Select “Other”

Yes, I support Barack Obama. I’m guessing that’s not exactly a shock to most of you out there.

It’s not because Barack is mixed-race, though I won’t deny it has tremendous appeal. Like many of you, I’m in agreement with his views, despite the fact the media has deemed I should be a Hilary fan. But there’s something else about him that appeals to me, something that, though hinted at in the endless discussions of race, hasn’t been brought to the forefront: it’s Barack as The Other.

What is The Other? It’s a demographic that doesn’t have a demographic, in a sense. It’s those of us who straddle the line, as much culturally as racially, the ones forced to select the “Other” box when presented choices about our ethnic/social ties in these United States. Though technically American citizens, we’ve grown up in other cultures, be it Jakarta, Indonesia or San Francisco’s Mission District. We’ve celebrated the Fourth of July with fried chicken and futomaki or deviled eggs and kimchi. In short, we’re the ones who’ve lived our lives in a cultural twilight, not entirely American but not completely belonging to other cultures either. And on that level, Barack speaks to me.

And what makes him The Other? First off, he’s lived his formative years in either an Asian country or culture, born in Honolulu and then bouncing between Hawaii and Indonesia. He didn’t move to the continental U.S. until after graduating from high school. His father was Kenyan; his stepfather Indonesian. He even has a Eurasian half-sister; in an interview she recalls their childhood as “drifting in and out of worlds“. All of this makes Barack the first presidential candidate with not only a pan-racial background, but one who’s lived in an almost exclusively non-Western culture.

I find all of this enthralling because it means we as The Others have finally arrived as Americans. The cultural dichotomy that dogged us is no longer hidden, or more importantly, make us less than Americans. The sense that the average citizen (i.e., white and living in the continental United States) would consider someone like me an American, much less presidential material, is astounding.

This fall I will be voting for Barack Obama. And afterwards I’m celebrating with a hot dog and a musubi.

What I’m Listening To Dept:I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King. Because it never grows old….