Heidi W. DurrowHeidi W. Durrow

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Obama And the Future of Mixed-Race and Multiracial America

I wrote this piece for the Huffington Post last week in a moment of trying to find the bright side of this regime change in American politics.  Let me know what you think!

heidi durrow

Obama And The Future Of Mixed-Race And Multiracial America

It is fitting that President Obama would bookend his official press conferences with an unscripted comment and nod to his mixed-race heritage.

Obama had originally campaigned for the presidency, in part, on the complexity of his racial background. As the brown-skinned son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, he offered his candidacy as the symbol of hope and harmony for our country.

I was elated by his message as a woman who is also mixed-race and who grew up lonely in my silence about my own racially and culturally complicated background.

We live in a country that subscribes to the one drop rule which insists that one drop of “black” blood defines you as black.

So, there wasn’t room in America’s imagination in the 1980s for a young woman with brown skin and blue eyes to be both black and Danish, fully Afro-Viking. I was black. I was light-skinned-ed, yes. But that was simply another variety of being black.

When Obama ran for the presidency, the word biracial lost its scientific ring and became part of the country’s lexicon. I felt like suddenly people could see me for all of my complexity: I wasn’t excited that people could now recognize that I had “white” blood, but that people could recognize I had an experience of growing up betwixt and between two cultures and two languages and that those experiences mattered.

I laughed with delight listening to Obama speak at his first press conference after he won the 2008 election. When a reporter asked what kind of dog the family planned to get for the White House (an election promise to his daughters) Obama said: “There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”

Many people expressed outrage about his remark. I thought it was funny: an insider’s joke. It was a wink . . . READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE

 

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