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September, 2004

Race Authenticity

Just wanted to point everyone to an article by my friend Charlton McIlwain in The Gadflyer. In "Blacker Than Thou", Charlton discusses the similarities between the approaches of Spike Lee and Alan Keyes in bringing up the authenticity of blackness in some people. For Keyes that person is specifically Barack Obama, his opponent for a Senate seat in Illinois. Charlton writes:
Republicans know that they can do little to draw African American support away from Obama in Illinois. They know they cannot win the seat. But they recognized that they have a national stage – a historic one with two black candidates running for the U.S. Senate, and in a battleground state for the presidential election – for white conservatives to dictate, through a black mouthpiece, what it should mean to be black in America, and what the face of black politics should look like. Their ultimate goal is not to recruit more blacks; it is to dilute any notion that there have been and continue to be issues and positions that distinctively affect black people – or any minority for that matter. Black authenticity is political sleight of hand to claim that race doesn't matter any more, to weaken public interest and tolerance in pursuing race-based issues such as voting rights, civil rights, affirmative action and the like. It's the only explanation that makes any sense of Keyes' remarks.
The question of what makes one person more black than another is one that has plagued the black community for some time and reinforcing this idea in political debate is both wrong and dangerous.
September 16, 2004
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.