August 11th, 2007
07:44 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama: Enough with the 'black enough' talk

Sen. Barack Obama greets attendees at the National Association of Black Journalists Conference in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN)Sen. Barack Obama hasn’t been shy about his distaste for circumstances that call for one-liners and sound bites. But sitting among thousands at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention Friday afternoon, it was easy to see why Obama thrives in a setting where he can just talk, up close and personal.

Belying his past job as a law professor, “Professor Obama” appeared relaxed and at ease, engaging in an easygoing discussion on a variety of issues and often joking with moderator Byron Pitts, a national correspondent for CBS.

But then Pitts asked that last question: What gives Obama hope that America is ready for a black president? The room fell eerily silent. The barrage of camera shutters tapered off quickly. The cavernous ballroom was standing room only, a stark contrast to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who spoke to a half-filled room.

Obama’s blackness has come up plenty of times before. He’s often asked whether he’s “black enough” by the African American community and his stock response – the one he deftly delivered during the CNN-YouTube Democratic Presidential debate – has been to joke that folks never ask that question when he’s trying to catch a cab in New York.

But that was hardly his answer Friday afternoon.

Instead – for the first time in more detail that I’ve ever seen – Obama took the opportunity to get at what he considers the heart of the matter, actually demanding that black journalists themselves are to blame for missing the point. Skin color, his record in public service, the issues – none of this suggests he’s not ‘black enough’ and yet questions over his blackness persist, he put to the crowd of black journalists.

It’s “puzzling,” he said. Why is this?

But the question was rhetorical. Professor Obama then stepped onto the stage, answering his own question, and suggesting that perhaps the real issue is a basic mistrust in black America of a black candidate.

“What it really does is really lay bare, I think, that we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong,” he said, adding it’s the same sort of suspicion many blacks face when they attend a predominately white Ivy League institution.

And that’s when he issued this provocative challenge: Instead of asking Obama if he’s black enough, black journalists should dig deeper, and ask why there exists this mistrust in black America of a black man like Obama running for office?

Bottom line: Obama nailed it. The question of his blackness has always been a ridiculous one. And maybe now he won't have to answer it again.

What do you think? I’d like to her hear your opinion in the comments section below.

– CNN contributor Roland Martin


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (704 Responses)
  1. Laura M, London.

    Here is a man borne from a love that grew irrespective of colour. Yes, he is black and yes he is white, so what? His manifestation is a confirmation of the kind of world we should seek to create. A world where we appreciate each other for our shared humanity.

    Barack Obama was not a paticipant in the Civil Rights Movement for obvious reasons. However, when his time came he sought to emulate those who had gone before him and worked as a grassroot activist. In the process, He eschewed six figure salary in the corporate arena in order to work towards empowering the masses.

    Here is a man who came from a home where colour was never ever an issue,it was only outside of his home that he came face to face with the monster that is racial politics. He did not allow himself to be devoured by this peculiar beast, instead from his book you can see this is a man who reflected on the implications of the deeply divided society he lived in and spent ample time in personal contemplation. Result? America has a candidate who is both intelligent and humane enough to work towards creating a just and better America.

    Baraxk Obama may not have spent years on Capitol Hill, but his love of humanity, hardwork, integrity and knowledge will stand him in good stead. The years spent agitating at grassroot levels have given him invaluable insight as to the needs of the man on the ground.

    America, you are the envy of the world. Seize the moment as many a nation would love to have a candidate of Barack Obama's calibre vie for leadership on their shores. Set the trend you trendsetters...y'know you want to.

    Barack for President 2008!For a better America, for a better world.

    October 6, 2007 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  2. Kenneth T. Tellis, Miss

    Now that Obama Barack has everything in black and white, no one should complain. Because, here is a man unwilling to take on issues with a racial bent, but takes on issues in a context of America and Americans and that is what really counts after all. Case closed

    December 23, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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