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Obama belongs to all of us

Last updated on February 7, 2012

I have a message for my African-American friends: Stop claiming Barack Obama as one of yours. He’s not one of yours. He’s one of OURS. In case you haven’t checked, Obama isn’t just black. He’s half-black, half-white and half-Asian. Okay, perhaps he isn’t half-Asian, but his step-father was Indonesian, he was raised partly in Indonesia, and most of his clothes are from Asia. So don’t you dare laugh when you’re driving through Chinatown and see a bumper sticker that says “I’m Voting For Obama. He’s Almost Asian!”

If you’re Hispanic, you can take pride in him too. Did you know that Obama loves tortilla chips and salsa, and he once sat through an entire Jennifer Lopez movie? Yes, the man has gone to great pains to discover his Hispanic side.

When they make a movie about Obama, you’ll see him flying to the White House in a cape, with people gazing up and gasping, “It’s a black man! It’s a white man! It’s everyman!”

Obama identified himself with the African-American community as a young man, partly because he felt a need to belong, and that suits everyone just fine, because we love to put people into neat categories. But his background is quite different from most African-Americans. After all, there aren’t many African-Americans who could organize a family reunion and harbor a slight fear that Dick Cheney might show up.

And there aren’t many African-Americans who could fly to Africa, host a dinner party for their extended family and have hundreds of people showing up, most of whom are actually related to them.

Obama’s late father was Kenyan and his late mother was Kansan. If he’s elected to the White House, it will be a momentous, historic occasion, because, as everyone knows, America has never had a Kenyan-Kansan president. Yes, he’ll be America’s very first K-K president, much to the dismay of the KKK.

Obama has given credit to his white mother for raising him after his father left, writing in his memoir that “what is best in me I owe to her.” But despite all that, it’s his father’s race that seems to define him. “If you have one drop of black blood, you’re black,” society seems to say. But what if every drop of your blood is red?

Shouldn’t we celebrate Obama’s mixed heritage, instead of glossing over it, instead of cutting off his mother’s side?

The same can be asked about Tiger Woods. Journalists often refer to Tiger as an African-American golfer, except in Thailand, where journalists describe him as “the golfer whose mother is Thai.”

According to Wikipedia, Tiger’s late father, Earl, was half African-American, one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Native American, while his mother, Kultida, is half Thai, one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Dutch. That makes Tiger one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter African-American, one-eighth Native American and one-eighth Dutch. And that makes me glad I studied fractions in high school.

Thanks to those lessons, I’ve figured out that Tiger is — drum roll please! — twice as much Asian as African-American. But not many people know that. If they made a movie about him, it would be called “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Asian.”

Tiger, quite smartly, considers himself “Cablinasian” (a combination of Caucasian, Black, American-Indian and Asian.) He’s not just a great golfer, but also a great role model, making so many people proud, especially those in the Cablinasian community. You may not know this, but for 10 consecutive years, they’ve selected him as “Cablinasian of the Year.”

Tiger has a unique genetic makeup — and so does each of us, no matter our racial background. Obama owes his not just to his father, but also his mother. That’s why it puzzles me that 92 percent of blacks supported him in the Mississippi primary, but only 26 percent of whites did.

Why such a racial divide over a candidate who’s half-this and half-that?

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