President Obama, the Latest Bicultural Leader

The Washington Post

The Root DC's Steve Bumbaugh says that the first African-American president is far from the first leader to straddle two cultures.

Ever since Barack Obama was first elected president, the dominant narrative about his historic term in office has run something like this: the 44th president won two elections because he was "post-racial". He didn't see red states or blue states. He didn't see black or white. He only saw one America —  a country brimming with potential and void of race and ethnicity.

The United States, so the story went, which embraced slavery at its founding and practiced Jim Crow segregation at the time this young President was born, had seemingly moved beyond its racial disharmony by electing it's first African American president.

This narrative may well emerge alongside other political myths, such as the youthful George Washington confessing to cutting down his father's cherry tree. And like that myth, the one surrounding Obama's ascension and its relationship to race, will be just as nonsensical.

Why? Because rather than transcending the peculiar racial dynamics that have bedeviled the country for more than 400 years, Obama is the logical extension of a long tradition in the African American community. Like so many historical figures in black America, Obama has been transformative because of his unusual experience at the intersection of the black and white communities. The child of a white mother and an African father, he signifies a long tradition of privileged blacks — either bi-racial or bicultural — who have changed the face of American democracy.


Read Steve Bumbaugh's entire piece at The Root DC.  

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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