August 13th, 2007
01:04 PM ET
3 years ago

Cut it out: Obama's wife on Barack being 'black enough'

Watch CNN's Don Lemon report on how Obama addressed the 'black enough' issue last week.

(CNN) – Michelle Obama dismissed any lingering questions over her husband’s racial identity at a “Women for Obama” event in Chicago Sunday, demanding that people “cut that nonsense out because it is not helping our children.”

The comments came two days after Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama addressed in detail whether he was “black enough” for the African American community at the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Las Vegas.

Michelle Obama told the audience Sunday, “What are we saying to our children if a man like Barack Obama isn’t black enough? Then who is? Who are they supposed to be? So we have to cut that nonsense out because it is not helping our children.”

At the recent National Association of Black Journalists convention, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, was also asked by CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux whether she was black enough to sustain the kind of support her husband former Pres. Bill Clinton has long had in the African-American community.

Clinton and Obama lead most national polls for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and both are aggressively vying for the support of the African-American community, historically a very reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party.

–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Eric, Fort Wayne, IN

    Barack Obama is deffinitly NOT black enough. By appearance alone. He's dresses very well, like a white guy. He speaks clearly and very well, like a white guy. And thus far has been employeed on his own accord, again going whitey on us. Nothing he does speaks of stereotypical 'black' or racially viewed 'black'. So agian he is NOT black enough.

    If your going to ask such an ignorant question like "Is he BLACK enough" you should wallow in ignorant answers and reasons. Not to get a worthy answer or even an answer to justify these types of questions. I really don't like either Billary or Mr. Obama, but digressing like this when involving such a worhty contender. That Speaks VERY LOUDLY of the voting populace.

    August 13, 2007 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  2. S. Copeland, Columbus, Ohio

    Question is, Can CNN formulate the question in a less racial manner? Seems to me the question is, Do Obama's thought patterns match a stereotypical black psyc. that the question writer has defined in his own mind as "black"?
    First – define black (bet CNN won't do it) – it's demeaning
    second – compare Obama with that. Too deep for CNN! As it is, CNN only clouds the issue with it's "dumbing down" of the question.

    August 13, 2007 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. Dessie Gaither-Russell - San Diego, California

    I agree with Michelle Obama "cut that nonsense out because it is not helping our children." Plus it is not helping the African-American people to focus on the immportant issues that are critical to African-American community as well as all American. Healthcare, Education, the Iraq war, crime, etc. etc. As I recall Senator Obama addressed most of these issues and a lot more as a Community Organizer, Ill. State Senator and U.S. Senator. Shame on the so call Black leaders and the Media for continuing to address this nonsense. BLACK AMERICAN please get in focus with issues that will affect your families. I am a 69 year old BLACK WOMEN who have voted in every election for 48 years and Senator Obama is BLACK enough and have the experience to become the next President of the U.S.

    August 13, 2007 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  4. J.W. Whitfield - Pasadena, CA

    To the "black enough" debate, it seems that deep down, even the most politically unaware Black Americans understand that BEING Black automatically makes you "black enough." Despite the common thinking, even the most sheltered, notoriously conservative Black Americans of significant age have been smacked in the face with the realities of American racism. Although we disagree with how they tolerate and/or navigate such situations, it doesn't make them any less "black." As a people, we enter a dangerous realm of self-degradation when we categorize smart, well-educated Black Americans as sounding or being "white" instead of sounding or being "intelligent." Despite what some in the community would argue, it is possible to be both BLACK and INTELLIGENT.

    August 13, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  5. Patrick Peavy Plano, TX

    Okay people it needs to go like this. Clinton is older so we need her to be President w/Obama as VP. I love Hillary, I like Obama. I want to love Obama and I know the more I hear from him the more I will grow to love him. Why do we need a Clinton/Obama ticket? Obama needs to be President for the next 8 years after Hillary. I feel that after Hillary does the great job she will do it will be wonderful to transition into an Obama administration Plus Michelle Obama, just like Hillary, is A+ First Lady material in my book. Oh and by the way when I look at my skin it looks more pale than a lot of people; but I will never call myself "white". I am an American. So is Obama and so is Hillary.

    But let me also ask you this: Have any of you ever considered that maybe in some back room Barack and Hillary are planning this all together?

    August 13, 2007 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Greg, NY, NY

    "It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black."
    – Nigel Tufnel "Spinal Tap"

    Sorry, just thought some humor could do some good lol

    August 13, 2007 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  7. Preston Lewis, Sacramento, CA

    Interesting argument. If you are black or white and your family has lived in the Americas for 200-300 years, as mine has, you are almost sure to be of mixed blood whether you look white or not. They don't call the U.S. a melting pot for nothing. People of all races have been mixing secretly long before you could do it openly. Race should not be the issue in America. Qualifications for the job is what counts.

    August 13, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. Michelle, Los Angeles, CA

    While it is a ridiculous to ask "Is someone Black enough", it is still important to recognize that race does indeed matter in this country. Why? If it did not matter, no one in mainstream media would ever introduce Obama in their stories as the "Black" or "African-American" candidate. If race no longer mattered in this country, no one would be talking about (or suprised by) how articulate and intelligent this man is.

    For those of you who do not view race as an issue, I commend you and hope that your lives and actions bear that out. But for those of you who have not experience overt or covert racism in this country, I also say to you that being Black does indeed matter. That is why organizations that support African-Americans in their careers and endeavors are still important because they provide support to their members where no career support is not available.

    As for Obama, if someone asks him that question again, I hope he respectfully declines to answer.

    August 13, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  9. shamanbart, Minneapolis, MN

    I get it - Karl Rove quit the White House and is now ghost-writing stories for CNN. Martina Stewart, if that is in fact who really wrote this piece of garbage, should either start writing about REAL political topics or just quit.

    CNN is doing to politics what it did for the Iraq war - avoiding asking the important questions and focusing on the fluff.

    This "black enough" question is demeaning to all Americans. CNN, do you want to apologize now to the American people, or does Michael Moore have to come over and yell at someone on live TV for 30 minutes?

    CNN = dirty hate machine

    August 13, 2007 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  10. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    And my question to the 54 commenters is:
    If you think the Question is so ridiculous why are you justifying it with a reply?
    It would seem to me that a larger message would have been sent to CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart if this blog had rendered Zero Comments...

    August 13, 2007 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  11. Fat White Lady in Kentucky

    I agree with most of the people that have posted. This question is obviously a ploy by the media to seed doubt in who could potentially be the first African American president of the United States. The mega media giants tell us what they want us to know and what they want us to believe. Obama is different. Obama does not accept their lobbying contributions. That scares them. When are people going to wake up? Stop following the Pied Piper that is the corporate media and start thinking for yourselves! Please! We are losing our Democracy here!

    August 13, 2007 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  12. Sara, New York, NY

    What's sad about this is that there are likely many Americans who WILL vote in the Presidential election on the basis of race, and I'm sure many of those voters will vote for Obama because he is black.

    While I agree that having a minority President would be a large step forward for racial equality in this country, I feel that it's more important to consider a candidate's position on issues, qualifications, etc.

    Obama appears to me to be a little power hungry, only because he is running for President without having even completed his first term in the Senate. I also believe that in 5 or 10 years that he would make an amazing President – once he has gained enough federal government experience to do the job right. As much as questions of race might undermine his campaign, they might also end up promoting him, which I believe, at this point in time, would be a mistake.

    August 13, 2007 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  13. Jonathan, New York

    do african americans vote for a candidate on the basis of whether he is "black enough" or whether he is good for the country and their community? this question seems a no brainer so who cares what colour Obama is for the Black Vote. If he is good for the country, vote him even if he is as green as a martian

    August 13, 2007 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  14. Tom G., Greensboro, NC

    Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous...How can CNN stoop to this level and actually call this a story? This is embarrassing "journalism". First you fail the people by not asking the tough challenging questions of the Bush administration (i.e. the Iraq war), now you call this "question" journalism? Talk about a story based on nothing! How about a story asking the tough, challenging, questions of Hillary Clinton and her changing positions and financial shenanigans? The other candidates? Is this the best you can do? First the question was, "Is America ready to elect a black President?". When it appears we are, "Well, is he black enough?". Come on...A perfect example of media losing the respect of the American people.

    August 13, 2007 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  15. Ayveel, Dallas, TX

    Monica from Rochester said.
    Ayveel, he's mostly described as African American because that's how has been and will be treated by the world. In everyday interactions no one makes a distinction between a person who's 100% black versus 50% vs 75%, we're all treated the same way in America.

    My response: If you don't think people make a distinction between people who are considered "half-breed", please come to America and find out. That is like saying people don't make a distinction between a skinny woman and a fat woman. It happens.

    And your last statement that all are treated the same in America is way off base. Ever go into a place that people judged you and thought you couldn't afford a Coach purse.

    I am not saying that Blacks are treated more horrible than anybody, but you have to notice the different. I can go some places and treated like a 7-figure Jewish man. But I can also go to places and be treated like the broke Black man that people might think that I am.

    All of these people are acting like his race doesn't matter. In my book it doesn't. But the reality is according to the state of our society, race still does matter. If it didn't, you wouldn't see Black women (not all) get mad every time they see a Black athlete with a white woman.

    August 14, 2007 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  16. Salim al-Rashid, Easton,Pa.

    Here we go again..after being a living witness to Ronald Raygun (Thespian)Arnold "S" (and the "S" stands for steroids) Jesse Ventura (Athlete?) We have the gall to ask a question like that? Has America no shame? We elect the Kings of showbiz and cinema to high office and we are still discussing who's black enough! Mr. Obama has more claim to distinction of "African American" than Most African Americans in this country.If we allowed a "C" student with a questionable military career to lead this world and this nation to the brink of hell. Then why not a woman or a man of color? Let's think outside the box for once (I'm referencing the Sandbox) that we have our heads in at this point in time in this Country. Whos's next Guilliani? oops he is running, Time to beam up!

    August 14, 2007 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  17. Vincent King, Phoenix AZ

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS (and evidently alive and well in Northbrook Il.)

    DUMB AND DUMBER LIVES.....
    DUMB QUESTION... DUMBER ANSWER!!!

    Mahinder of IL states, "Please address Obama for what he truly is:

    Barak Hussein Obama.

    This will speak louder than the color of his skin. I care less whether he is white enough or black enough."
    Posted By Mahinder, Northbrook, Illinois : August 13, 2007 6:22 pm

    This is COMPLETELY off topic of the already idiotic 'black enough' lunacy, but I could NOT let that comment slip by.
    (sigh... where to begin...) What's in a name...
    So, his name is Barack Hussein Obama... What does this mean (as you ask)"he truly is"... A terrorist? Were his name Senator D'Andre Jenkins, or Senator Muhammed Jackson, or Senator Biff freaking Smythington III, would he not still be who he "truly is"? A child reared in Hawaii,(yes, i am aware of the school in Africa, it was debunked) College educated in the Ivy League, a lawyer, an honorable family man, and a United States Senator? The only other time I have run across this "logic" was holding my nose and 'listening' to Ann Coulter spew her special and narrow view of politics. (and if you are echoing her, then there is no reaching you anyway). And for the record, not that it matters, but Senator Obama is a CHRISTIAN. (blows your mind, huh; a Christian with the evil word "Hussein", right there in his name! What 'is' this world comming to!) I digress... The point is: If his name were Falluja Bin-Laden Longfellow, he would STILL be a brilliant person and candidate. I again ask, what's in a name? A rose by any other name, is still a rose... (Shakespere)

    August 14, 2007 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  18. rhyan, carrboro, nc

    the "black enough" comments didn't originate at cnn. they originated in the new york daily news in early 2007 followed by an article in time magazine, and if you want to conisder the more recent jabs at his race, the associated press did an article july 28th. so, this isn't exactly a new concept. i think the term "black enough" refers to his electibility within the black community; the perception of which, according to most poles conducted, seems to find him not electible.

    August 14, 2007 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  19. Becca Lovett, Savannah, Ga

    I am a 16 year old white female. and i am just starting to pay attention to politics this year. I think that we shouldn't care about what color of skin they are. We should be focusing more on their politcal views and how they would change our country for the greater good. It doesn't matter if your white or black. People shouldn't be voting based on skin color. I may be young but i see things more clearly then most people. It seems to me that us Americans are so strung up with what color and race we all are. We all bleed the same. I think that we should be focusing more on their political views and not worry so much of there color. The saying "who is black enough" is stupid if thats what the nation is worrying about now. And how african americans are questioning if he is black enough because he has a white mother, is insane, because they shouldnt be voting for people because there the same race as them. I know i am knew to this whole political thing, but race shouldn't be an issue anyways. or sexes. It doesn't matter what color there skin is or if there male or female, because thats not going to do much as president of the united states. we should be looking more on their political views. because thats whats going to determine if there a good president or not. I am very irked that we are still discussing this. Its funny how racial issues are still at large in America. We are all created equally, lets not forget that. God Bless.

    August 14, 2007 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  20. Matt, Kalamazoo, MI

    Is Barack Obama "black enough?" Well, I suppose he is more black than John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John Edwards, etc. etc. etc. Seriously, who do people think can , Al Sharpton?

    August 14, 2007 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    People... The question that is being asked is two-fold. Is Barack Obama capable of carrying the Black Voters of this country despite his obvious disconnect with the society that makes up the Black community. He was raised in Hawaii and spent much of his time out of touch with everyday life that the Black Community goes through.
    When they ask, "is he Black Enough", they want to know if he truly understands what it is the people in that community need.
    On the other side of this question, when they ask someone like Clinton this question they want to know if she is also in touch with the needs of the Black Community as her husband was when he was president.
    It's a simple question...

    By the way, the silliness of nicknaming CNN as Clinton's network is getting old and it's quite abusive. The more you state it I am sure that CNN's lawyers will take offense and remove your comments as abusing the comment system. So if you want to contribute, write something useful.

    Just telling it like I see it,
    Wynter

    August 14, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  22. jean robinson

    Barack is a man of integrity,convictions,and loves this country,I meet the Gentleman at Mt Lebanon Missionary Baptist church in Chesapeake and he is simply a pleasure to talk with and he has my vote.

    August 14, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. Kat Watanabe, Charleston, SC

    If you don't understand why this topic keeps coming up - good. It doesn't apply to you. But understand that this mindset of being "black enough" is a condition that affects some African American's in this country (example: talk and dress a certain way, etc). Emphasis on the word some. As there are caucausians in the US that are ignorant and racist, the same applies to other racial groups in this country. Hate is a human characteristic - and it comes in different forms. This is just one of them. I feel it should be addressed, but am not convinced that chiding everyone as Michelle Obama has will really win over votes. I think her wording could have been a little better - instead of coming across as a mother berating her children.

    BTW - Individuals of racial backgrounds are bi-racial or multi-racial - drinks are "mixed", not people.

    August 14, 2007 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. RuthieM, PA

    Yes, this "Is he black enough?" question should indeed stop being asked, and for good! This is a divisive question that is working against Obama and thus doing its job. Why is it these questions must be asked of a black man and not the white man - is he white enough? This is America. Obama is American; that should suffice but we who ask this question shows that this society is still so racist and bigoted, all because of the color of a person's skin. Prejudice. How sad.

    August 14, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. Greg Jones Cleveland Ohio

    Black Leaders: Stop 'hatin' on Barack !

    I regularly listen to talk radio ranging from Air America, which is more progressive or Democratic...to Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved which are Republican....and black radio particularly Warren Ballentine and Rev. Al Sharpton on the Radio 1 Network which is doing a great job of reaching the black community and creating an opportunity for voices nationwide to be heard. I find it interesting to hear the different views from the hosts....as well as callers nationwide...on the subject of Barack Obama for President. Many of the hosts, even callers, on both Air America and the Republican shows voice massive approval and support of Barack Obama. It's actually quite refreshing to see and hear that so many white Americans are ready for a black president, basically because they feel he is the best choice regarding the issues of America and the world. Now, that's progress.

    Then I listen to the Rev. Al Sharpton. First of all, let me state that I greatly admire Rev. Sharpton. The work that he does through his National Action Network is developing into become a mighty force in the black community nationwide and I feel that all blacks should be supportive of NAN. But when I listen to Rev. Sharpton talk about Barack Obama's presidential campaign I am totally amazed, shocked and beyond extremely disappointed. I'm almost embarrassed. Here we have Rev. Sharpton, who many blacks, including myself, look at as the number one leader for justice and empowerment in the black community.....and here we have a black man...Barack Obama...who is a very serious, capable, qualified candidate for President of the United States, supported by millions nationwide, with a realistic chance to enter the White House. But instead of rallying, supporting and stating this black historic opportunity as it is....Rev. Sharpton would rather not express his support of Obama at all !!! What's wrong with this picture ? I can not believe that the leader(s) of the black community like Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson are NOT supportive of what could be the first black president of the United States, ever? That is crazy !!!! We, as blacks, know that in order for the black communities to rise up out of the muck and mire that permiates, we must all work together....as a family. We know that we always preach that we should be supportive of black achievement, black businesses, our black youth and each other. If that is the case, that we are to be supportive of each other, which I do believe that to be true, than never has that need been more evident than now. ALL black people should be in absolute support of Barack Obama for President, not just because he's black, but because of his stance, capabilities and qualifications. This should be a period of rallying in the streets, shouting with pride that we have a true opportunity to change history and put a black man in the White House. And this rally cry should be lead by our leaders. Yes, Rev. Al, Rev. Jackson, the NAACP...ALL black leaders should be sounding the trumpet to inspire all black people to vote for this historic change.

    Why aren't they. Rev. Al states that he hasn't heard enough from Obama regarding the issues to make a decision. I find that a bit disingenuous seeing as to how I know where Obama stands on the various issues....and so do the millions of white Obama supporters. Rev. Al also says that Obama may not have enough experience. I find that to be a sadly interesting comment, particularly considering both Rev. Al and Rev. Jackson ran for President with absolutely NO political experience, but never stated that they were too new for the post. (NOTE: Rev. Al knows that Barack Obama has been a U.S. Senator for over 2 years.....and that Abraham Lincoln was a Senator for 2 years....and turned out to be considered one of the greatest Presidents of all time). Rev. Al also states that he is not hearing enough talk from Obama regarding specifically what he will do for the black community. Now common sense should tell all black folks that Obama has to play the political game. Keep in mind, he is running for president of the United States...that means everyone, black, white, hispanic, muslim, jews,and all others. Obama can not be appearing as if he will only be concerned with the black community needs or he has absolutely no chance of winning. Maybe that's where Rev. Al went wrong with his campaign. Does Rev. Al think that Obama should be shouting 'ungawa...Black Power' during each debate ? There is no way that he could do that and expect to win. But once he is President, common sense tells us that he would be more receptive to the needs in the black community than any other candidate. That's just common sense based on what we DO know about Obama. Then some folks want to say he's not 'black enough'. That is the most pathetic thing I've ever heard. First of all, his name is Barack Obama......not like Jesse or Al. Secondly, Obama is half Kenyon.....that's pretty black !!!

    Sometimes I just wonder to myself, why aren't Rev. Al and Rev. Jackson leading the rally to support this historic cause. Could they be jealous that Obama has already achieved more acceptance than they did during their campaign efforts. I would hate to think that to be the fact. Or, are they hopeful that Hilary will win because they feel that she will assist them in their personal efforts if elected President. I hope that too is not the case.....that would be selling out.....and I would never believe either to be sell-outs. But for our leaders to not support Obama is like saying that they feel a white person would do better or more for the black communities, which history has proven is just not the case. Then what can it be ? That is the question. I believe that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be very proud and thankful to see that, in spite of all of the weights that have burdened and held the black community down, one black man has risen to such a level that he is a viable choice to be President of the United States in 2008. I believe that Rev. King would truly lead a powerful movement to change the tide of history. I see marches, flags, signs, songs, t-shirts, buttons and millions of blacks proudly expressing jubilee for this opportunity to make a real change in our country. WE SHALL OVERCOME....has been our motto for the black struggle for many generations and we are still struggling, in oh so many ways. And we will never overcome, until our leaders wake up, stop 'hatin' and vigorously lead the cause that will truly make a positive difference in our country, in our black community, and in the entire world. Rev. Al....Rev. Jackson....

    It's Time To LEAD !!!
    (Greg 'Peace Song' Jones)

    myspace.com/blacks4barack

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    August 14, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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