Why is Barack Obama black? Or, if you prefer, African-American?

What makes a man with a white mother and a black father “black” instead of “white?” If we must choose race for the child of parents from different races, why must we choose the darker parent? Why not the lighter? Does having a black father make him “more black” than having a white mother makes him “white?” For that matter, how do we know how “white” his mother is or how “black” his father? There has been enough interracial copulation over the years for every “black” alive today to be a little “white” and every “white” to be a little “black.” Isn’t it time we got past identifying people by race?

And why do we keep celebrating firsts for blacks as if it were somehow novel or unexpected for blacks to achieve anything? Isn’t it time we realized that every race has produced villains and saints, sluggards and paragons? Isn’t it time we knew to the depths of our souls that differences in education and opportunity are far more powerful determiners of intelligence and ability than genetics or race?

Or gender.

Celebrating firsts for women is just as bad. Have we made so little progress in the struggle for mutual respect and understanding that a woman’s presidential bid is cause for rounds of self-congratulation? Why is the United States so far behind India? Or Israel? Or England? Or Germany? Where is the novelty in a woman becoming head of state?

If you really want to see the media wet its pants and fawn all over someone, then let that someone be a black woman who does anything of merit. We will hear no end to what an outstanding accomplishment it is for a black woman, as if being “black” and being a woman were two insuperable barriers that had to be overcome. Isn’t it time we recognized accomplishment without astonishment at the race or gender of the doer?