Barack wouldn't be president if he didn't marry a black woman. Barack Obama - whose white mother, then her parents, raised him in white households - might well have married a white woman.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 26, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Three Things You're Not Allowed to Say About the Obamas - But They're True - and They Make Me Love Them More

Barack wouldn't be president if he didn't marry a black woman. Barack Obama - whose white mother, then her parents, raised him in white households - might have married a white woman. He was educated at largely white institutions - attending Hawaii's prestigious Punahou Academy (one of three African-American students there), then matriculating at Occidental College in Los Angeles and Columbia University, before moving to Chicago to work with inner-city residents, then returning to the Ivy League to attend Harvard Law School. By the nature of these places, he associated mainly with whites in school.

After Harvard, Obama returned to Chicago to re-engage in community organization while also working as a civil rights lawyer for a Chicago law firm.  There he met Michelle Robinson, also a Harvard-trained lawyer, but one who was born and raised in Chicago. Obama said two things about himself in his life choices: without rejecting his white heritage, he wanted to engage his black identity. And he wanted to have a social impact, probably as an elected official (he soon ran for the Illinois state legislature). Michelle Robinson was a perfect choice for Obama - Americans of both races would have had greater difficulty voting for him if he were married to a white woman.

Michelle Obama has a brittle side. Conservatives made a lot of Michelle Obama's unfortunate comment, "For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country." More telling to my eye were her early campaign speeches, where she went on at length about her resume as a black person coming from a working-class home who had to fight her way through an Ivy League education, and how she was a role model. For one thing, the campaign wasn't about her (although, in a positive way as we shall see, the presidency has become in part about her). For another, white Americans don't want to have this information forced on them.

Somewhere along the way, Michelle Obama underwent chrysalis. She relaxed - as Americans relaxed around her - and a lovely, warm, gracious, intelligent human being emerged. During Obama's first speech to the joint houses of Congress, his introduction of the First Lady was a high point in which everyone basked. It's hard for me to believe you can find someone in America (even one of those people who swears Barack is a Muslim) who doesn't - at a minimum - like Michelle. (Lest I sound idolatrous, in his autobiography, Obama mentions a period when Michelle harshly carped at him for neglecting household responsibilities as he devoted himself to politics.)

The Obamas can dance. Sometimes, when African Americans make it in America, they dance like white people - that is to say, they lose the ability to dance. But not the Obamas. As their first cultural endeavor, the President and his wife honored Stevie Wonder, a man whose music they said brought them together. All right, for me, the best of Stevie Wonder were his early teenage years with Motown, when he produced songs like "Fingertps" and "Uptight." But there's no questioning he's a major improvement over the musical tastes of George W. and Laura Bush

And the Obamas certainly dance better than the Bushes. In fact, has anyone seen Laura dance? And George W. dances like he is doing something he should feel guilty about (as many Americans - both left and right - might say he ought to be). The fact that each of the Obamas danced with Ellen DeGeneres during the campaign - can you imagine either John McCain or his wife dancing, or being asked to dance - says it all. Thank God we have a first couple who enjoys dancing and can dance.

Barack Obama embodies America's best hope - an African American who succeeds in a white world while embracing both white and black Americans. No one could have invented the First Family - and, thank God, we didn't have to.