Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama calls African Americans "sort of a mongrel people" but "true for White America as well"


Updated with full Obama statement.....

WASHINGTON--President Obama was asked by Barbara Walters on "The View" why he calls himself black when he is biracial, the product of a white mother and a black father. In answering, Obama may have used a word that may spark some controversy. He called African Americans "sort of a mongrel people" though "true for white America as well."

Here's the exchange:

OBAMA: Well, you know, when I was young and going through the identity crisis that any teenager goes through -- I wrote a book about this.

WALTERS: Yes. ... We all read it.

OBAMA: You know, part of what I realized was that if the world saw me as African American, then that wasn't something that I needed to run away from. That's something that I could go ahead and embrace. And the interesting thing about the African-American experience in this country is that we are sort of a mongrel people. I mean, we're all kind of mixed up.


OBAMA: Now, that's actually true for white America as well, but we just know more about it. And so I'm less interested in how we label ourselves. I'm more interested in how we treat each other. And if we're treating each other right, then I can be African American, I can be multiracial, I can be you name it. What matters is, am I showing people respect? Am I caring for other people? That's, I think, the message we want to send.


I don't see the big deal. Most blacks on this side of the world have white ancestry. That's what he was trying to say.

I don't know why reporters make such a big deal out of the least little thing. We are a race of people that are mixed up. We have no language, no culture, and no real place to call home. Everyone always say go back to Africa well, they know that we are mongroid and we didn't get that way by ourselves.

So? He explained that mongrel means mixed.

Is the Sun Times trying to make a scandal out of this?

when I was a youngster growing in the area of the Bronx NY..there were Blacks..latinos..and no whites ..other than who taught me in the public school system..I am born a negro on my father & mother were both the same on there certicates..from the state of Norfolk Virginia, both had generic backgrounds of white..indian,my mom was a color or light skin brown and my dad ..was the color they would call of my years growing ..I have been mistakes for white..spanish..never black..the area of my circle..reared it's ugly head..on both side of my upbringing..where i fit in with nobody..controvesy lived the life of being a color..when all were suppose to do fit in..with our follow man /woman..mongrel..i wouldn't Quite describe my pigment..let's just say..if there weren't so many views ..leading up to this topic a would never continue to remain..what Obama's genes..what depicts mr President.. the subject of conquer & divide..the botom line..were all on this great Big world ..we are is God's life we live Quetions ask of why or continues to put us in pieces a croos word puzzle shaping the globe of ..existence..based upon who has what 2 who..what does anything have to do with just being ..human in this life..respecting the love that was given us our ancestor left behind..what wears the truth..the whole truth and nothing help you God..let it rest..pleaseeee..just let it rest..we are not news fit to print..we are a life..left in question..time and time again...enough..Let it be..for God'sake...thank you.. Create..SheilaTJordan..

This reference to "mongrel" is an insult to African-Americans. Mr. Elitist has lost touch with reality, referring to the American people as "workers" and some of that group as mongrels.

Bottom line - President used a poor choice in a word when answering Ms Walters question. His choice in elaborating on the question (Ms Walters) prompted a word, I am sure in reflection he realized he should not have used. There are numerous definitions of mongrel and anyone can select their version. However, we are human, not plant nor animal, although the average African American can lay claim to the "unknown ancestry" definition. With the exception of the President (Kenyan father), the continent of Africa is what most American slave descendents can emphatically claim. Whites fitting that catagory? I would have to disagree with the President's analogy of whites also fitting the mongrel catagory as the average Caucasian family, I am sure, knows if by ancestry they are Scot, Irish, German, French, Italian, Jewish (synonymous with faith), Polish,etc. Of all immigrant Americans, Native Americans excluded, who know their respective clan,tribe,nation - present or deceased, the average African American can not catagorically lay claim to a nation's flag; again, Africa is a continent. However, all others as exampled can, to include the President. In closing, are African Americans so desparate for representative leadership that we are afraid to critique one who looks like us? We critique people everyday. I reflected on the mistakes of former Mayor Marion Berry and how the D. C. black community supported him and either disbelieved or dismissed allegations that were eventually "truism." There are other examples closer to home when we look into are respective communities. In closing, I asked my son this question: what would have been the fallout if a Caucasian, government official or otherwise, had commented, African Americans are akin to a mongrel? Who am I? An African American citizen and family man; a retired career soldier with 2 combat tours; currently educator and doctoral student. Yes, I voted for President Obama.

If a white person called African-Americans "mongrels" there would be a huge uproar. But of course Obama can get away with anything.

I don't think his comments are remarkable at all. My mom always referred to herself as a "mutt" - referring the the grab-bag of racial ancestry that was her heritage. FWIW, my mom is "white" by skin color and culture, but part of her mutt background includes American Indian - very cool. Who knows what else she has in her family line. I refer to myself as half-mutt, half-Irish. I'm proud of both my families, and like to refer to them that way.

As a child growing up in a diverse neighborhood, "we" mixed whites and blacks were branded as mullatos not least as a mullato I could identify my self with not just african ascentry, but european ascentry, as a mongrel, the first thing that comes to mind is a stray mixed dog. I did not appreciate his comment of just identifying himself as an "African American". I guess choosing to be branded an African American these days is accepted by society or looked highly upon (if you are a "mongrel").

let it go..... it's juat not that deep......

We are not mongrels. We are the people that put him in office. Its strange that someone who claims to have been a lecturer at Harvard would use such an unflattering verbal construction; the logical extension of which is ugly. He said it on a womens show no less. For years now Obama has never missed an opportunity to verbally denigrate the African American community. I am surprised that more African Americans are not as disturbed by this as I am.
Would we rather grovel at the image of Obama than maintain our self respect?


Sorry Obama, I'm white and I'm not a mongrel - a mongrel is a term for dogs and other animals, when given to a human it is a derogatory term, like calling a woman a B**ch.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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