Two Races

Teja - Dedham, Massachusetts
Entered on July 10, 2008

Obama is not Black – and neither am I. My name is Teja Arboleda. – an African-American, Native-American, Filipino-Chinese & German-Danish man, who grew up in Japan. I am the president of Entertaining Diversity – a television producer, professor, actor and public speaker. I came to the US for college, I have a US passport, and I am a mixed-race, rather, multiethnic American, like Senator Obama. I was forced to choose sides most of my life, and then as an adult found a positive path. I have performed in front of, and have had discussions with many thousands of people in hundreds of cities and towns, discussing the politics of race. And I believe that it is time, finally, that we consider the abolishment of racial designations.

When we talk about race and politics in America, we have two sides to consider: politics and race; and the politics of RACE. Race is a political construct. Just the fact that we discuss race and politics perpetuates the politics of race. Race is an archaic rubric of human classifications that were created by European guys like Linneaus and Blumenbach who built vertical, hierarchical architectural models of human categories, with Caucasoid (Caucus mountains) at the top, and Afer (monkey in German), Africa, at the bottom. And yet my father (dark man) and mother (light woman) had two children because they are of the same race – the human race.

And yet, time and time again in the media, even after emotional responses to Senator Obama’s speech about his experiences as a mixed-race American, reporters conclude their stories by referring to Obama as a Black man, negating the very essence of the speech and Obama’s identity. Besides, Obama may very well be more ‘White’ than he is ‘Black’.

Race is convenient. When we debate the current presidential campaign, must we polarize by referring to Obama as Black and McCain as White? Or can we honestly, as a modern society, step back and say that in fact, we’re living a lie. If you don’t want to vote for Obama because he’s Black, then simply think of him as White. In many countries, he would be White anyway, because he’s not really that dark.

In this campaign year, Obama is in two races: We can say that he’s in the Black race and the White race. Or we can say that he’s in the presidential race, and the human race. I believe that if we cannot acknowledge, celebrate, understand, accept and internalize the very meaning of our humanity, then all we have limitations. I believe we are all just human – and therefore, race is not one of the cards we can technically play.

I know this a tall order, and the consequences should prove to be complex, but here’s a thought – let’s remove the politics of race by removing racial categories. The true character of our society will be up front, raw and honest.