Dodai: I went through a phase in which my favorite animal was the quagga. I saw it in a book of horses, the kind that is mandatory for every preteen girl. I guess at some point I'd been called or maybe someone had called SOMEONE else a "zebra." For being black & white. Anna: Did you ever get "oreo"? Dodai: Yeah, I did get oreo… But I saw the quagga in the book and I thought this is what i relate to: The thing that is not black, not white, not striped, not solid, all mixed up. I decided it was cool. It became part of the family lingo; my sister and I would see some half chinese half black kids on the subway or something and be like, look, quaggamuffin kids. Anna: I didn't have lingo because seeing mixed race/biracial children, let alone adults, was pretty rare where I grew up. Also, I just considered myself to be black. That's what you checked off on school forms. There was no other option. Dodai: Oh, definitely. I considered myself to be black. But I also was sure I was something else, too. Something new. My sister, brother and I would visit my grandfather in the South every summer, and I became more and more aware that people were like, "What is that blue-eyed man doing with those black kids?" Anna: I was aware that I was "new." I kind of liked it! Dodai: Me too! Anna: I think I was a bit upset when I found out there were some other kids in my town who were biracial. Just like I was kinda "huh?" when I first heard about, say, Halle Berry. I knew intellectually that others existed, but I didn't feel as "special" anymore. Dodai: I was always EXCITED to find other mixed kids. I remember when i first went to Hawaii, and I saw so many black/asian/white/native mixed kids with dark skin and surf-blonde hair and almond eyes. I thought, hmm, I may move here.
"The reason I grew up thinking I could do and be whatever I wanted was partly because I was precocious and confident (maybe not as a teenager.) But it was also from my parents, who made a big effort to always tell me how 'special' I was. I think they feared my being biracial could cause problems with my self-esteem. That may be a large part of the reason why Barack Obama believed in himself enough to become the man he is now. It's almost like to overcompensate for society's racism, and/or fear of the 'other,' parents of biracial kids give them added support that, perhaps, other children don't get. I'm only theorizing here. But there is also something to be said about the comfort in bridging cultures. When you can interact with white people and black people because you see yourself as part of them, that gives you a lot of confidence in yourself. I think it's almost freeing. I mean, a young black male can walk into a job interview, and the interviewer will have sorts of ideas about who he is before he even opens his mouth based on ingrained stereotypes that aren't even in our consciousness. Whereas someone like Barack Obama, or you, or me, they don't know what to make of us! Now, that's probably different now, in the year 2008, but in the '80s? '90s? I'm not so sure that there were ideas about biracial young Americans that created barriers in the same way that there are barriers for others."
Privilege is no Death Star, and one Luke Skywalker can't obliterate it with a couple of lasers, no matter how well-placed. It did not vaporize last night, so in the Obama presidency we can look forward to some amusing and possibly infuriating contretemps that will arise from an African-American family leading the country. (Why was this never the premise for a sitcom?) The same battles will rage over affirmative action — will we cheat ourselves out of the next Obama by cutting it back? — and issues of discrimination in representation, education, housing, etc. For me, racism won't be over until a bunch of black people can move into a neighborhood and watch the property values rise.