Friday, March 28, 2008

Who Are You?

The other night, in class, we were discussing where we come from. The Catholic Church's history traces itself back, in a direct apostolic line, to the first Pope, Peter.

I was talking to the kids about family history and how it is important to know from whence we come. My daughter, who never ceases to amuse me (which is a good thing), claims to be Irish. OK. Works for me. My father was of German descent. My mother is of German, Swiss and French descent. Julie's paternal grandmother is of Italian descent. Her paternal grandfather was of Irish and French descent. Notice anything? Yeah, me, too. Irish is definitely not the most dominant ethnic background in Julie's history. Yet it is how she chooses to identify herself.

This caused me to wonder about Barack Obama. Barack Obama's father is a black man from Kenya. His mother is a white woman from a farm in Kansas. I do not know their ethnicity beyond this. Mr. Obama identifies himself as a black candidate. It is how he chooses to identify himself.

This is not nearly as much of an issue for me personally as the fact that he identifies himself as a Democratic candidate but I am not here to discuss politics.

I have eyes. Mr. Obama clearly looks like a person of color. I try to be understanding and compassionate and put myself in the other person's shoes. I cannot imagine growing up as the child of a mixed race marriage. It is just stuck in my brain, though, that this man, the grandchild of a Midwest farmer, is choosing not to identify himself as such but is identifying himself as the black candidate.

Maybe I have missed something and Mr. Obama has addressed this somewhere. If so, and you know where, please just point me in the correct direction.

Maybe, someday, none of it will matter. Maybe, someday, political campaigns will be decided on the written views of the candidates and not on their looks or ethnicity or sex.

Maybe. But in the meantime, I am curious. Who are you?


Aoj & The Lurchers said...

I'm definitely Welsh.

Parents, maternal and paternal grandparents, maternal great grandparents are all Welsh. I think my paternal great grandparents are as well but I don't know much about that side of the family.

Kim said...

Sandy - I'm reading "Dreams from My Father" a book written by Barack Obama. He was raised by his grandparents (who actually moved around) and his mom who remarried to an Indonesian man. Being raised in such diversity seems to have defined him - as he aligns with the perceived underdog. I'm curious about him, but his politics and I don't agree.

I'm Irish/French/German/Oklahoman!!

laurie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laurie said...

i think the point is that for black americans, people look at them and see black. they don't see midwestern farmer. they don't see nuance. they don't see all the races that are blended together there. people look at obama, and they see black.

it would be hard NOT to identify with the black side of your family, given that.

racial and cultural heritage is an interesting thing. my father was half german and half irish. i have been to germany, and i have been to ireland. i don't identify with the german side at all. i completely identify with the irish side. why is that?

(my mother is a hodge podge of all kinds of things.)

on the other hand, my father got off the plane on his first visit to china and said "i feel like i've come home."

he has not a drop of chinese blood in him. but that was what he identified with. isn't that odd?

Willowtree said...

I don't find this anywhere near as bad as Hillary claiming to be a woman.

I'm Scottish/Irish/Chinese.

Anonymous said...

I'm still laughing at WT! Oh, that man!

See I agree with you here. Obama identifies himself with a side of his family that abandoned his mother. And, I have to question that. He was raised by his white grandparents and yet, says his grandmother was very racist...and still identifies with his black side. I don't understand at all.

I just see him as the democrat opposition, I guess. And, someone who has politics that do not coincide with my faith at all.

Dianne said...

I'm French/Irish/Russian. I was raised Roman Catholic but identify more with my maternal grandmother's faith - Judaism -although in general I don't find "organized religion" to be something I identify with at all.

My ex-husband is African and Native American. My son has married a Greek woman.

We are quite the league of nations.

My son identifies with both races BUT society has always viewed him as a black man. And he has had many negative issues to deal with over the years. His in-laws are obscenely racist and I often worry about how my future grandchildren will be treated, not to mention how hurtful their treatment of my son feels to me.

Barack Obama, for me, transcends all labels. He is a leader and I hope our next President.

Willowtree said...

Oh, by the way..I love the new masthead.

Karmyn R said...

Sadly - race plays an issue in everything. Even someone who is pale as snow, yet has a black ancestor is considered black. I don't agree that it should matter - but for a lot of people, it apparently does.

And as for me - European Ketchup - a mix of everything (French, English, Dutch, Irish - you name it, I've probably got it). I married into a Czechoslovakian family so it has been fun to learn all their traditions.

Pamela said...

Scotch-Irish is actually the term Karmyn should use.
We always thought we were Irish, and then did some digging and there sure was a lot of Dutch in there...on my moms side. Haven't scoured dads side as thoroughly, its been trickier.

As for politics...I love St Francis of Assisi's quote “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”


bermudabluez said...

Mine's easy....Irish and French! WT is something else....cracks me up!! I see your point...maybe I'll have to pick up that book that he wrote.

lisa marie said...

Maybe he sees himself as a black candidate because his entire life people only saw his skin, not that midwest farmer.

I grew up in SW MO and it is mostly white there, I'm assuming it's the same in Kansas. As a white kid in a almost entirely white environment, I didn't know what to think when I saw a person with darker skin for the first time. I just didn't know people came in that color.

So I'm betting he was raised around a lot of white kids who noticed his difference and that helped him think of himself as a black man.

lisa marie said...

Oh, and I dunno what I am. As far back as I know, early 1900s, my great-grandmother rode over in a covered wagon from Kansas.

I know nothing of my biological dad's side. No clue.

Sayre said...

I identify with Welsh - but am mostly English and Norwegian (the result of a Viking rape, as my husband likes to say). DUring WWII, my father's family fled London to the "summer house" in North Wales and stayed there. He grew up in boarding schools, but home was Wales, and that is how he thinks of himself.

My mother's family is Norwegian, but have been here in the States so long that she had to get into geneology to figure out where she's from. For all intents and purposes, she's from Florida - a real Southern woman. And though I've lived here most of my life, I do NOT identify myself as a Floridian. Perhaps if it hadn't been ruined early on by overdevelopment and greed, I'd be more inclined to identify myself that way.

I lived in Oklahoma for nearly 8 years. Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by black people and never thought about it. In OK, there were very few - and I still didn't think about it. Until one day I was sitting in a restaurant and a very striking woman walked in. I couldn't take my eyes off her - she was absolutely beautiful. I couldn't figure out why she caught my eye like that until I was half way home. She was black. I guess my eyes were hungry for a "familiar" face.

tiger lamb girl said...

Gah. Let's see. I'm part Scottish, English, German, French and American Indian.

And those are only the ones I know about.

I guess I'm just a Heinz 57. Maybe I should just say I'm a human being with a soul. Sigh.;)

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