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Clearing the ground, clearing the air, learning to breathe


It is the February 2017 edition of the annual celebration of Black History Month. When this edition of Black History Month concludes, the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama will be less than two months in the past and the presidency of Donald John Trump will be less than two months in existence. These three things — 2017 Black History Month, recent end of Obama presidency, recent beginning of Trump presidency — form a once-in-a-lifetime triad giving us a once-in-a-lifetime window through which to illuminate and see Barack Hussein Obama.
Moreover, President Obama’s already-activated decision to very actively involve himself and many supporters in the political rumble and tumble under President Trump is another reason enabling and supporting a fresh perspective on who President Obama is.
Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because African Americans deserted President Obama.
That’s one way to put it.
In an election that is very close or somewhat close, it’s tempting and easy to find a one-and-only reason for the outcome. Countering that inclination is the easy if true “combination of factors” assessment.
In no way rejecting the “combination of factors” assessment, solidly supporting that viewpoint, I will nevertheless anchor in the single-reason analysis that began this writing: Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton because African Americans deserted President Obama.
Why did African Americans desert President Obama?
Because President Obama is not an African American.
That is the short answer.
The long answer is a long story that must be very carefully told.
We will get to it.
I am an African American.
I am African American first and foremost because my wonderful mother was African American.
You are who your mother is.
I have a German great-great-grandmother. Words cannot adequately describe how profoundly my heart and soul are German.
See my op-ed column in The Washington Post of Saturday, February 27, 2010. It is mainly about my German great-great-grandmother, Katherine Gehring.
At age seventeen, Katherine Gehring came to the United States from Leutershausen, Bavaria. She married my great-great-grandfather,  Benjamin C. Taylor – Buffalo, New York’s first black doctor. The marriage  occurred in Buffalo on May 28, 1846. I have a copy of the marriage certificate.
A page from the 1850 Buffalo census shows Benjamin and Katherine,
their two children at that time, and their neighbors. That page has a column titled “Country of origin.” The entries in that column go Germany, Germany, Germany, Germany, and on and on. Benjamin and Katherine lived in Buffalo’s German community and raised their eleven children there. 
I have photographs of Benjamin and Katherine and several of their children. Buffalo’s African American community was the community into which I was born. I am the eldest of the three children my African American parents had. The older of my two sisters died in 1983 of multiple sclerosis. She was an accomplished playwright. My kid sister is a retired professor of psychology. When I was eleven years old, my most excellent father bought a home for his family. Many rooms, large handsome porch, large beautiful back yard made more beautiful by my mother.
This marvelous home precisely split the African American and Italian communities of Buffalo. Leave our house, turn right, you were in the African American community; turn left, you were in the Italian community.  The neighbor immediately to our right, African American, the Webbs; immediately to our left, Italian, the D’Andreas.
To whom much is given, much is required.
Neither of President Obama’s parents was African American. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a white American from Kansas. (Remember, you are who your mother is.) President Obama’s father was a black African from Kenya. If neither of a person’s parents was Japanese, would you call that person Japanese?
In due course, we will answer that question at greater length; in very precise detail.
In the autopsies of the 2016 race for the White House, it is often said that Hillary Clinton failed to put together “the Obama coalition.” It is usually and correctly said that the most important part of that coalition was the African American vote. If Hillary Clinton was to win, went the analysis, African Americans had to vote for her in numbers equal or close to those garnered twice by Barack Obama.
 The analysis was correct. Hillary Clinton did not get those numbers. Why didn’t she get them?
A number of plausible reasons have been adduced: Hillary Clinton doesn’t have Barack Obama’s charisma. She doesn’t have his eloquence. As a white person, she can’t fire up black people the way black Barack Obama does. African Americans had sort of “exhausted” themselves in their first-ever enthusiasm for Barack Obama and no one, black or white, could follow that act.
Plus other explanations along other lines. There is something to be said for all of those reasons. I, however, am quite certain that the deepest reason is not to be found among them.
It is not so much that African Americans didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in sufficient numbers to make her President of the United States; rather it is that African Americans did not do what President Obama asked them to do.
And it wasn’t so much that President Obama asked African Americans to vote for Hillary Clinton; rather was it that President Obama, with all his heart and soul, and with amazing energy, asked African Americans to preserve his legacy.
African Americans did not do so. They did not answer the call.
President Obama preached and shouted and begged and pleaded: Preserve my legacy the only way it can be preserved — through Hillary Clinton.
African Americans walked away. They didn’t do what President Obama asked them to do. The legacy is now in the hands of Donald Trump.
Why did that happen? The reason is crystal clear to me.
African Americans, deep down, always knew that Barack Obama is not an African American. Biologically it wasn’t just his white mother but also his black African Kenyan father. A black African Kenyan is not an African American. African Americans were swept away by Obama’s color, not his race. And when the crunch came, Obama’s fervent pleading to vote for Hillary Clinton to preserve his legacy, color was not enough.
The festival was over. Back home, home truths were back.
Imagine how African Americans would have responded if Martin Luther King, Jr. had pleaded with them to support some person in order to preserve the King legacy.

Race is far more that color. Once the African American romance with Barack Obama’s color was put in its place, little was left. African Americans would not say that but their actions proved it when they refused to vote for Hillary Clinton in sufficient numbers for her to preserve President Obama’s legacy.
Deep down, African Americans know that Barack Obama is not an African American. That knowledge is the master key to many things that happened and did not happen when Barack Obama was President of the United States.
The white American romance with President Obama’s color will take longer to fade into reality. White Americans want very much to say that America has elected an African American president. Elected not once but twice in a row. White Americans will not let that be taken away from them without a fight.
President Obama’s legacy is now in the hands of President Donald Trump. The richness of this situation is surely beyond the powers of comprehension of mere mortals.
“Birther” is the word given to people who say or suggest that Barack Hussein Obama was not born in the United States of America and is therefore ineligible to be President of the United States because the United States Constitution requires presidents of the United States to be born on United States soil. These people say or suggest that President Obama was born in Kenya, the homeland of his father, who is also named Barack Hussein Obama.

Donald Trump became the leading voice of the birthers. His words and actions finally forced President Obama to produce a “long form” birth certificate showing that Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-fourth President of the United States 
was born on Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hawaii became one of the states of the United States in 1959.

Donald Trump was technically wrong but he was on the right track.

As an African American, as an African American of mixed black-and-white roots, as an African American who, like Donald Trump, has extraordinary  German ancestry, I say that Donald Trump as a birther was technically wrong 
but on the right track.

He saw — sensed — that there was something amiss with the way we identify President Obama. He was correct.
But he was in no position to say that President Obama is not an African American. Even if he saw the simple, clear fact that neither of President Obama’s parents was African American, Donald Trump, especially as a white American, was in no position to say that President Obama is not an African American.

Even if he were to simply state the clear, simple fact that everyone can see – neither of President Obama’s parents was African American – Donald Trump would be roundly accused of racism of the most evil kind.

Think of it. 
To what pass have we come?

Birthers are customarily accused of being racists. But 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a white man, being born in Canada was brought up to allege his ineligibility to be president. Chester Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United States, a white man born in Vermont, was alleged to have been born in Ireland or Canada making him ineligible to be president. “Birther” charges do not necessarily import “racism.” Some birthers regarding President Obama are “racists” and some are not.

My considered judgment is that Donald Trump is not a “racist.”

There is a weird sort of “poetic justice,” a strange and mind-boggling grinding of the mills of the gods, in the birther-in-chief becoming the forty-fifth commander-in-chief and holding in his hands, for good or ill or both, the legacy of Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-fourth President of the United States.
President Obama is not an African American.
On Election Night 2008, tears came to my eyes when Barack Hussein Obama was declared the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. Those tears came because, like me, the president-elect was a man “of color.” The U.S.A. would have its first “of color” president.
But that same Election Night, tears did not prevent my being clear-sighted. I knew that something was wrong. I knew that a great mistake was being made. Through the tears, the clarity said that Americans would mistakenly take the first USA “of color” president to be the USA’s first African American president.

If neither of a person’s parents was Bulgarian, would you call that person Bulgarian?
President Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. You would have needed a microscope to find an African American community in Hawaii.

President Obama was not born of African Americans and he was not born among African Americans.

His parents separated before the first month of his life was over. He lived 
with his mother in Seattle, Washington for a year then with her back in Hawaii. Like Hawaii, Seattle had a minuscule African American population. In Barack Obama’s first years, then, he knew nothing of African Americans.

His parents divorced in 1964. In 1965, his mother married an Indonesian man, Lolo Saetoro, in Hawaii. Lolo Saetoro returned to Indonesia in 1966. In 1967, Barack Obama and his mother joined Lolo Saetoro in Indonesia.
So, from birth to age six, Barack Obama had a white American mother, a black Kenyan father, and an Indonesian stepfather. He was not born of African Americans and his first years were not lived among African Americans.

President Obama is called African American for one reason and one reason only – he looks like one. It’s a supreme example of racial profiling.

Centuries ago, African American evolved out of Africa plus America. For a long time, African American has been very different from and infinitely more than the simple addition of Africa plus America. The African component of African American is American, not African. African American is American African. The “Afro” hairdo is thoroughly American and utterly foreign to Africa. No one in his right mind would say that jazz is African.

African American is a very specific and decidedly unique quality and history and it is not to be confused with anything else.

African American has developed slowly and steadily, deeply and distinctively, wondrously and without parallel, from its beginnings centuries ago.

No way does a boy born on August 4, 1961 to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father originate in that centuries-long precise and idiosyncratic stream.

No way is President Obama an African American.

Suppose that President Obama’s mother had married an African American. Would that be the same as her having actually married a black Kenyan? Is it  your position that there is no difference between an African American and a black Kenyan? Is it your position that the offspring of a white American mother and an African American father is the same as the offspring of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father? Is “black” all that matters to you?

There is an immense difference between an African American and a 
black Kenyan.

In Boston in the late 1960s, I hung out with American black nationalist groups. I didn’t join but I enjoyed hanging out. One of these groups, the Topographical Research Institute – called Top – 
was based in Chicago and called for a county-by-county census of USA blacks preparatory to a move South and secession from the United States.

One day at Boston Top, I at the meeting, two black Africans knocked on the door and were admitted. Conversation ensued. When the two black Africans left, a Top leader looked around at all of us, shook his head in mystification, 
and said, “It’s been too long.”

We all agreed. As to mentality, purposes, and so on, there was simply no real communication between the two black Africans and the radical American black nationalists.

I spent most of 1990 in Norway and Finland studying Sami (Lapp) folk music. The morning I left Norway, waiting for the bus to the train to Finland, I was joined by a Somali man. He introduced himself as Harry. He was going to Sweden. We rode together on bus and train to Finland.

At one point on the train, Harry said that black Americans are very good for black Africans; and he told me this story:

One night in some European city — I forgot which one — Harry and other Somalis started to enter a nightclub, hoping for a good time. The proprietor rushed to the door and denied them entrance because they were black.

Harry and his friends started walking down the street and saw approaching them some men who were clearly African Americans. The two groups stopped and chatted.

When the black Americans learned what had happened at the nightclub, they took the Somalis in tow and went to the nightclub seeking entrance.

The proprietor rushed to the door. When he saw that black Americans 
headed the group and sought entrance, he was all smiles and warmly welcomed all. He could mess with black Africans but not with African Americans.

I feel privileged to have lived those two stories – the one in Boston, the other in Norway and Finland.

Here is something that will help everyone see that President Obama is not an African American: Him included, every President of the United States has had a white mother; and no President of the United States has had an African American father.

There is nothing African American in President Obama’s parentage or anywhere else in his ancestry. A black African from Kenya is not an 
African American. A white American from Kansas is not an African American. Therefore, the offspring of a black African from Kenya and a white American from Kansas is not an African American.
As an African American, I say that a certain insult is delivered to African Americans every time President Obama is called an African American.

I do not presume to know the inner mind and deepest heart of President Barack Hussein Obama. I think he is an extraordinary American. I think his presidency displays spectra of brilliant talent, eloquent dignity,
classic Americana. At the same time, the undeniable genealogical facts of his life make him not one of us in that he is not an African American.
Across the years of America imagining its first African American president, the assumption has always been that the first president to be called African American would be African American. But with the first president called African American, providence threw a curve ball. The nation has  swung and missed.
We have a false picture of President Obama. Every time he calls himself an African American, our false picture of him is joined by his false picture of himself.

How does all this falsehood affect President Obama’s performance as President Obama?

Effects are inevitably present but they can go generally unnoticed 
for considerable stretches of time. Then one thing or another will happen – a little thing here, a big thing there, all of those things being big things because there is no such thing as a little thing.

For example, on Tuesday, August 2, 2016, President Obama held 
a news conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. Responding to a question, our president launched into a mind-bending
attack on Donald Trump.

He said that Trump was “unfit to serve as president” and “he keeps on 
proving it.” He said to Republican Party leaders, “If you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? … What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer? … There has to come a point at which you say, ‘Enough’.”

President Obama went on and on. He said that he had policy differences 
with the men he defeated for the presidency — John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012 — but he never doubted that they could do the job.

President Obama said all of those things as he stood next to a visiting leader  of a foreign country.

The venerated saying, “Politics stop at the water’s edge” had surely never been so violently disregarded.

Yet almost no reports of President Obama’s extraordinary attack on 
Donald Trump mentioned the astonishing “water’s edge” aspect of the attack.
What was Singapore’s Prime Minister to think as he stood there listening?
Perhaps what President Obama did was not quite treason – perhaps – but his virulent attack on a fellow American before a foreign leader certainly suggests that somewhere in our president there is something truly not one of us.
Yes, he is an American but he is not an African American.

We need to pause, clear the ground, clear the air, take a deep breath, then learn to breathe.

Our first African American president is yet to come.

President Obama is not really a black American.

From the time that Barack Obama became a candidate for President of the United States, there were rumblings about whether or not he was “black enough.” Some of those rumblings were concerned with whether he “acted black” or 
“acted white” in his general demeanor. More serious discussion wondered to what if any extent he could, as president of all Americans, act like a black civil rights activist. Silly and serious as these rumblings were, they all missed the point. They all assumed that Barack Obama was racially black. They were all wrong.
The human being inside whose body your life began, the human being who carried you inside her body and out of whose body you came is in a supremely real way the most important human being in your life.

In a supremely real way, your mother is the most important human being in your life. 
The Jewish definition of a Jew is someone with a Jewish mother. The Jews have it right: You are who your mother is.

Every time President Obama is called black, his mother is disrespected. She is disrespected and erased from history. President Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas, is disrespected and erased from history every time President Obama is called black.

Like President Obama not being an African American, his not being black is a biological, racial fact. It is not a matter of opinion. The identity of your mother is not a matter of opinion. The race of your mother is not a matter of opinion. The color of your mother is not a matter of opinion. If you insist that President Obama’s color is or should be the color of his father, give me solid, undeniable, dominating and determining biological facts to back up that insistence.

Where is the father of a child during the child’s beginning, crucial, formative, determining months inside the mother? Equality of sperm and egg? Dominance of active sperm over passive egg? When a nail slams into a magnet, do you mean to tell me that the nail is 
the active force, the magnet the passive force? Do you understand man and woman, mother and father?

What do we say of someone who is habitually fooled by appearances? 
How do we assess a person who is always deceived by appearances?

You are who your mother is.

Women concerned with the status of women and the dignity of women 
should certainly embrace the statement — you are who your mother is.

Regarding white mothers of men and women called black, regarding men and women called black who have white mothers, we have a lot of work to do. We have to stop being fooled. We have to stop deceiving ourselves.

Perhaps you will say, “But we see that President Obama is black. How can we call him white?”

Well, for centuries we have been content with calling certain people black 
who appear to be white as the driven snow. For example, my great-aunt, Amelia Grace Anderson looked like a white woman yet she is said to be the first black graduate of Syracuse University.

That “one drop” of black blood makes you black even though you may look like that girlfriend of the Seven Dwarfs.

We comfortably speak of black people who can “pass” – pass for white.

So if we can easily look at a blonde bombshell and call her black,  we can certainly adopt the far more reasonable and solidly grounded you are who your mother is no matter your skin color.

Skin color can and should be taken into account. A particular skin color in an unusual or unprecedented place can move the heart and bring tears. But you are who your mother is no matter your skin color.
President Obama is who his mother is.

He deceives himself and others regarding his color. We deceive ourselves and others regarding President Obama’s color. All of these deceptions have consequences.

For example, take those super-heated controversies over white American police officers shooting dead or otherwise killing black American citizens. What is President Obama’s race in those events? How does he act in those events? How is he seen to act in those events? What is his color in those events?

I agree with the Jews. The Jews have it right – you are who your mother is.

President Obama is not an African American.

President Obama is not black. 

African Americans granted Barack Obama’s request to make him president 
but African Americans denied President Obama’s request to preserve his legacy.

Color is no substitute for race.

You are who your mother is.

President Obama’s character came to life, was formed and was shaped
not in America but in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, and his character comes to us as born and formed and shaped not in America but in Indonesia.

Think of your life from ages six to age ten. I am thinking of mine as I write.

Ages six to age ten is the time period when we begin to fully awaken to the world around us. Ages six to age ten is when we begin to consciously and mindfully absorb the world around us. Ages six to age ten is when we begin to take hold of the world around us and identify with the world around us and plant the seeds of the adult to come.

I was in Buffalo, New York. I was living with my African American parents in Buffalo’s African American community.

Where were you?

Barack Obama was in Indonesia. He was in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Barack Obama was in Indonesia not living among African Americans. 
He was living in Indonesia with his white American mother and his Indonesian step-father.
It will be correctly said that Barack Obama attended a Christian school in Indonesia. Yes, for two out of his four years in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Barack Obama attended Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of Assisi) Catholic School. For two out of his four years in Indonesia.

The other two years, and even during those two years with St. Francis, Barack Obama swam in the life of Indonesia. He began to fully awake 
to the world, to the world around him. He began to consciously and mindfully absorb the world around him, identify with it, and take hold of it. That is what a human being does from age six to age ten.
The seeds of the adult to come are planted.

None of which is to say that President Obama is a closet Muslim. He is a Christian. But there is a lot of room between a Christian and a closet Muslim.

President Obama’s six-to-ten in Indonesia is powerful even if he is a Christian. People who see in the man that boy in Indonesia have a solid point. It is flat-out wrong to accuse those people of bigotry. There is a lot of room between Islam coursing through one’s formative experiences and being secretly formally a Muslim.

From age ten through his high school years, President Obama lived in Hawaii with his white grandparents, the parents of his mother. They did not live among African Americans.

Remember, African Americans were almost nonexistent in Hawaii.

President Obama’s white grandfather, noting his grandson’s utter unfamiliarity with African Americans, felt a need to bring an African American into his grandson’s life. President Obama’s white grandparents, like his white mother, had leftist political leanings, so, the African American President Obama’s grandfather brought into his grandson’s life was the African American communist poet, Frank Marshall Davis.

Frank Marshall Davis was part of the almost nonexistent African American community in Hawaii. Frank Marshall Davis in President Obama’s high school years was not exactly President Obama “living among African Americans.”

In President Obama’s high school years living with his white grandparents in Hawaii, the occasional meeting with Frank Marshall Davis was an occasional insertion into the high school boy’s life of a member of a community with which, from birth, the high school boy had been and was continuing to be utterly unfamiliar.
Think of it — President Obama is not an African American. Not only that, from birth through high school, he never lived among African Americans. This person is not likely to have a deeply instinctual and intuitional understanding of African Americans. The facts of this person’s ancestry, birth and young life tell us that, relative to African Americans, he is, like the title of the celebrated science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, a Stranger in a Strange Land.
President Obama did not begin to live among African Americans until he was a grown man going to college on the United States mainland.

It is, of course, possible for the inside to be embraced by and even revolutionized by an outsider. Saint Patrick was from Gaul, not Ireland. He was French, not Irish. Napoleon was born and raised not in France
but in Corsica. Hitler was born and raised not in Germany but in Austria. 
Josef Stalin was Georgian, not Russian.

But in all of those cases, the outsider always knew and stated what his origins were. In all of those cases, the people of the inside always knew the outsider identity of that outsider revolutionizing the inside.

We say that President Obama is an African American but he is not one. President Obama says he is an African American but he is not one.

Like Saint Patrick, Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin, Barack Obama can study the inside, identify with the inside, and lead the inside — but that doesn’t make him of the inside.

And if there is a fundamental and unrecognized mistake as to who the outsider is, if that fundamental and unrecognized mistake is made by the inside and the outsider alike, then I submit that something fundamental with go wrong with the relationship and grievously wound if not totally destroy the relationship.

That is not easy to say. That is very hard to say.

I have not forgotten my tears of Election Night 2008. In memory and 
in an eternal part of me, they still flow. But I am now forced to see that the fundamental mistake all of us make regarding President Obama,
grounds and triggers something gone fundamentally wrong with the relationship.

The growing tension and antagonism between African Americans and white police officers is the most obvious instance of the deterioration of black-white relationships in our country. President Obama as the nation’s first “black” president has not been able to prevent this deterioration and his response to it
has been little more than earning praise as the nation’s consoler-in-chief. He suddenly and slowly and softly begins to sing Amazing Grace in the middle of one consoling speech but he does not heal. He is not a healer.

Great healers of society succeed primarily because they are who they say 
they are and because they are who we say they are. President Obama is not who he says he is and he is not who we say he is.

In the days when Adlai Stevenson was contending with John Kennedy to be the Democratic Party’s nominee to be President of the United States, a great analogy was made. It might have been made by Stevenson but I’m not sure. Anyway, a parallel was drawn – the effect of Stevenson speaking compared with the effect of Kennedy speaking; put alongside the effect of the Greek Demosthenes speaking compared with the effect of the Roman Caesar speaking. Stevenson was Demosthenes, Kennedy was Caesar.

“When Demosthenes finished speaking, the people said, ‘How well he spoke.’ When Caesar finished speaking, the people said, “Let us march!”

When Barack Obama finishes speaking, the people say, “How well he spoke.” When Martin Luther King Jr. finished speaking, the people said, “Let us march!”

The people have nothing to recognize and grab onto when President Obama finishes speaking, no matter how well he speaks and no matter how well he is said to have spoken.
President Obama’s parentage, his birth, his character formed in boyhood, and his birth-to-manhood lack of contact with the African American community place him in no position to reach and touch and move the people to metaphorical and actual marching toward black-white racial healing.

Consequently, black-white racial relations in our country deteriorated during the presidency of Barack Obama.
Again, great healers of society succeed primarily because they are who they say they are and because they are who we say they are. Again, President Obama is not who he says he is and he is not who we say he is.

He is not African American. He is not black. His character was formed in Indonesia.

The deteriorating relationship between African Americans and 
white police officers is not the only facet of the irony. Look at the astonishing out-of-nowhere successes of the political campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The one populist right, Trump, the other populist left, Sanders. Both strike fire from the national soul. But where are African Americans in those two dazzling “movements”?

They are all but invisible.

Yes, there are a few in each camp but, if not exactly “tokens”, they are certainly rarities.


“Racist” Trump and “elite leftist” Sanders are the reasons almost always given. I beg to differ. It is clear to me that the basic reason is that President Obama, though our first “black” president, is not a black-white uniter; is not who he says he is, is not who we say he is. So when fire is struck from the nation’s soul,
from such opposite directions, Trump and Sanders, the fire is all white and the blacks are silent. There is no bridge, no healer-in-chief to reveal and inspire a black-and-white fusion at the core of Trump and at the core of Sanders.

This is not to say that the Trump and Sanders waves would be models of “racial diversity” if President Obama were a genius at racial togetherness. It is, however, to suggest that a dynamic new racial harmony sparked by the Obama White House would make very unlikely the sheer whiteness of
the Trump and Sanders marvels.

To be sure, the fundamental structures of our national polity are white – England, European colonies in America, Founding Fathers. Those structures and that soul are bound to be stirred from time to time.

The more that African Americans participate in these stirrings, seeing those structures and that soul as theirs, the more will these stirrings 
cross black-white racial lines.

Theirs. Ours. Not in the original, of course — Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were white – but through an extraordinary adoption, a sui generis creation of the African American people – who speak English as their mother tongue. Through this extraordinary adoption, the occasional stirrings of our white roots can be a black-and-white pas de deux.

It takes extraordinary black and white people to do that. Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Johnson were two such people.

Shouldn’t our first “black” president be one of those people?
Especially since he has one black parent and one white parent?
Yes, one might expect, but no, it doesn’t happen.

Why not?

Because of mistaken identity.

He is not an African American, he is not black, his character was formed not in America but in Indonesia.

In certain formal necessities and graces, in certain technical requirements, in certain desiderata of warmth and spirit, Barack Hussein Obama performed brilliantly as President of the United States. In many ways, we could not have asked for a better “first black president.”
But he is not an African American, he is not black and his character was formed not in America but in Indonesia.
The bard said,  “All’s well that ends well.”

Consider the concluding arc of President Obama’s presidency — 
from African Americans on Election Day 2016 denying his ardent request to preserve his legacy to his January 10, 2017 Farewell Address trying to describe and establish that legacy. There is something immensely sad about that concluding arc. But there is also something revelatory about it, something that it illuminates for the first time.
 In a very real way, that revelation, that illumination, for the first time can be called “saving the best for last.”

It has taken this long. 
It had to take this long. The whole play must unfold in order for there to be a good ending.
Bon voyage, President Barack Hussein Obama.
We clear the ground, clear the air, learn to breathe.
As the poet said, we have “miles to go before we sleep.”
-James Anderson ’57
Contact James Anderson at jamestanderson16 ‘at’

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