Thursday, November 13, 2008


Whiter Shades of Pale

Mixed race barrister Michael Paulin today asserts that to call Obama 'half-white' is an insult. He has a good case. Anyone catching sight of Obama in the street would instantly categorize him as black rather than white and I'm pretty sure apartheid South Aftica would, in legal terms, have done the same thing. Citing a number of commentators from the resistible Rod Liddle to the egregious Charles Moore, Paulin reckons:

The implication is that we are only civilised because we have a white parent.

This hegemony of whiteness seems to apply widely for black people. Someone like Diana Ross and Beyonce illustrate how the hierarchy of paler shades applies. It also applies regarding facial characteristics: the more a black person resembles a white one, the more handsome he or she is generally held to be. Examples can be found in the case of Sidney Poitier, Denzil Washington or Halle Berry all Hollywood stars partly as a result. Someone with classic 'negro' characteristics, say like the late boxer, Sonny Liston, would never have a chance of joining such a beauty parade.

But the syndrome applies to black people too. I once asked a lady from the Caribbean island of Dominica if she had had her children in the public ward of her local hospital. She replied: 'Oh no, they are for the black people'. She was black too but of a paler hue. The ultimate example, I suppose, is Michael Jackson, who went to extraordinary lengths to transform himself from a beautiful black person into a strange freaky white one. For me Obama is definitely black and I celebrate the fact he's triumphed against such absurd attitudes.

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