To the editor:
The current controversy over whether Barack Obama, with his white Kansas mother and Kenyan, African father, has the pedigree to be called African-American confuses me.
I find the term African-American puzzling as there are many who identify themselves as "African-American" but have obvious white ancestors. Do the rules of the antebellum and Jim Crow post-Reconstruction eras still apply today: "One drop of African blood" and a person must self-label as African-American, not just American like those of other ancestries?
Like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois and Harriet Jacobs, half of Obama's ancestry is white. His Kenyan father is not a descendant of slaves, and he cannot claim the status of ex-slave American. So is this where the confusion stems from? Is the real criteria of "African-American" not that of race but the shared history of suffering that slavery caused? Can a Jew still be a Jew if his ancestors were not in the Holocaust?
Fortunately, today, many of mixed race are not afraid to acknowledge all our heritage. I would like to think that the time has come for all Americans, no matter their racial ancestry, to forgive and make amends for the brutalities and injustices of the past and to move forward to make America a country where "all : are created equal."
As far as Obama's pedigree is concerned, I think as citizens we should be far more interested in his politics to create unity among today's divided Americans, instead of quibbling over racial labels.