I got a wonderful email the other day from the father of a young man, a military veteran, who had come across one of my Huffington Post pieces about the silliness of calling Barack Obama our first Black President when he is far more than simply “Black.” The father wanted to share with me a letter his bi-ethnic son had written to the President about his disappointment in President Obama for not taking the opportunity to claim his bi-ethnic status and thereby truly helping this country move a step closer to our stated goal of a “post racial” America. With the son’s permission I am herein reprinting his letter.
February 7, 2009
Dear President Obama:
First and foremost, congratulations on being our 44th President of the United States of America.
You are the epitome of what positive things can happen from change. A change from the racial divide of miscegenation that deeply swept our country to a country known today for accepting people of all cultures, backgrounds and colors. However Mr. President, I have been disappointed about the message given to millions of multicultural people by saying if you are multicultural you have to choose to be of ‘one’ race.
Those who believe that a multicultural person of black and white should identify only with one race support the intolerant one-drop rule created by a racially prejudiced government at a particular point in history. The rule was held illegal in Loving v. Virginia (1967). The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed Virginia’s ban on inter-racial marriage, which declared Plecker’s Virginia Racial Integrity Act and the one-drop rule unconstitutional. However, there are some who want to continue to hold on to that fanatical and discriminatory rule.
This thinking underlies the attack often faced by multicultural people that they are trying to deny or are ashamed of who they are. Being multicultural does not mean denying the colorful heritages we possess. Personally, I understand the difficulty you may have encountered growing up as a multicultural young man, especially having a brown complexion.
Yes, multicultural people from the time they are born to the time they die are constantly asked to choose their “primary” race, or others will do it for them. We are called offensive names like; yellow banana, oreo, mutt, etc., all meant to hurt who we truly represent, a nation of one blood. However, this is a new day, a changed day where we can finally embrace who we really are.
To be the 44th President of the United States, who is multicultural, should be a proud statement of equality that exemplifies and represents what the United States is known for; a nation that embraces all shades, colors, and cultures of people.
Like you President Obama, I am the blending of two races. My mother is black and my father is white. As with your mother and father, my parents were able to see and experience a love that bridged racial divides. Throughout the years, as I got older and like you, I faced some extremely difficult and joyful times. Early in my life, I experienced both the harsh reality of my mother and father divorcing and then I witnessed the wonderful blending of new stepparents.
As a multicultural child, I remember telling my father about a time when I was in the third grade my teacher asked for the children to stand up based upon their race. When she told all the white kids to stand up, I stood up. When she told all the Hispanic kids to stand up, I sat down. Then she told all the Black kids to stand up and I stood up. My father said that was a defining moment for me in being multicultural that I still stand up for today.
When I was 15, I saw a movie with Halle Berry and thought the world of her, as did most teenage males my age. However, I saw her as someone like me, multicultural. I believed Ms. Berry was a face of hope for multicultural people. I looked up to her because she embodied the blending of races. However as I got older and much to my dismay, I heard Ms. Berry claim that she was black not multicultural.
This caused me to see the woman, who I once called my big sister, a runaway from all who are multicultural. Then another face of hope showed up, you President Obama, only for me to again experience disappointment.
While you were sworn-in as our 44th President and my Commander and Chief that I am proud for you to be, I was mobilized to the war in Afghanistan. For the past 10 years, I have faithfully with love and honor served in our Armed Forces.
On election night, you said “This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you. For that is the true genius of America – that America can change.”
President Obama we cannot go back to the one-drop of black blood rule. With you as President, America has come a long way. However as you said, “there is so much more to do.” As with your children I to want my future children to live to see the next century and be as fortunate as the woman you spoke about, Ann Nixon Cooper; to see a change for all races of people including those of us who are multicultural.
The question will truly be what progress will we have made? Identifying to one race, clouds the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished for 45 years ago when he said; “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation that will not judge them by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.
In your speech “A More Perfect Union” you said that race is an issue that you believed this nation could not afford to ignore right now and I agree. I am part of that next generation of young people you spoke to who possesses the attitude, belief and openness to change that gives you the greatest hope.
I can only ask that during your administration you renew the discussion about race and stand up for me and all of us who are multicultural as I stood-up in the 3rd grade. President Obama, now is your chance for your children and all of us who are multicultural to clear the clouds about race by answering the call. This is your moment. This is your time.
Pvt. Eric C. Jaskolski,
I couldn’t have said it better. My hat is off to him and thanks for reminding me I am not crazy for feeling the same way, when so many people out there seem so so obsessed with forcing the “racial” labels we seem so stuck on.