Newsweek: The Moderate Voice: Is Obama American enough to succeed?

Newsweek: The Moderate Voice

Is Obama American enough to succeed?

Is Barack Obama enough of an American? Can a person be well-educated, dark-skinned and a real American at the same time?
Obama’s election hinges on whether a majority thinks the latter is possible or is so self-evident that the question is silly. The McCain-Palin ticket’s central strategy still is to stoke doubt and keep the first question alive.

It cannot be denied that this election would get much less attention were it a contest between a young white liberal-centrist and an old white right-wing warrior. The emotional outpouring is there because Obama is non-white in a white nation.

Europeans and other non-Americans are so riveted by this electoral drama because for almost everyone America is a white and multidenominational Christian nation. In those eyes being black, Hispanic, Asian or Muslim denotes belonging to an immigrant minority tolerated by white Americans but not of them.

For those eyes, it is exciting and surprising to see white people elect an apparently black person to be their Commander-in-Chief and ruler.

Yet, Obama is not really black or an African American despite his skin color. African Americans are just slightly newer than the early white settlers while Obama is the son of a foreign father who did not become American. His claim to being American comes from his white mother and grandparents.


For most eyes, America is white nation because immigrants of other races got there later. Europeans find it hard to see American blacks as being as genuinely American as whites. In Europe, all “colored” people are forever immigrants. France’s Nicholas Sarkozy born of immigrant Hungarians could never have become President were he black or Arab regardless of how many generations of ancestors were French born.

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