Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is Barack Black, White, Christian, Muslim, Progressive, Conservative, Messiah/Superhero, Human, All-American, Feriegner, Osama, Obama?

According to host Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barack Obama garnered $1.3 million in checks at last night's Hollywood fundraiser bash.

Another bit of good news for the campaign is the endorsement of Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of the U.S. Congress and the first black representative from Minnesota. Ellison said he's not supporting Obama because he is black as that would be what he called "identity politics" but because Obama was a unifying agent.

Speaking of identity politics, Obama's nebulous identity may be part of his attraction. To some he is black, according to his own self-definition, but to others he is sufficiently white because of his mother's heritage. His grandparents from Kansas seemed to have imparted enough all-American charm to allow him to attract small-town America, yet his African father and the years spent in Indonesia as a youth is also attractive to immigrants and their children.

His willingness to cast himself as an "agent of change" will appeal to the messianic crowd looking for a 'new age' and superheroes. Whether he will be able to deliver the promised change is a matter of faith, but as Obama says himself he can't do it alone.

Biracial and multiracial people certainly must find Obama compelling and there are lots of them in America these days. Many multi-generational Americans were raised at least partly overseas as military dependents or because their parents worked for multinational corporations or for some other reason. Their numbers may even exceed those raised their whole lives in some small town in middle America, as some of their parents may have been.

Obama's amorphous identity makes it easy for a lot of people to find commonality with him, or at least to find something attractive about him. Like the islands of Hawai'i where he was raised he has a broad appeal to all kinds of people.

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