“Blackness that is uniquely and indisputably American”

Flickr: Natalie Woo

Billboard from 2009 along California's Interstate 5 freeway.

More on race and perception, though this time, the issue is not what people see– it’s what they know about President Obama’s ancestry. In “For Birthers, Obama’s Not Black Enough“, Melissa Harris-Perry wonders if the President’s lack of connection to “the historical variation of blackness that is uniquely and indisputably American” is part of what makes him suspect to those who doubt his citizenship:

The American slave system disrupted the ability of enslaved Africans to retain or pass along their ethnic identities. Igbo, Ashanti, Akan, Yoruba and Hausa became interchangeable units for sale. While slaves nurtured fragments of cultural, religious and familial traditions, much of the specificity of their African experience was surrendered to an imagined and indistinct notion of “Africa.” Moreover, the law did not initially recognize slaves or their US-born children as American. So enslaved Africans were women and men literally without a country, defined solely in terms of their labor value. Their descendants eventually achieved citizenship, but to be an American black, a Negro, is to be a rejected child who nonetheless clings to her abusive father because she knows no other parent. To be a black American descended from slaves is to lack, if not a birth certificate, then at least a known genealogy—to have only a vague sense of where one comes from, of who one’s ancestors were and of where one belongs.

In this sense, Obama is not very black. He is not a Negro. As a black man, President Obama’s confident and clear knowledge of his lineage is precisely the thing that makes his American identity dubious. Unlike most black people, he has easy access to both his American and his African selves.

Bell Multicultural High School Welcomes Obama for Town Hall on DREAM Act, Education

Flickr: United States Government Work

No wonder Irving Street was blocked off this morning! The President visited Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights, for a town hall meeting on education that will air tonight on Univision. The Chancellor for D.C. schools, Kaya Henderson was also there, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Juan Sepulveda, head of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

According to pool reports, the President was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from students and parents as he took the stage. The President answered questions from the audience and via pre-taped video about the role of parents in education, the DREAM act, technology and more. However, the first question, from the event’s moderator, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, was about Libya. The President briefly answered that U.S. involvement there would be limited before adding that he would address the issue later tonight (tune in to WAMU 88.5 at 7 p.m., for NPR’s full coverage of the event).

After watching a video question from a female student who was holding up a deportation letter, the President said that he strongly supports the DREAM Act: “We’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress”. Obama stated that it was not appropriate to give undocumented workers “temporary protected status” and he clarified that it was not possible to suspend deportations by executive order.

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Gray has Lunch with a VIP Constitutent

The White House

Long tables are more Presidential!

It sounds like Mayor-elect Gray’s lunch with President Obama went well (via The Hill):

Speaking alone to reporters outside the White House, Gray described his lunch with the president as “delightful” and said that it was “Even better than I could have hoped for.”

“One of the most important things to me was that the president really wants to work closely with our city,” he said. “We’re going to — in the days and weeks ahead after I’m sworn in — are going to work very closely together.”

I had a feeling D.C. schools would come up, after that infamous interview the President did with Matt Lauer for TODAY, which referenced his daughters attending private school…

Gray said that the president and he spoke about improving public education and early childhood instruction in Washington, as well as funding for infrastructure around the proposed new Department of Homeland Security headquarters in impoverished Southeast Washington. They also discussed solutions to the city’s high unemployment rate.

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Turkeys on Obama’s Plate, Today

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Courage the Turkey was the lucky recipient of the 2009 Pardon.

After the President partakes in the Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning two turkeys at the White House, he has some nice plans for the rest of the day:

Later Wednesday, Obama and his family were delivering two turkeys less fortunate than Apple and Cider to Martha’s Table, a local charity that feeds the hungry and provides other community services. A Pennsylvania turkey farm donated the birds.

The Obamas visited the charity last year, also on Thanksgiving eve, and helped hand out frozen turkeys, stuffing and other fixings to people standing in line.

President Obama on D.C.’s Public Schools

President Obama being interviewed on TODAY.

Earlier this morning, on NBC’s TODAY show, Matt Lauer sat down with President Barack Obama to discuss education. The President took a question posed by a woman from Florida who asked if his daughters would get the same “high-quality, rigorous education” at one of our city’s public schools as they currently receive at “their very elite private academy“.

The President said:

Well thanks for the question. I’ll be blunt with you, the answer is No right now. The DC public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform. There are some terrific individual schools in the DC system. And that’s true by the way in every city across the country….some great public schools on par with any private school in the country. But…a lot of times you’ve got to test in or it’s a lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools, so those options are not available for enough children.

I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a lot of choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else. And we don’t have that yet.