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Monday, October 27, 2008

I am Barack: Obama and the Mixed Movement

My sister, Jilchristina Vest,  an important leader in the mixed movement  and Co-Director of one of the oldest Interracial / Mixedrace organizations in the country, iPride, has started to tell all the mixedblood kids she knows that they are all "Barack". 

When people ask you what you are, she tells them, just say, "I am Barack." She has even had t-shirts printed up on cafepress to get her message across.

Mixed folks are often accosted by complete strangers demanding 
to know "WHAT they are? as if they are not humans, girls, boys, people, artists, etc. As if their existence demands explanation. 

Mixed Studies scholars like myself who have analyzed the racial politics of mixedness know that this behavior is explained by the fact that Americans are notoriously uncomfor
table with racial ambiguity, wedded as we are to our racial classification scheme and its attendant hierarchies of oppression and privilege. If we don't know what race you are how will we know how to treat you?
Jil tells  her youngsters to shout: "Say it loud: I'm Barack and I'm proud, giving a new mixedblood pride  twist to an old black pride saying.

She tells mixed folk, "If people ask you why your mama is white and your daddy is Black tell them, "Because I am Barack!"

If people ask you why your daddy is an immigrant and your mommy is an American, tell them you are Barack!

If people ask you why you look the way you do (i.e. why are you so damn good looking?) tell them you are Barack!

I love being Barack, she tells them. She teaches young mixed people (whether they are Black and white, Black and Chinese, white and Latino, Black and Mexican, or Asian and Native American, etc.) to be proud of who they are despite all the teasing and alienation. 

Be Barack, be proud!

Mixed folk are claiming Barack Obama as their own. Blacks have claimed him, environmentalists have claimed him, working and middle class people of all colors have claimed him, feminists have claimed him. 

Barack Obama is a mixed man arguing for unity, peace, justice and equality across difference. The mixed movement is proud to claim him as one of their own. I am proud. I am Barack!