They throw stones and call him names, but that ain't going to turn him around. The nasty talk of black columnists and community leaders about the state of Sen. Barack Obama's blackness isn't slowing him down one bit.
Obama's black critics ' columnists such as Stanley Crouch and Debra Dickerson and civil-rights-leaders-turned-politicians Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton ' are creating a litmus test that is petty and self-destructive.
I'm perplexed. Obama isn't black enough for what? For whom? Oh, what an indictment of how these black pundits think! These great communicators of black pride need to bury the 'not black enough' mindset along with the 'N' word side-by-side in their graves.
Obama is the most promising black politician to come along since Frederick Douglass in his ability to cross the racial divide and grab the hearts and minds of all Americans.
Since Obama was born to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, who has better credentials to call himself African American?
Debra Dickerson, in her Los Angeles Times column, ignorantly declared that Obama's East African heritage didn't make him black enough because his ancestors didn't undergo the 'great passage' like the millions of enslaved West Africans packed like sardines in the belly of slave ships crossing the Atlantic to the Americas.
If Dickerson better understood African history, she would know that East Africans were also subjected to the slave trade. My own family is an example.
My mother's side of our family came from East Africa. Her family is light-skinned, going all the way back to our ancestor, Betsy, who was named by an English slave-owner. Betsy was a member of the Galla people from what is now Ethiopia. Hence, the high cheekbones, lighter skin and narrow faces of our family.
Our family genealogy describes her long travel with 11 other enslaved people from Galla to Great Britain in 1685 and finally to Virginia in 1689, where her owner became the English governor of the then-colony.
In Virginia, my mother's family acquired the last name of Littlejohn, the name of the plantation's slave overseer. Perhaps she fared better than other slaves because of her lighter skin. It was commonplace on Southern plantations for darker slaves to be relegated to fieldwork and the lighter-skinned slaves to the mansion and to domestic work. Thus began the etiology of an abhorrent social construct for skin color.
It lingers even today among African Americans. Even in Madison's black community, where being criticized as 'not black enough' means you're too close to white people, too close to the people in power.
But crossing over is what Obama has done all of his life. He was not just born in an interracial family, but raised in multi-ethnic Hawaii and in multi-religion, multi-cultural Indonesia.
Obama may have attended silk-stocking institutions like Columbia University and Harvard Law School, but he also worked on Chicago's gritty South Side as a community organizer for $13,000 a year, where he experienced, he says, the most important education of his life.
Who, you might ask, better represents America's ongoing experiment with building a multi-racial/multi-ethnic democracy than Barack Obama?
Polling second or third among the Democratic candidates, Obama is attracting substantial support from African Americans, despite the grumbling from well-respected writers and activists that he isn't black enough.
Of note, Vernon Jordan, the former National Urban League leader and a close friend of the Clintons, held a fund-raiser for Obama so that Washington's moneyed insiders got a chance to meet the man. The significance here is that Jordan was quoted as saying that at his advanced age, old friendships (like with the Clintons) carry a lot of weight. Still, it seems that some of that weight is shifting.
People from all walks of life are attending Obama's rallies, wearing 'Obama for President' pins with pride and declaring the time has come for a black person to become president of the United States. Indeed, Obama's race for the White House is not just to advance the social-justice agenda that Jackson and Sharpton championed. He's running to win.
And, in the end, Barack Obama will have the last laugh. The petty complaints of Crouch, Dickerson, Jackson and Sharpton will fade away. Eventually, they too will put an 'Obama for President' bumper sticker on their cars.