up in America and are citizens of America? I think a lot of people have wondered this. — SANDY B. IN HARRISBURG, PA.
DEAR SANDY: That’s a good question and one that I hope will one day be put to rest — if not by our children, then by our children’s children. — SINCERELY, ABBY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.