As a news reporter for many years in the racially diverse and sensitive states of  New Jersey and Ohio, one's racial composition was sometimes a practical matter in story composition.   Race would turn up in topics such as entertainment, crime, school/government policy, and politics and always required accuracy and careful consideration.

"Negro" and "colored" were no longer acceptable usages for African-American references in this '80s-'90s timeframe, nor was "mulatto" acceptable usage to describe people - like 1980 Miss America winner Vanessa Williams - who were half-black and half-white.   

Williams and others of "mixed" racial background were referred to as such, followed by a descriptive phrase of the recipe.  "Bi-racial" came into wider usage during this time, mostly to describe people who were equal parts white and black, and usually because the subject had parents who were clearly one of each.

If one's racial heritage was something other than black and white, the more likely referance was "mixed." 

But "mixed" could also be used to describe people of more than than two racial backgrounds, and proportions other than 50/50. 

Thus, "multi-racial" became preferable to "mixed" to denote subjects of Black, White, and Asian or Native American backgrounds. "Tri-racial" wasn't in use then at all, though it turns up plenty now.

I guess the thinking was, if there are only three racial subsets of the human race, "multi-racial" can mean three and nothing else while "tri-racial" may imply someone is equal thirds of each grouping, a genetic impossibility.      

Remember the edgy "people of color" term to describe blacks?

It cropped up in stories, usually features, at the dawn of political correctness but was derided, often by bigots, as being ludicrously similar to the not-okay "colored."  Today, "...of color," while still in use, typically denotes all or assorted non-whites, and not blacks specifically.

One thing I thought hadn't changed since politically correct journalism took hold is this:

When race is relevant to a story and your subject is known to be bi-racial, you report it as such. To call the subject "black" or "white" instead would be innaccurate, as precisely incorrect as correct.  

Subjects might reference themselves in quotes as black, white or Asian but some reportorial clarification would be in order if, in fact, the subject was mixed and especially if the subject was equally mixed.

Which brings us from my choice for 1980 Miss America to my choice for 2008 President, Barack Obama.

Yes, this remarkable bi-racial candidate with a white mother and black father often refers to himself as black, which is his choice. 

But should the press follow suit?

And does this constant and inaccurate referencing help him or hurt him come November?

Over and over, progressive, conservative and mainstream media all refer to Obama as "America's first black major-party nominee." As historic a narrative as that is, from an objective journalistic standpoint, it's not true.  There will be a "first black nominee" someday, and whoever he or she is, that person's historic moment is being done a disservice by the media of today.

Obama is America's first bi-racial nominee, every bit as historic and in one poetic aspect more so:

Because he is both black and white, he actually shares racial ancestry with a greater percentage of Americans than any candidate in history.

Moreover, his bi-racial heritage distances him symbolically not only from white racists but from black racists as well, people on all fronts of  extremism who preach against interracial love.

Bi-racial and multi-racial Americans like Obama are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population.  The browning of America, like Brazil, is inevitable and desirable. One fine day all single-race peoples will be minorities here and while prejudice may yet exist there will surely be no numerical advantage to it.          

Obama both defends and represents this fundamental shift in our landscape.  His timely message, at its crux, is about all Americans coming together, a message that could and should get him elected.

Thus, I believe it is in the Republicans' best interests if Obama is portrayed more as a black man than a bi-racial man.  It makes him seem less inclusive, more divisive at least to some - including those in key demographics where Obama needs to gain numbers, such as working class white men and older Americans.

I believe the media, however liberal the right percieves it to be, is not helping the left at all by playing up Obama's blackness at the expense of his bi-racial heritage. 

It will be a shame and a tragedy if this blatant, obvious and easily-corrected innacuracy costs him the election.

Christopher Bifani, Wilmington, North Carolina