Column: Obama belongs to all of us

I have a message for my African-American friends: Stop claiming Barack Obama as one of yours. He’sObamakid
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?

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Rob Rachlin says:

    Melvin, I see that you, like so many others, have been completely taken in by Barack Obama. When the truth comes out, everyone will see that he simply dropped an apostrophe from his name to conceal his true heritage. Barack O’Bama is 100% Irish!

  2. Too funny, Rob! Wish I had thought of that.

  3. “He’s half-black, half-white and half-Asian.” He is one and a half?

  4. Melvin,
    I LOVL (just means Laughed out very loud) when I read your blog. I have a faint suspicion that you are taking advantage of the fact that not many of your readers have their fractions ( perhaps not even 1/125th of them) very clear and you are writing stuff disguised as fractions to see if you can get away with it. Anyways, who cares ? The fact remains that you’re one very witty Zee R CD! ( Zambian Raised Creative Desi. Howzzat?)

  5. Thanks, Sunder. If only one-tenth of my readers were one-fifth as enthusiastic as you!

  6. Melvin ur hilarious. i love u. ur so witty n u write good stuff.

  7. If God forbid…Obama had a Monica Lewinsky episode…we’d be in for some serious obama mama drama!!

  8. Hmm, interesting point. Could it be that the white people of america are inherently racist?
    THe white people of England are only ever racist in groups of 4 or more… Then we feel safe enough to admit it. Of course sometimes one member of the group is black, which just makes it more interesting.

  9. Fabulous point… one that needs to be made more!

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