Readers of the blog will have noted that it is a modern commonplace of American Presidents to link themselves genealogically to various of the ethnic blocs in the clumping that is America. Doubtless you will recall after it was shown that Barack Obama was losing some traction with the Irish vote that he suddenly discovered Irish ancestry conveniently in time for a trip to the auld sod. Click Here
He achieved a political transformation not unlike O’Rafferty’s motor car, where once he had been “as black as your father’s hat but now was forty shades of green”.
Now, surprisingly, he needs to reconnect with his black constituency. Which might you think be a bit odd. I mean there he is, somewhat brown of visage, where can the problem be?
The essence of Obama’s black problem is that he is the wrong sort of black. He is not (or was not) descended from the blacks that had been forced into slavery and endured the Babylon of the plantations and the struggle for civic recognition. Some therefore say he lacks the credibility that would go with having been part of “the struggle”.
Obama’s favourability in this group has shown some slippage of late. It now stands at 82% which might seem another politician’s dream but his advisors seem concerned at its falling off from 91%. They see unemployment rates of 15.8% amongst African Americans, against a declared rate for other groups of 7.5%. Obama’s economic solutions are seen as disproportionately affecting African Americans, frustrating and damping their enthusiasm for another term of the same. Solid papers in African American areas like the Chicago Sun lament “the disappearing black middle-class”.
So the timing of a report by Ancestry.com is, well, significant.
Their two year long project suggests that Barak’s white mother was descended from one John Punch, a black African who was condemned to slavery in 1640. This Punch had married a white woman who passed on her “free” status to their children. Sadly, they preface their finds as lacking “definitive proof”, only “strongly suggesting” a link. This is just the sort of thing genealogists are supposed to avoid doing. Not that this hasn’t stopped it being trumpeted round the world as fact. Obama is therefore their 11th great-grandchild.
Punch was a servant in Virginia and escaped to Maryland where, in a trial, he was condemned to perpetual servitude.
Significantly, not only can Obama now claim legitimately to represent the black experience in America, but he can show ancestry in the States way back to the early 1600’s. Additionally, as his umpteenth great grandpappy Punch seems to have been in one of the earliest mixed-race marriages known in America, it’s remarkably on-point to today’s mixed race America.
Copyright David Macadam 2012