If I'm lucky enough to have children, I won't tell them that Barack Obama was America’s first black president. As a black man who plans to eventually start a family with my white girlfriend, I'm going to tell them that Obama was the first man of color in the White House and that America’s 44th president was biracial.
With Tuesday night's election results, we can see that America's non whites came out in largely historic numbers to support the president, according to exit polls. And while Obama's popularity in the black community is undeniable, his mixed-race lineage is a reality that we can’t ignore.
Don't get me wrong. With the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and the “one-drop rule,” I clearly understand why Obama is regarded as black. But that doesn’t mean I have to repeat that incomplete narrative to the next generation.
The reason I don't plan to single out President Obama’s African heritage alone is because I don't plan to do that with my own children. What would I look like telling my kids that a man with a black father and a white mother is “black” just because society wants him to be?
The evidence of change to a world where inclusion is the mainstream is happening right before our eyes. By the time that my age bracket has kids that grow up, more people than ever will be claiming multiple races on their census forms. I hope my kids will be able to embrace that.
It would be naive to suggest that race is going to disappear anytime soon as a major factor in American social politics. But if we're going to draw lines and stand back from them, any progress made in electing a non-white to the Oval Office is moot.
Maybe part of this comes from the fact that I didn’t grow up thinking that I'd never see a black president. The movements made before I was born didn’t ingrain me with a sense that such a thing couldn’t happen. For me, the novelty of Obama being in office was always rooted in his overall cultural upbringing. Not just his so-called blackness.
And by no means is the word “black” an automatic slur as much as it will probably be an unnecessarily basic and dated naming concept for biracial people in the next decade. In short, if there are that many biracial babies being born, they’ll soon self-identify as they choose. Why force them into a box based on an admittedly flawed classification system before they have a chance to pick?
Indeed, bi-raciality has moved to the forefront of consciousness over the years, mainly through celebrities embracing their cultures the same way other “races” do. Be it Derek Jeter or Rashida Jones, pride in not being solely one thing seems to be a high point, which is a good thing. Diversity within us, never mind among us, doesn’t hurt.
As we learn to come together in society, the labels we apply to each other will fade away for the better. They’ll always be there, because everyone is different, but they won't be treated as if they have the mark of the beast.
Until that day comes though, I'll probably continue to sing Young Jeezy’s “My President Is Black” with no issue. The song is tight, and I understand the context. But when I'm an old guy on the porch, I hope my kids' mindset will reflect more what Jay-Z said in his epic remix of that song: “My president is black -- in fact, he's half white. So even in a racist mind, he's half right.”
Yates is a columnist for The RootDC