Who is the next Sen. of NY?

January 22, 2009 2:06:03 PM PST
So if it's not Caroline Kennedy, who will it be? Who will be appointed by Gov. David Paterson as the next U.S. Senator from New York? We could find out tomorrow; the Governor has scheduled an "announcement" for 11:30 a.m.

Kennedy's sudden withdrawal from consideration was, to put it mildly, not pretty.

There was a report she was pulling out, then she wasn't, then she was and wasn't, then she was.

The way this was handled was as ugly as how her "rollout" was handled last month. The reasons for her quick exit remain muddy. At first it was concern for her ailing uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Then it was "personal problems." Lots of conjecture about that - but I'll leave it to other outlets to speculate.

For now, Kennedy's departure was as rapid as her entrance. A shooting star. Once again.

We'll have the latest on the Governor's U.S. Senate choice, tonight at 11.

And we're following Barack Obama's second day in office; plus there's new and dramatic video tonight of when the U.S. Airways plane ditched into the Hudson River last week.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

Finally, -- what a response we received after we posed the question about calling Pres. Obama an African-American or bi-racial. Or both.

The truth is that Barack Obama is half-black, half-white. At least if my math is correct, after doing the calculations of having a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya.

But as we've seen, this is a loaded issue - a launching pad of emotions.

As you'll read, there is history here. Once, if a person had just a little bit of black lineage, that person would be considered "black" -- but not for good reasons. Way back when, it was to limit a person's rights in this country.

Times have changed, for the better, and now the response from some African Americans is adamant -- that same percentage of black lineage qualifies them for being described as African American.

Others who wrote back take a different approach: It matters not a twit. What matters, as the new President often says -- echoing Martin Luther King's dream scenario -- isn't the color of a person's skin but the content of their character.

And since we're a huge melting pot anyway, then Barack Obama may indeed be the new wave of American.

In any event, it was fruitful exercise for us to go through, and I thank everyone who contributed and sent us messages. Herewith - some of those responses.

Bill, You described it exactly as it is. Obama is half black and half white. I guess the African Americans want him to be all black. You are a great reporter, and I enjoy watching you, and reading your column. Great job on the reporting in Washington!
Olimpia Rubino
Mahwah, NJ

You stated tonight in your email that you thought that Mr. Obama was 1/2 white and 1/2 black. Another person wrote you to state that he was African-American. Now I'm dumb-- but Mr. Obama was born in the USA so why is it that no one calls him just an American? Why do you all wish to put people into groups when they are Americans?
Steve Lowe
Burlington, North Carolina

Hi Bill,
Your coverage in Washington was wonderful - job well done!! I agree that President Obama should be referred to as half black and half white, but does that really matter? He is our President and our hope for our children's future. I, too, am fearful that too much expectations by many will not materialize but - you know what? - it will be a great improvement for the average family to have someone in the White House who we believe and trust to help us and improve the lives of the people in the USA.
Mary Billy
Point Pleasant, NJ

No, race should not matter. After all, we are all part of the human race.....
Pat Chesler
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Bill,
Pres. Obama is half white and half black, no question. Some African Americans see him as only black; technically, he is multi-racial if one wants to be (politically correct). The term "mulato" was used for: the first-generation offspring of a black person and a white person. But I haven't heard that term used in years and probably is considered pejorative by the black community. In Judaism isn't the mother's religion the determining factor if a child is to be Jewish of mixed religions of parents?
Gene Breglia
Poughkeepsie, NY

(Ritter's note: You're right about "mulato" - it's considered derogatory. As for the mixed religion question: In reform Judaism, they've rewritten the rules. If either parent is Jewish, then the child is considered Jewish. Orthodox Jews do not believe that; they still define it as the mother. But with so many "mixed" religion marriages, it's not hard to do the math if only the mother's Judaism was the definition -- the number of Jews would be drastically reduced.)

I would think by now (unless you've been on another planet) that everyone knows the ethnic background of our new President. Why does the media need to "descriptive/adjective" Barack Obama? He's half-black and half-white absolutely. So is it even right to call him our first black President? He is a President of color indeed. But let's be color blind to all of this and let this man do his job and keep everyone pumped and supportive. There is great potential here for this new President to make history as Barack Obama---not as Barack Obama "black man" ---or is it white????
Donna Stec
Westfield NJ

I believe reading a little more history and/or speaking to a few African-American/black people would help you understand the confusion felt by people of color. Also, Kenyan/Kansas (African/American?).
Anita Garcia
Brooklyn, New York

While Pres. Obama has acknowledged his biracial heritage, he has also stated that he prefers to be referred to as "African-American." I think the least we can do is respect the man's wishes on that matter, despite the "reality" of the situation. Best regards.
Craig Rhyne
New York, NY

Mr. Ritter,
I agree with you 100%. If Mr. Obama is the son of a black man and a white woman, then he is half white and half black. I also agree with the point .... about the expectations on Mr. Obama. People are expecting too much from our new President. I've been saying that to people ever since he won the election. It's really sad to think about it. All of these people who chanted and praised his name will be the first to curse him. If he doesn't do everything exactly the way people were expecting him to, they'll turn against him. Where's the loyalty in that! Honestly, I didn't vote for him, but I do wish him well. I know he can only do so much as one man, but it looks like he's a good guy and that he'll do his best. And that's all anyone can and should expect from him or any President. At least he has good family values unlike some former Presidents. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and receive feedback. I can definitely say I am fan of yours! Keep it up!
Jamie O'Connell
Austin, TX

Bill: I read your column and agree with you. Barack Obama is indeed half white and half black. That does not make him any less identifiable with the African- American culture or the issues that are important to African-Americans. We must be careful with the race issue. It matters less what our skin hues are and more of what our mental capabilities are. I am elated with this new President and where he is going because he understands that if we are to survive as a city, nation, or world we must work together. Once we start to believe that "togetherness" is where the building process begins we will move forward with changing the old paradigms. And, one of the old paradigms was to identify a race and then label its people. I firmly believe the campaign motto, "Yes We Can," embodies a new unified mindset.
Michelle J. Baldwin
Newark, New Jersey

I read your explanation very carefully, but I think you are inaccurate as far as what you are trying to say, although I do respect your point of view.

Barack Obama is a new phenomenon to Americans. This emphasis on half-black, half-white which is being used to distance him (from my perspective as an African immigrant) from the fact that he is an African man, and carries himself as an African man (reference Mandela, Nyerere, M'boya) and others too many to list here.

The fact that his mother is white, forgets that even his white mother carries African DNA. That is a fact.

His father, Obama senior, also is a Harvard Graduate, and Obama very much if you were to look closely, followed in his footsteps in more ways that one can imagine.

His intelligence, mannerisms, articulate nature - are not because of his mixed heritage. He is the product of the cultural influences and life experience as a child of the world. We Africans travel far and wide and his mother behaved as an African, as far as we are concerned, by her interest in enjoying and experiencing life elsewhere, and with/without her children at times, in order to make life better.

All human beings have African DNA, including you, Mr. Ritter. So let's celebrate ALL that we are and have become, from time immemorial, up and until the land masses separated us all. Wishing you another successful evening. Obama is an African man, period. That is how I see it. Thanks for asking.

Kindest regards,
Ayodeji babalola
Brooklyn, New York

Due in part to a centuries-old history within the United States, historical experiences pre-and post-slavery, and migrations throughout North America, the vast majority of contemporary African Americans possess varying degrees of admixture with European and Native American ancestry.

In their attempt to impose segregation and restore white supremacy in the late 19th century, some southern states created laws defining a person as black if the person had any known African ancestry. This was a stricter interpretation than what had prevailed earlier. It became known as the one-drop rule, meaning that a single drop of "black blood" makes a person "black." Some courts called it the traceable amount rule, and anthropologists used to call it the hypo descent rule, meaning that racially mixed persons were assigned the status of the subordinate group.

Prior to the one-drop rule, different states had different laws regarding color; in Virginia, for example, a person was legally black if he or she had at least one-sixteenth black ancestry. The one-drop rule originated in the Southern United States in the 19th century, likely in response to whites' attempt to limit any black political power in the wake of Reconstruction.

The first year in which the U.S. Census did not count mulattoes was 1920, evidencing a shift in the American conception of what an African American is.

For African Americans, the one-drop system of pigmentocracy was a significant factor in ethnic solidarity. The binary interpretation of race forced African Americans to share more of a common lot in society than they might given widely varying educational and economic levels after the Civil War. They created common cause-regardless of their multiracial admixture or social and economic stratification. I live in the south and was told that one drop of black blood made you black. "Period." It's good that they want to lift that ban.

Leon Harris II
First, I realize that history has been made in electing a black or African-American President. But it disturbs me that we, in this day and age where equality should be a given, labeling people is so important. It is a verbal / written segregation in an age where integration should be the norm. Labeling someone as the first black this, the first woman that, etc., has always offended me, as I believe we're all one race-- Human. It matters not if a person is black, white, female, blind, young; it matters that the person is. So, we have a 44th President who is part of the Human race and needs no other labels.

It is my hope this message causes no offense. I'm writing as a labeled person myself... the blind lady in our town, the blind member of the choir. So, please note this message is from a personal experience.

Lee Storm
Madison, NJ

President Obama's genetic heritage is definitely half black and half white, but because America's racial composition has been melding between many different groups, you can say that he is all American. He identifies more with his African heritage, but that doesn't negate the fact that his mother was white.

My son's wife is Philipino and Welsh, my brother's brother-in-law is half West Indian and half-white Jewish, my cousin's husband is Dominican. This is the future of American. Just one nation of disparate people.

Susan Bosco
Flushing, NY

You're right Bill. Barack Obama is half-black, half-white. He is just one person, and how much he accomplishes is contingent upon the actions - and attitudes - of his staff, as well as the American people. Great work!

Brittany Correa
Bronx, New York I agree with you. President Obama should be referred to as a person of color.

Uriel E. Burgos
Bronx, NY
(Ritter's note: For the record, I'm not advocating anything.)

As the white mother of two biracial children (ages 34 & 29), I always felt it was important for them to identify themselves as black since that was how society would view them. However, the biracial nature of their heritage is also important to all of us, including my African American husband, and I think they have always (proudly) considered themselves a little different because of it. Since I was born in Ireland I wanted them to be aware of their Irish heritage as well, and the biracial designation allows for that. They have been heavily involved in following Obama's path to the White House and I do think part of the reason is because they identify with him as biracial, with all the complexity that implies.
Mary O'Hara Smith

Bill, Kudos for "callin' em as ya sees 'em", as they would say back in my home nabe of Brooklyn. You are the only one fully describing Obama as biracial, and you are correct. As the child of an Colombian mother and Caucasian Irish father, ("Irish coffee" we kids call each other) I am biracial and I say so. To deny either is to deny your family and your heritage. Good for you on being correct!
Pat Alder
New Paltz, NY

When 'whites' are described are they called European-Americans? Of course not. So why should 'blacks' be described as African-Americans. How about Hispanics? Are they described as Spanish-American? Once again the answer is NO!

But enough already with describing non-white races with the -American names. When are we all going to realize that we are all Americans, first and foremost.

Thats American with NO hyphen before the word.

Thank you ...
Tom Smith
Jamesport, New York

I believe that if a person is of mixed parents, like President Obama, then they are half-black and half-white. There is nothing wrong with that. I imagine that the young man was upset about this because most people say if your father is black then you are considered black.

It shouldn't matter what you are. We shouldn't be judged by our DNA but by our character. Maybe someday race won't play such a big part of how we are viewed. Why must we have a label?

I'm thinking that the man who said you ticked him off about calling President Obama half-black, half-white instead of African- American -- maybe he's looking at it from a view of not color but President Obama's father is from Africa and his mother from America, thus making him a true African-American.
Noreen Belton
Laurelton, N.Y. BILL RITTER