Obama And The Politics Of Being Biracial President-elect Barack Obama defines himself as African-American. His mother is a white American, and his father is a black African. This hits a nerve with some people, who wonder why Obama doesn't use the term biracial to describe his race.
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Obama And The Politics Of Being Biracial

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Obama And The Politics Of Being Biracial

Obama And The Politics Of Being Biracial

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In the case of President-elect Barack Obama, the term African-American is precisely accurate, but a subject of controversy nevertheless. While his father is from Kenya and his mother from Kansas, he's said plainly that given his looks, people treat him as a black man and that he sees himself as African-American. Yet some argue that's a misrepresentation, that he's biracial and does not do enough to acknowledge the fact. Still, others say, leave the man alone and let him identify himself however he wants to.

Does it matter what Barack Obama calls himself? Why? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site at npr.org; just click on Talk of the Nation. Later in the program, "Ask Amy's" Amy Dickinson on the issues that arise as relatives and sons and daughters, and their girlfriends and boyfriends arrive to stay over during the holidays. If who sleeps where has been an issue in your family, send us an email now. The address again is talk@npr.org. But first, the politics of biracial. We begin with Dawn Turner Trice, who joins us from the studio in Chicago. She's a columnist there and covers race relations for the Chicago Tribune, and nice to talk to you again.

Ms. DAWN TURNER TRICE (Columnist, Chicago Tribune): Hello.

CONAN: And I know this has been discussed on your Web site. Is the reaction, at least in part, an issue of how people identify themselves?

Ms. TRICE: Absolutely. This has been one of the questions that we have dealt with throughout the time of talking about race or exploring race. Readers who really want to know why - white readers - want to know why Barack Obama, the president-elect, doesn't call himself biracial. And he has said, and we in the newspaper often identify him as African-American, because that's the way he identifies himself. But this is such a complex issue that it goes beyond skin color and how the person views himself or herself; it also deals with how families operate. Biracial kids who live in white - who live - who are socialized in white suburbs may call themselves something differently. A biracial person who was raised by, let's say, a white mom and a white stepdad might identify differently, and so would a biracial kid who's growing up with a single black mom, maybe - who's growing up in a black community. So, it's very complicated.

CONAN: One part of it is from biracial people who say, wait a minute, he's like me; why doesn't he call himself biracial?

Ms. TRICE: Absolutely. And you hear some people who say that part of this has to deal with the politics, that in order to win over the black community - I mean, this is something that's been - that's always been - that has historical - has a historical influence. And the black community is - some members of the black community are little sensitive about how biracial people identify themselves if one of the parents was black.

CONAN: So, this is important to - you know, and it has been - we're going to discuss the history in a moment, but this is really important to some people, even though this has been seen as a triumph of - his election - has been seen as a triumph for African-Americans.

Ms. TRICE: Well, that's true. And it's also been - there are lot of people, though, who have embraced Barack Obama, and a lot of white people who might - who kind of - who want a part of this - who want a part of him - let's put it that way - as well. And it's really - it's an interesting dynamic, because we've seen in the past how, as I just said, black people who want biracial people to identify with black culture. But it's - I've never seen the case in which you have a person who really - with brown skin, who has a black parent and a white parent, and then white - or you have a lot of white people who have said - I should say, who have written to me, and they've used words like they feel insulted that Barack Obama does not identify as biracial, or they feel like he's alienating the group of people. And so, they use these kinds of emotional, impassioned words, so it's not just the actual - the reality that he is in mixed-race, but it's kind of like that they have hurt feelings that he does not - and they say - acknowledge his white ancestry.

CONAN: Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune. 800-989-8255 is our phone number. Email us, talk@npr.org. Dave is with us, calling from Charleston, South Carolina.

DAVE (Caller): Hello. Just about me very quickly, I have biracial descendants. I date across races. It's not really an issue for me. And when it comes to race, biologically, it's quite insignificant. Culturally, though, we, you know, we must respect and honor those of other cultures and the heritage that they cling to and come from. There's probably one thing that bothered me the most about race in this election, and that came from the race speech. And I read it, I didn't get to see it all, but I read the transcripts. And if you read it, you'll find some interesting things - a few things, he said that he is more or less the embodiment of the American melting pot - I paraphrase.

CONAN: Mm-hm. This is the speech he gave after the Jeremiah Wright incident.

DAVE: Yes, sir. And the other one was, and it follows this, he said - and again, I paraphrase, but I don't exaggerate - that unless you vote for me and in this election, America will forever be trapped in racism and with a lack of sense of justice, and that justice cannot prevail. And I was kind of insulted by that, but it's there if you read it. It's certainly there.

CONAN: Why were you insulted by it?

DAVE: Well, because I don't need to elect him to be free of racism or - neither does the country. I do think it'll have two effects. It will be both (unintelligible) and unifying, and I really, you know, welcome the out (unintelligible) Republicans. I would have preferred another outcome, but for the sake of the effect on race relations, I think it's a great thing. But I'm a little bothered that he would be put so presumptuous as to say, I'm America's last chance to overcome racism. And it's in the speech. I suggest that you read it.

CONAN: All right, Dave. Thanks very much. Did you read the speech that way, Dawn Turner Trice?

Ms. TRICE: Well, I've read the - I heard it, and I read it, and I don't recall that. But I think that it's important to note that it's not - that the race was not about - at least I didn't see that the election about being, you know, this kind of in - totality or referendum on race. But it was interesting to see that the coalitions that had to be built in order to - in order for him to win. As I recall, it was, I believe, 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, over 90 percent of - well over 90 percent of the black vote, 63 percent of the Asian vote, and then it was 44 percent of the white vote. It was just really - it was interesting, especially with U.S. Census Bureau saying that by 2042, the country is going to be a majority - minority in terms of race - country; that in order for him, it's - it makes sense that you can now build this type of coalition, but you also have to have a candidate that's a little different. And I think that you had those two things that came together.

CONAN: As Dawn Turner Trice has suggested, this has a long historical background. Joining us now from our bureau in New York. Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law at New York Law School, a history professor at Rutgers, and also the author of the "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family." Since we've last spoken to her on this program, that book won the National Book Award. Nice to have you back on the program, and congratulations.

Professor ANNETTE GORDON-REED (American Legal History, New York Law School; History, Rutgers University; Author, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family"): Nice to be here, and thank you very much.

CONAN: And remind us, this, as you wrote about in that book, this goes back to shortly after the arrival of slaves in America.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Absolutely. And that's the thing that I find fascinating about this whole discussion. It's as if Barack Obama represents some new thing, that he's the interracial person who's been in America, and that black people from slavery time have not had to negotiate this thing of having a white parent and a black parent. There've been millions of people like that. And it's sort of an interesting question to define. I mean, at what point do you siege to be biracial? Are his children biracial? Will their children be biracial? Is it just having one parent or - of one race and one of another one? So, this is - black people have grappled with this for 200 years.

CONAN: And there were varying definitions at varying times.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Exactly. Mulatto, we went through this whole thing with mulatto, quadroon, octoroon. People decided race based upon fractions. You know, if you had - if you were seven-eighths white, you were considered white in Virginia. And then we went to a sort of a one-drop rule. So, it's never going to stop things.

CONAN: In other words, if you have one drop of black blood, you were black.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Exactly. You were black. And so, this has been all over the map, and black people have had to deal with this, not even - not people who have been running for president, from the beginning of our time here. So, it's quite strange, sort of illuminating, I think, to have this conversation.

CONAN: And in fact, other biracial politicians have had it. We think of African-Americans or black people only running for office really since, I guess, the 1960s for the most part, but during Reconstruction after the Civil War.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Absolutely. The first black governor, P. B. S. Pinchback, who was by, I guess, the racial classifications of a day, a quadroon who is mixed race. And many of the people who were in Reconstruction legislatures and so forth were people of mixed race - not - by no means all of them. But certainly, they were part of that. So, this is - it's new for the modern era, but it something that has historical roots.

CONAN: And did those politicians identified themselves as quadroons or as biracial?

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, they were identified that way by other people, but they were certainly treated as people of African descent, and any African descent determined the way people viewed you. So, they got no - certainly no legal privileges from that, perhaps social privileges. But you know, the thing for most black politicians, even people like Adam Clayton Powell in the modern era, was to emphasize their blackness and their solidarity with the black community because that's, indeed, how they were treated.

CONAN: And that is, indeed, how Barack Obama says he is treated by most people, and that's why he identifies with the African-American community, too.

Prof. GORDON-REED: It's not surprising at all. You look at those photos of him in Time Magazine and he could look like one of my brothers or cousins. You would never think that there was anything special, you know, about his background, or that he actually had a white parent.

CONAN: And another curiosity is that DNA studies - and again, this is a technology just available to us over the last few years - suggest that indeed the vast majority of African-Americans, black Americans, in this country are, indeed, of mixed race.

Ms. GORDON-REED-REED: Absolutely. So, that's what makes it odd. Why all of a sudden is it if you have one white parent you are biracial, but you sort of deny the sort of multiracial heritage of the vast majority of African-Americans? It's only if you have a white parent does that, quote/unquote, "count." It's fascinating.

CONAN: It's - and indeed, we're going to talk about it some more with Annette Gordon-Reed, historian, and also with Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune. If you'd like to get in on the conversation, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation that's under way at our Web site; just go to npr.org and click on Talk of the Nation. In any case, stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking about the politics of biracial today. President-elect Obama, of course, self identifies as African-American. There are those who argue he should embrace a biracial identity. Does it matter what Barack Obama calls himself or other biracial people? Why, or why not? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our Web site, npr.org; just click on Talk of the Nation. Our guests are Dawn Turner Trice, who writes about race for the Chicago Tribune, and Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of history at Rutgers and author of the book "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family." Let's get some more callers on the line. This is Pamela, Pamela calling us from Malvern, Pennsylvania.

PAMELA (Caller): Hi. I just wanted to make a comment in the fact that if it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter, but it matters because - I know sounds weird - but I'm white; my husband is black. I obviously have mixed-race kids. And when my one daughter was born in the hospital, those silly little boxes that you have to fill out, there was nothing for her. And I had to make this huge argument, like, you know, no, she's not African-American and she's not white. If you want me to categorize her, then you need to give me a category.

And I love Barack Obama. I support him 100 percent. But I am definitely insulted, or a little bit hurt, that he does not call himself mixed, because if my kids didn't call themselves biracial, they would be excluding my whole side of them. And one of my - it's interesting, because one of my daughters looks much more African-American; the other one looks much more like me, Caucasian. And you know, the one that looks less African-American said, why doesn't - she's 10 - she said, why doesn't Barack Obama - why does he say he's black, Mommy? Why does he say his African-American? Isn't he like me? And I'm like - and I had to explain to them, and I don't know. I just think he should have embraced it. I think he should have embraced (unintelligible) for these kids that have to deal with being mixed-race. You know, he could have helped them all out.

CONAN: Yet he's certainly didn't try to hide it: all those campaign films, and at the convention, showing pictures of his mother and, indeed, that he was raised by a white grandmother.

PAMELA: No, he didn't try to hide it; you're right. Except that when my kids are in school and get asked what they are, they say mixed, and they don't understand why he says, I'm African-American.

CONAN: And Dawn Turner Trice, I think there lies the rub.

Ms. TRICE: Absolutely. Michele Hughes, a Chicago adoption attorney, wrote a wonderful essay for us on exploring race. And the title - well, she dealt with the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between being biracial and black with a white mom. And it's a very - there's a distinction there. And I guess, one of the things that's - our culture is still one in which you're kind of - you can identify yourself, and then society will also identify you. And so, you'll have different - I mean, there maybe a difference there between these two definitions. And I think a lot of it is based on how you look.

And one of the things that Michele said in her wonderful essay was that - I mean, she's a - her mother is white and her father is black. And she - and this kind of is a generational thing, because I think she does identify as biracial. And she also said she didn't want to pick one parent over the other. But she has fair skin, and depending on what community - if you know Chicago, it's - you know, we have our various ethnic communities. And she said depending on where she is around Chicago, I mean, she - if she's in little Italy she may be, you know, mistaken for an Italian-American person. If she's in Pilsen, she may - people might think she's Hispanic. If she's on the south side of Chicago, people think she is a fair-skinned black person. So, it kind of - you know, she blends.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TRICE: It just depends on where she is. And I...

PAMELA: That's exactly how my one daughter is; she blends anywhere. She gets taken for everything that she's in.

Ms. TRICE: And then she will identify herself, you know, the way she wants to, and then she'll have to explain to people who will look at her and then they'll identify her.

CONAN: Well, Pamela's comment reminds me of this email we got from Dee Ann in Lawrence, Kansas: It's life on a tight rope, stepping through a mine field, damned if you do, damned if you don't...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: But with a Native American father and a white mother, I've been there, but it's a little better these days, and it's great to be able to check more than one box. And Annette Gordon-Reed, there are a lot more boxes on those forms nowadays, but that's not the way a lot of people see it.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, that's - the difficulty that Dawn was saying is that there's how you identify yourself and how society views you. And people often say race is a social construct, and it is a social construct, but it's a very, very powerful one. And you can't act as if it doesn't have reality or have any meaning in people's lives.

PAMELA: Yes, that's it right there. You can't act as though it doesn't have reality, because it does. And it's interesting that you talked about those boxes, because still, my kids still, like, when they take standardized tests - and they're little - there's an "other" box instead of a mixed-race box. And my one daughter, who's just a precocious, bright little girl, she's like, well, am I "other"? I mean, what does "other" mean to a little kid?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. GORDON-REED: So, I'd ask a question if - when your daughter has a daughter, what - are they still mixed-race? I mean, at one point - remember we're discussing before about the fact...

PAMELA: They do and...

Prof. GORDON-REED: That so many African-Americans, most African-Americans have white ancestry; many of them have white ancestry. Are they - are they mixed-race, too?

PAMELA: Well, you know, that's an interesting question, because I explain to my kids that we're all mixed race, that even though I don't look it, that I'm mixed just like they are. We are just have different - as my mother-in-law said when my one daughter was born, you stirred her up fine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PAMELA: Which I thought was great. I don't know. I guess it would depend on if they married black or white. I hate to say it. I'm not - I'm not really sure. It's a great question, but you know, I mean...

Prof. GORDON-REED: What sounds so interesting in this is that you can also have - you can have two black parents - and this is what my mother told me years ago - was that, you know, you'll never know, you may have a very fair-skinned child - she was talking to her daughters - you may have a very dark-skinned child. And it does - you know, the genetic pool is such that even when you have parents of the same race, you just...

PAMELA: Absolutely.

Prof. GORDON-REED: It can be kind of a crap shoot. As I have a very fair-skinned child who - and I'm - I'm brown; my husband is a little lighter - but people are always asking her if she's mixed race. And technically, I guess, well, depending on how you define it, she's not.

CONAN: She's probably - all right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TRICE: And I supposed that one reason that's...

PAMELA: And the thing about that is that when my daughter was little, she referred to people as tan and brown. She didn't understand the race thing.

CONAN: Yeah.

PAMELA: My mother-in-law is fair-skinned, and my father-in-law is very, very dark. And she would always call Nana tan and Papa brown skin. And it's only 'til she's older, she asked me -she says, wait, is Nana black or is she white?


PAMELA: And she was black. She was just fair. So, it's a fascinating issue that, you know, I've certainly gotten my education in.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, Dawn's article raises an interesting point about the definition of blackness, and one of the reasons- and this why it's such a touchy your subject for black Americans - is that blackness is defined negatively. And people don't - there's a sense that you don't want to be black, or people may not want to be black, because the sort of history of white supremacy has devalued blackness in a way that people want to be something other. I mean, if it were about not being white - I mean, whiteness isn't the problem. The problem is the blackness.


Prof. GORDON-REED: And so that enters into it as well.

CONAN: Pamela, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Let's go know to Tea. Tea is in Denim, Massachusetts.

TEA (Caller): Hello.


TEA: How are you?

CONAN: Good thanks.

TEA: Good, good. I am African-American, Native American, Filipino, Chinese, German, Danish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TEA: And I grew up in Japan. I am a performer, a producer and a college professor. I specialize in multiracial issues. My last documentary, "Crossing the Line: Multiracial Comedians," is on PBS, and Dr. Reginald Daniel, who was quoted earlier, is actually in the documentary. And we talked to - talked quite a bit about what is race and what is biracial, what is multiracial. My perspective is actually that we should eliminate racial categories.

CONAN: And let me turn to Annette Gordon-Reed, and it's a fine aspiration. Do you think it's likely to happen anytime soon?

Prof. GORDON-REED: No, certainly, and then you end up with France, where there is no racial categorization and they denied that there's any racial problem, and there are a very few black people participating at the upper echelons of society because they don't recognize this - by not recognizing it, as long as white supremacy is in play, it sounds good, but what we know will happen is that people of color will suffer because of that, ultimately.

CONAN: Interesting...

Prof. GORDON-REED: People who are not identify...

CONAN: Similar dynamic in Brazil as well.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Exactly.

Ms. TRICE: Right.

CONAN: I mean, there is no race problem in Brazil, because they deny - they say there's no race problem, because they deny the existence of race. And yet all the blacks are on the bottom and the whites are on the top.

TEA: But do you not believe that by - if we continue using racial categories the way we do, it is only going to perpetuate the concept of race, which is how we define and segregate each other anyway? I mean, it only goes to show that any caller who calls in, who is biracial or multiracial, who has kids who are mixed, it's the kids who can't define themselves. So, when they do look at someone like Obama, it is very clear that racial categories, as they exist today, is problematic. And certainly, I do agree that there is racism; there's racism all over the world, and there are places that have eliminated racial categories. There are some who haven't. But the question is not so much, is there racism? The question is, because race is a social concept; it's a political concept...

Prof. GORDON-REED: You can - you can...

TEA: That by getting rid of racial categories, could that not be a move toward understanding who we are inside?

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, it could, or it could be a way of solidifying a problem that we've not dealt with, and I think Dawn's article deals with this, as the sort of notion of blackness as this negative thing and as a problem. And instead of - I mean, we certainly have - you know, this is a country that's very, very much into racial categorizations, but we've elected a black president. In other places that are so groovy...

TEA: A multiracial president.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, he...

TEA: And a multicultural president.

Prof. GORDON-REED: A multicultural president, but we have identified - we have elected someone who probably could not be elected in any of these places that don't have racial categorizations, because they don't deal forthrightly. There's nothing wrong with being different.

CONAN: And interestingly, in Europe, he is routinely referred to as biracial.


CONAN: Yes, interesting. Tea, thanks very much for the call.

TEA: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to - this is Lisa, Lisa with us from Dublin in California.

LISA (Caller): Hi, there. Yes, I wanted to propose to your historian - I definitely agree wholeheartedly with what she's saying. I'm from Puerto Rico. I grew up in Puerto Rico, and what she was saying about the Southerners and the different categories of blackness, and in Puerto Rico, we don't have the issue of different - (unintelligible) only one category; you're Puerto Rican. And you have black. You are black. You have a drop of black, no matter what, and because you're African-American, you're Indian, and you're Spanish from Spain. You know, you have black; you have - you're a Spaniard from Spain.

And so, that's what Puerto Rico means - a Puerto Rican. And then you're called Moreno, which means light black, Trigueno - there's different degrees on the scale of blackness. Now, I look whiter. So, when I come here to the States, people look - they look at me and they say, oh, you're Puerto Rican? You don't look Puerto Rican. And so, I say, so what's a Puerto Rican supposed to look like? However, when Obama said - oh, you know, is denying his - well, not denying, but just not bringing it out, his biracial identity, it does bother me a little bit, because of the fact when I - you know, my identity, too. I want - I acknowledge my identity. I'm everything, you know, even though I don't look it. I'm everything, and I'm also half Italian. My kids are also multiracial, multiethnic, because I'm also married to a Korean. So, I just - I want to bring it all out on the table even if I don't look it.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. GORDON-REED: This is...

LISA: I was wondering if your historian has a comment on that, too.

CONAN: Well, let's hear from Annette Gordon-Reed, then, OK?

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, it's - again, it's just fascinating to me because, you know, if this is his chosen identity, because of his - these are his experiences in life - I'm trying to think of an analogy. If a person, you know, chose to be - had a Jewish parent or a Christian parent and chose one culture over another, you know, would people feel that he had done something wrong or he couldn't do that? I mean, this is a part of his identity, the way he has been treated in the world, and it seems to be that it's sort of an odd notion to do away with race by emphasizing biracialism, instead of people choosing their own path, in a way.

CONAN: Self-identity, yeah. Lisa, thanks very much. We're talking with Dawn Turner Trice and Annette Gordon-Reed about the politics of biracial. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And Dawn Turner Trice, I heard you try to get in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TRICE: Yeah.

CONAN: I'm sorry.

Ms. TRICE: Well, I'm just - I'm fascinated by the number of people who want to do away with the racial categories. And the people who write to me, and say that, you know, why are you talking about race? If you stop talking about it, it will go away. And I find that line of thinking just - it's amazing, because it will not go away, because we are different, and we're of different ethnicities and we're of different skin tones, and in this country, those things matter. And one of the things that make - that we often don't talk about when we're talking about race is just how subjective a lot of our thinking about race is. And we - I've seen so many studies just how - and I know that Annette Gordon-Reed deals with this in her wonderful book. It talks (unintelligible) the different - the context. When you talk about black, what does that mean? The negative connotations that are stirred up compared to whiteness, and just how, you know, how wonderful it is, I mean, the color is, and all of that and how we often don't really tap into some of the things that we think about race and feel about race that are on a very subjective - on a level that we may not even know - a level of consciousness that we may not even attuned to.

CONAN: Let's end with this email from Reginald in Concord, North Carolina: Concerning the one-drop theory, Halle Berry also has a white mother. Yet, when she won the Oscar for best actress a couple of years ago, no one asserted her biraciality, but instead, lauded her as the first black actress to win the award. Why is it that just a couple of years ago, Halle Berry was fully black, but now President-elect Obama is half white? Could it be those whites who are asserting this are fully accepting of blacks in entertainment and sports, but in national politics are not as accepting blackness? And I guess that's another point, Annette Gordon-Reed.

Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, that's - again, back to Dawn's article, this idea that, I mean, Obama embodies - he's sort of the opposite of all the stereotypes about blackness. And so when he identifies himself as a black man, he's telling a different story of what blackness means, and I think some people have difficulty with that. He is, you know, a Harvard graduate. He is the president-elect. This is not what a black man is supposed to be under the conventional narrative, and so, he upsets a lot of categories. I think it's wonderful that he identifies himself as a black man and explodes a lot of the myths about what it means to be black.

CONAN: And reminds us all to start this conversation all over again almost every day, Dawn Turner Trice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TRICE: Well - and absolutely - and clearly, if he were a ne'er-do-well, I'm not certain people of either community would be - would want to claim him as much. But because he is this extraordinary - he's got this extraordinary pedigree and this background that I think a lot of people want a piece of him.

CONAN: The other part of that - just in response to that email, of course - the shortstop for the Yankee's Derek Jeter, a very prominent biracial. His parents are often in the stands every single game. So, there's no getting around that. But anyway, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thanks to you both.

Ms. TRICE: Thank you for having me.

Prof. GORDON-REED: You're welcome. Thank you.

CONAN: Dawn Turner Trice, a columnist who covers race relations at the Chicago Tribune, with us from Bosco Productions in Chicago today, And Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of law at New York Law School, also a history professor at Rutgers and author of the National Book Award-winning book, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," with us from our bureau in New York. Up next, home for the holidays: grandparents, kids, significant others. "Ask Amy's" Amy Dickinson on the sometimes tricky question of sleeping arrangements. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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