Barack Obama's Warning to People of Mixed Heritage

March 09, 2014

Back in April 2005, a group of mixed people sponsored by the nonprofit MAVIN had the golden opportunity to sit down with the then-Senator Obama.  The conversation, filmed as part of the feature length documentary "Chasing Daybreak," may be the only interview in which he has addressed the mixed race experience directly.  I pulled the dusty DVD off my shelf last week and uploaded this clip with permission from MAVIN. (I'm a past President of MAVIN, and I currently sit on the Advisory Board for both MAVIN and Mixed in Canada)

In my travels, I still hear people citing the increasing presence of America's mixed race population (up 32% since Census 2000) -- and high-profile individuals -- as supposed movement towards a "post-racial" or colorblind society. In a cultural climate like this, I think hearing President Obama -- the mixed race person most often touted as evidence of this post-race state -- strongly caution mixed folks to stay connected to community and participate in larger movements by people of color is a priceless tool for sparking discussion.  And if you find yourself in the middle of one of these discussions, don't forget to bring up Charles Curtis, the Native American elected to Vice President in the 1930's.

Anyway, when asked for general thoughts on being mixed he carefully responds, "I don't think that you can consider the issue of mixed race outside of the issue of race... What I'm always cautious about is persons of mixed race focusing so narrowly on their unique experience that they get detached from larger struggles.  It's important to try to avoid that sense of exclusivity -- or feeling that you're special in some way."

 

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