Michelle & Barack Obama. Halle Berry & Gabriel Aubrey. Both of these couples are attractive and popular for various reasons. You know them on sight. Michelle and Barack are the political ‘power couple’. Between Halle and Gabriel’s genes, I’m sure we’re all waiting to see photos of the world’s most amazingly beautiful baby.
Both couples have something else in common. One of the partners is biracial, with black and white parents, while the other is of one race. Yet most people would refer to Halle and Gabriel as an interracial couple, while simply describing Michelle and Barack as a black couple. If you dwell on these things as much as I do, that doesn’t quite sound right. The racial balance is exactly the same within both the couples, but that balance is interpreted quite differently depending on whether the biracial person married someone who is white or black. That seems like arbitrary reasoning, to me.
Why do we do that? I include myself in that group because I have to admit, I have a tendency to look at biracial people and, if it seems like their appearance reflects one parent’s ancestry more than that of the other, then I describe that person accordingly. Sure, Barack Obama is mixed, but on sight, I describe him as a black man, and only secondarily as mixed or biracial. Maybe this is not exactly wrong, but it’s imprecise and I can understand how annoying it must be for biracial people, especially if they have a strong emotional connection with their white or Asian or Hispanic family members. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense for someone to call Barack Obama white, because his father was Kenyan.
Mental note: stop forgetting to call biracial people biracial. They are not black, in the sense that their ancestry is not completely or 90% African. Which brings me back to my original question: why call Michelle & Barack ‘black’ while sticking to ‘interacial’ for Halle & Gabriel? Maybe we should just call them attractive, happy or annoyingly cute?
One last note: being a news junkie, I cannot help but follow politicians. I wanted to include Adrian and Michelle Fenty on my biracial couple catwalk. The thing is, Michelle looks like she is of mixed heritage, too. All I’ve been able to find out is that she grew up in Wimbledon, England with her Jamaican parents. Actually, looking at a person with a lighter complexion and Jamaican parenthood, at least in my mind, suggests that someone in her lineage is or was biracial. You know that we Jamaicans are ‘good for that’.
Interesting insight. Both couples are interracial. Even when Barack becomes the next president, the press will say that he is the first African American, either of saying he is the first biracial president.
Wow great question! You just gave me something to true think hard about. BTW I heart both couples.
That is a great question! I actually had to stop and think. I believe in the states if you have a drop of black blood in you, then you’re considered black.
But you are correct they are both interracial couples!
Thanks for putting a new spin on this.
Is Michelle “pure” black or does she have a lighter skinned ancestor as her daughters have in Barack ?
Take a look a Michelle when she is standing next to a blue black African and then ask yourself how black is she ? She is mostly black ? I don’t know the term for her level of mixture.
Most black/white mixes became “black” because of rejection from a white parent – often a slave master; rejection by white relatives even if the parent accepted them; and rejection by white society.
Extreme racist will openly tell you what most whites secretly feel: one drop of black blood makes you an N-word no matter how what you appear outwardly.
Blacks — mainly leaders who want to hold on to numbers — vocally support it but I think most just accept the situation. My mother had very light skin and brown hair but was “black” all of her life and just accepted it for peace of mind and body.
Racism baby !
I see what you mean. There is a pretty good chance that Michelle Obama, like virtually all black people born outside of Africa since the 1700s (and probably as far back as the 1600s), has a white ancestor “in the mix”. It certainly makes her slightly different from her African contemporaries, for whom the chance of being descended from a white man or woman is much smaller. Yet I don’t think we need to look to the one-drop rule to guide our thinking about what makes a person—and here I’ll say ‘predominantly’—black.
I notice that people, and especially Americans, like to come up with easy-to-reference labels to describe their lineage. It’s natural, because at one point or another all of our fore parents were immigrants to this North American continent. We couldn’t expel those experiences from our collective consciousness if we tried.
More to the point, African-Americans do not have the luxury, like Caucasian people, of saying with certainty which African tribe they are descended from. We can make educated guesses, but as black people, how are we to know whether we are Twi or Mandingo, the way that our peers know that they are from English, Spanish, Portuguese or French descent?
We are like cut flowers, existing without a definite connection to our roots. No intimate knowledge of our lineage, our names, our creed, our traditions, no knowledge of exactly how we got here. We seem to be just fine with that. We’ve come up with a way to cope and move ahead. We just call ourselves black.