Quoted: Gwen Ifill on the Question of (Biracial) Identity

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

Biracial breakthroughs have come to occupy an entirely different plane of identity. Obama and other breakthrough politicians such as Maryland lieutenant governor Anthony Brown and Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty are biracial but identify as black. Still, many white voters are clearly more comfortable thinking of them as half-white.

Do you choose to believe a thoughtful man such as actor Don Cheadle, who told Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. in the PBS documentary African American Lives, “You are what you have to defend?” (As James McBride, a biracial writer put it: “If cops see me, they see a black man sitting in a car.”) Or should we listen instead to a thoughtful man such as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, who argues that black identity is a choice, especially for biracial achievers such as Tiger Woods?

—The Breakthrough, p. 166