Still on my Bobby Jindal obsession a little bit. Thought his 60 Minutes interview was fascinating and doesn’t change my opinion that he’s a smart cat that I hope the GOP attaches their cart to. The one thing that really stood out to me was something his wife said that alludes to my earlier post. When asked about their Indian heritage, Mrs. Jindal said they didn’t think of themselves as Indian, they thought of themselves as American. Now, as an African-American from a certain place and space, that kind of talk from people of color always makes my skin crawl because, what I hear is, “I’d rather just be like everyone else, which really means, ‘white.'” But I understand that this space that I come from also never could have foreseen Barack Obama being elected president. My question is, in a post-Obama landscape, what racialized space does this mindset occupy?
While I believe President Obama has completely disrupted the manner in which identity politics are understood, I don’t know if he’s destroyed them. Nia-Malika Henderson has a really smart article up at politico.com outlining the manner in which Obama is very much a racialized black man and, to paraphrase Jindal, sees himself as a black man and an American. In fact, once again, I believe that his embrace of this codified blackness is part of the reason he succeeded.
Yet, within this codified blackness, clearly Obama created his own space. Biracial heritage and Hawaiin background aside, he never consciously tried to be something he wasn’t. His “coolness” was a reflection of his natural tendency towards introspection and deliberation, not a foolish attempt to bring, “hip-hop” to his campaign (coughcoughMichaelSteelecoughcough). In reference to the title of this post, the Syreeta Wright song that challenges some post Integration blackness, Obama didn’t engage in much, “I’m down” pantomime. He was simply him…but he said and acted like there was space for himself in the black world. And we loved him for it.
So I wonder-does a person of color downplaying his color make him more or less attractive to the rest of us, regardless of color, in the 21st century?