Obama isn't black, writes a confused Toby Young. And Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in yesterday's Evening Standard that “while Obama and Hamilton are inspiring, neither is black” because they are mixed race, and she complains at the “outrage” of their being “misclassified”.
I disagree. The core principle in a democractic liberal society should be that we should be able to choose for ourselves how we wish to be identified.
So "mixed race" will work for some people. It does for me, up to a point. But not if it extends to an argument for making 'mixed race' a new category in the politics of multiculturalism. That is itself rather mixed up, as I have written before.
Obama’s book Dreams of My Father which chronicles the journey of his coming to terms with his mixed heritage shows how deeply he has thought about identity.
Interestingly, he wrote that he “ceased to advertise my mother"s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites,"
But he has made his personal mixed heritage part of his message of reconciliation and unity.
If Obama chooses to identify himself as a black American, that choice must surely be his to make.