The Corner

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Keepin’ It Real


On this business of race and authenticity: it’s striking that the most viable black Presidential candidates each party has produced to date – Barack Obama, Colin Powell – are both almost entirely removed from the black experience in America. General Powell is less “African-American” than Jamaican-British – had he run and won, he won have been the first President to be the son of British subjects since the early 19th century. His autobiography is full of observations about the difference between his background and those of most blacks:

“American blacks sometimes regard Americans of West Indian origin as uppity and arrogant. The feeling, I imagine, grows out of an impressive record of accomplishment by West Indians.”

I would reckon the Kenyan-Hawaiian-Indonesian Senator Obama will have a much easier time of it with the Jackson-Sharpton enforcers. His biographical eccentricity is more than compensated for by his general support of the party line on race matters. Powell, by definition, can never be authentic – not because he’s Jamaican but because, as correspondents have suggested below, he’s Republican. Mind you, they might have a point. Circa ’94 or ’95, the General remarked en passant that his favorite music was Andrew Lloyd Webber, which prompted Jesse Jackson to ask: “Is this guy even black?”