Barack Obama Truly Represents America
A commentator once said that Barack Obama was like a Rorschach blot—a person could read anything into him. Here’s what I read into Barack Obama. He is a blending of identities and cultures. Partially from a white Kansas culture transplanted Hawaii, he is also African. Barack Obama has Indonesian influences through his stepfather and through his sister Maya.
I’m white from New York City, but I identify with this kind of situation. I had a lost sense of Jewishness although I was raised Catholic. People always asked me if I was a Jew and I felt like it was a great compliment. I nearly converted to being a Jew. Then I had my DNA done by the National Genographic Project, and learned that I am a descendent of one of four founding women of the Ashkenazi Jews. It went unbroken from countless mothers to daughters to me. And, Jewish law says that if your mother is a Jew, you are a Jew. I don’t know who tried to convert out or why but I do know that some Jewish ways persisted in our family. I never realized that they came from my mother because we were so embedded in a Jewish area that whatever we did was not different or outstanding.
I’ll never forget the day I went online to find my DNA profile! It was just before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. I was so thrilled, I called up my mother and exulted: “I found the Jews! I found the Jews.” “What are you talking about?” she asked, completely flummoxed. “It’s YOU Ma. YOU are the Jew….”I replied and told her about our DNA.
Yes, indeed, multiculturalism has always been a way of life where I live. My mom always told me that “it’s all one G-d!” My nephew goes all over the world and brings it back to me. He is currently in Turkey on a Fulbright. I’ve always felt as if I was standing somewhere between cultures and ideas—never quite in one place or another. I’m not quite comfortable in places that are all homogenous. I am Jewish. I am Catholic. I have other eclectic beliefs too. I am Polish, Ukrainian, Sicilian, French, Balkan, and who knows what else? In short, I am American.
And, after all my years protesting against racism and other ugly things, I cried for joy when Barack Obama was elected. He is a REAL American. He is white. He is black. He is multicultural, and that’s what being American has always meant. He can’t fix all our problems so easily. It’s going to be hard to make the changes I want so desperately. But, his election ALONE means a tremendous change because now we will have a President that does NOT look like all those white guys on our dollars. Our new President-elect LOOKS LIKE AMERICA—a beautiful blending of races, nationalities, and cultures.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.