I agree with Vanessa Williams ["Black Like Whom?" op-ed, Aug. 5] that racial stereotyping must be fought, not least in media organizations. I've devoted a great part of my 20-year career to doing just that, as a reporter, author and editor. In my New York Times article on Barack Obama -- the subject of Ms. Williams's attack -- I tried to look precisely at the ways in which Mr. Obama undermines stereotypes, mocks them, is harmed by them and may turn them to his advantage.


New York


Vanessa Williams's op-ed about Barack Obama as "not black in the usual way" covered a subject dear to my heart, as my father is a black Ethiopian and my mother is a white American.

Some countries have a special category, usually negative, for people of "mixed race." America seems to like things in black and white; a black person here has come to be someone assumed to have "black blood," even the smallest amount.

The term African American is assumed by many to refer to the descendants of slaves, but Mr. Obama does not fit that category. The definition of African Americans includes a host of negative stereotypes displayed in the media on a daily basis. And stereotypes, while sometimes convenient, do little to further the understanding and enrichment of our lives.

The "browning" of America eventually will make these semantic arguments useless. Is this a good thing? Are we heading for a global culture of individuals, or various communities of distinct cultures? Are we to define ourselves by color, race, gender, religion, country or class?

Every person should answer these questions for themselves as I am sure Mr. Obama has.