Monday, July 20, 2009

Not Black & White

U.S. President Barack Obama is a role model in many ways. It is great that many people are encouraged by his intelligence, his assorted skills, and his successes. Yet let's clarify that Obama is a multiracial person, as much Caucasian as Black. This interracial element highlights a key dynamic of sociology in America.

Via anti-miscegenation laws, many U.S. states outlawed marriage between people of different races, such as Obama's parents. When his parents married in 1961 in Hawaii, 22 of the 50 states outlawed such a marriage: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. (Another 8 states repealed such laws between 1948-61, while a further 11 repealed their anti-miscegenation laws in the 19th century).

The U.S. Supreme Court declared all such prohibitions illegal in 1967. But more than 40 years later, which states are relatively intolerant? In the 2008 election among the 22 "anti-miscegenation states" mentioned above, multiracial Barack Obama won just 35% of the electoral vote (80 of 231), but 93% of electoral votes elsewhere. Mixed race families elicit a different "racist attitude" than other families. Barack is a living symbol of hope.