I AM HALF African-American half Italian. Being interracial is fun because you always hear insightful comments and questions like these:
"Interracial kids are always the cutest!" "I love how you have dark skin but a nice pointy nose!" "You're black, but you aren't really black." "Why don't you ever speak in Ebonics?" "You have weird crazy hair!" "So, like, what are you?"
I only have a few black friends, and they're mostly male. I have never quite clicked with black women - when I've tried, I always seemed to laugh at the wrong times or disagree with the wrong points or date the wrong men. I do have a bunch of white friends here in Boston. They love to make black jokes and laugh "with" me. Except I'm never laughing.
Needless to say, I've never fit in. Here are the few instances that have made me feel like I'm a part of something:
When in the company of my family.
When surrounded by my multicultural Philadelphian friends. As I grew up, we wove a web across the city, through Catholic schools and Quaker schools, public parks and Jewish Community Centers - tied together with our love of laughter, music, learning and each other.
When Barack Obama announced his candidacy.
Before you start calling me a "hope-monger" or an "Obamamaniac" or, by far the worst, "cultish," let me say that I support Obama on a policy level. I prefer his health-care plan to Hillary Clinton's, which would require everyone to buy health-care insurance regardless of whether they can afford it/want it. I love his idea to require community service in exchange for government-sponsored college tax credit. I want the war in Iraq to end - the Iraqi people do not want us there, our troops are dying, we are wasting billions of dollars, and for what? We need a systematic pullout plan, one that does not leave the country in chaos but one that is sure to disengage us. Obama provides this plan.
And on the topic of national security, I find Obama's path superior on several levels. He is ready and willing to defend our nation, but he isn't going to jump into war blindly. He'll use smart tactics to take out our enemies, not entire nations that weren't even involved in the first place.
Beyond the plans and policies, I support Obama on a life level. When I read his books, I was so amazed that these words came from a "politician." I was able to relate to so many of his experiences, including his identity struggle - one that led him down many roads, some good and some bad. What's so inspiring to me is that his candidacy shows that a person cannot be defined as just one thing (white, black, rich, poor). And more importantly, his candidacy makes America the place for all of us complex people. How? Because throughout his campaign, Obama has answered the questions that have plagued me throughout my life -
"You aren't black, you aren't white; your skin is dark but you don't speak Ebonics; your grandparents are white, blue-collar Philadelphians and you're dark but somehow they love you anyhow (to pieces!); your mom is very dark-skinned and attended segregated school in D.C. all through her childhood but now she's a Ph.D.; and your father fell in love with this dark-skinned beauty despite that he grew up in a stickball-and-hoagies whiter- than-white neighborhood . . . so, really, what the hell are you?!"
Obama's answer: I am the embodiment of the American Dream.
The truth is, we all are.
The fact that Obama's campaign has helped me realize this is the reason that I'll be voting for him on April 22. *