It would be arrogant and presumptuous of me to even pretend to know what it’s like to grow up “biracial” like Barack Obama. Or anyone else, for that matter. But consider this:
When I was a kid, my relatives all lived in New England or New York. All of them. My Dad and uncles and aunts married other white, New England Catholics. My Dad was a radical for marrying a non-Catholic. A non-Catholic.
My cousins and I, not to put too fine a point on it, live everywhere, from New England to L.A. to Texas. One cousin has been in New Zealand for over a year. But even more than that, we’ve gone outside the bounds of our “culture.”
My sister-in-law is Assyrian, moving from Iraq to the U.S. with her family when she was 12 (they’re Christian). My brother-in-law is half Japanese, and spent some time growing up on Okinawa. My niece looks Asian, not Caucasian. My son is adopted from Taiwan. My wife is from the South (my daughter qualifies both as a D.A.R. and a Daughter of the Confederacy).
And this is where racism is changing on the ground, I suspect.
How can you think “all Asians [fill in the blank]” when your son is an Asian? When your niece is an Asian? How can you look at Iraq dispassionately when your brother’s wife and her family fled the country?
And how can you not look at someone like Barack Obama and not feel that he represents you better than anyone else probably could?
I don’t think racial problems in this country are ever going to heal entirely. But if they do, it’s going to be because of millions of families like mine, where the children didn’t give a rip about following their parent’s faith, or staying put in the ancestral home, or dating who their parents thought was “appropriate.” We’re going to heal because it’s harder, and hurts more, when “the other” that you’re fighting or railing against is really not “other” at all.
Then again, maybe I’m just a naive idealist.