On Sunday, Marie Arana wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post claiming that Obama is NOT BLACK (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/28/AR2008112802219_pf.html). Arana argues that Obama, like most of us, is a product of complex ancestries that can not be described as "black" or "white" but must be acknowledged as mixed and messy. Arana, herself a "bi-cultural" and "bi-racial" sort with a Kansas mother (and a Peruvian father), says that the language of Black and white is anachronistic, part of America's racist past, not it's post-racial future. Her words remind me of one of the founders of sociology, W.E.B. DuBois, who pointed out in 1903 that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." DuBois's point was that race was NEVER an easy to figure out bodily marker, but rather a culturally enforced hierarchy. You're white; you win. You're black; you lose. But who was white and who was black was not as simple as skin color. Instead, post-Civil War America had to decide again and again, in legal cases like Plessy v. Ferguson (one drop will do) or everyday interactions ("Move to the back of the bus. Oh, sorry, I mistook you for someone else. Stay right there madam."). Arana says it's time to move beyond the color line and admit that race is not a this or a that and it's certainly not located in the body. She's right and she's wrong. The truth is that US society is far from "post-racial." We rely on the "color line" to maintain white privilege in different ways than we did a century ago, but rely on it we do. He's dangerous (guess what color?). She's innocent (guess what color?). That family is pathological (guess what color?). That family can rent the apartment because even though they're down on their luck, they seem reliable (guess what color?). Racism hasn't disappeared just because we know race is a social construction. There's a reason black men are more likely to go to prison than college and it sure isn't as simple as "crime and punishment." Until we acknowledge the systems of racial privilege that structure white lives, until we take a critical eye to the myriad ways in which some of us benefit from the color line and some of us don't, we will continue to rely on the existence of the color line, no matter how much we acknowledge that it's completely made up. DuBois was right to suggest the color line would be the problem of the twentieth century. It remains to be seen, with our first "Black" President, whether or not it will remain the problem of the twenty first.