Transcending Race? Don’t Talk Nonsense!

obama1.jpgI watched an interesting discussion on TV yesterday in which the question ‘has Obama transcended race?’ was asked (yet again).

Honestly, I find notions such as ‘transcending race’ and ‘post-racial politics’ not only nonsensical but rather troubling. Although people use the terms as though they are a cause for celebration, when you read between the lines you find that they actually carry with them inherently racist ideas.

Let me break it down:
1) The dictionary definition of the word ‘transcend’ is ‘to rise above or go beyond; exceed; to outdo in excellence’.
2) The idea that one should ‘transcend race’ suggests that race (in this particular case, being black) is a hindrance that needs to be overcome before success can be achieved. 

3) The inference, therefore, is that ordinarily Obama’s race would be a problem. However, apparently he has been evelated by his education, intelligence, articulate manner and charm – all of which according to this question shouldn’t really be associated with being black – where his race is no longer seen as a challenge.

4) The question ‘has Obama transcended race?’ suggests that it is because Obama has overcome the limitations of being black that people (white people) like him.

5) This question carries with it an inherent notion that being black is in itself problematic and, dare I say, an obstacle to success. If that was not the case, why would Obama be seen to have ‘transcended race’ just because he is a black man who is well liked? 

Do you get my drift?

There is nothing for Obama to ‘transcend’. He’s a black man AND he is educated, intelligent, articulate and charming. Simple.

Related posts:
Obama & The Hidden Black Man


6 thoughts on “Transcending Race? Don’t Talk Nonsense!

  1. Hey

    I don’t see transcending race to be a negative. I do agree with your argument but i think that transcending race is good it doesnt mean you aren’t your race just that people see past that which I think is good. But I DO agree with your argument. Great Blog – thought provoking 🙂

  2. Interesting argument. However, like Suzanne, I don’t see it as a negative thing, you have to put it in the context of a country like America where race has and continues to be a politically divisive issue.
    The fact that Obama is garnering support from blacks AND whites in huge numbers makes it a pertinent question, especially in a country where most people believed they would never see a black president in their lifetime. He is not quite president yet, but it is looking far more possible than ever, with every win he gains.
    Furthermore, Obama does seem to have transcended race (as in background) because he is not just a black candidate anymore, he has become a candidate who happens to be black and in whom record numbers of voters (whites and blacks) are turning out to support.

  3. Absolutely others who have transcended race… oprah winfrey… michael jordan.. but for instance although she has all audiences multirace someone like Queen Latifah or even Berney Mac have not I feel… What do you think..What is the difference…

  4. I understand that when people talk about ‘transcending race’ they are making the point that the Obamas, Will Smiths and Oprahs of this world are appreciated and listened to for what they have to say and that people look beyond the colour of their skin. Although this should just be how things are, the reality is that they aren’t so it’s somewhat of an achievement that those people have go to that point.

    My problem is with the actual idea of ‘transcending’ race. I would find it patronising and somewhat offensive if someone had suggested (as they actually have by saying that I’m not “really” black) that by being educated and intelligent I have somehow “transcended” my race. I think the term itself carries a lot of inherently negative and prejudiced ideas.

    Obama, Oprah and co being black people who are viewed as just people – rather than BLACK people – is one thing. Suggesting that they have overcome being black (and its inherent limitations, since that is essentially what the term ‘transcending race’ means) is something I have issues with.

  5. I agree with lola, “transcending race” puts a person on a pedalstal, above and beyond their people. Obama is just a man , he may not be from the average african american background, but that is the community from which he has choosen his wife and chose to raise his children.
    If you think he is better than his wife and his children and the community in which he choosen to make his life, you judge those things as lowly problematic and you disparidge them by elevating him above them.
    there is nothing wrong with being black or african american, or being kenyan, or anthing else, if i liked hillary and i claimed she had transcended whiteness, it would be strange because i’m not judging her racially, Am i?

  6. There are white people who transcend race also. It simply means you are judged for your talents rather than race and can appeal to multiple races.

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