The Danger of Us versus "That One"*

© Daisuke Kobayashi

Ever since Barack Obama entered the presidential race in February 2007, with his mixed race, mixed heritage and his international up-bringing there has been a strong undercurrent that have pushed issues of racism and otherness to the forefront of American consciousness and politics. In the Financial Times today, there was an article on "Obama's Burden" and the nebulous role race will play in this up coming presidential election. The article questions the true accuracy of the poll numbers. Other African-American candidates running for public office in the past have had significant leads in the polls only to lose to their white opponent. And now John McCain's campaign out of options to turn the numbers in his favor have decided to suggest that Obama's brown skin, different name, diverse cultural influences make him a scary, dangerous "other," that white America can not afford to take a risk on.

This direction and tone in American politics leaves me very unsettled and with a very uncomfortable knot in my gut. While any form of discrimination saddens me, this Republican campaign tactic which draws on our basest, most vile human characteristics, is not however the only reason for the uncomfortable pit in my stomach. It is because, as they are demonizing Obama for his brown skin and diverse upbringing, I look at my brownish-beige skin, my mixed-heritage and diverse upbringing and wonder if I too am an outsider, an other and do not belong into this America they describe. Ironically, it is the diversity of ideas and cultures that the McCain campaign now shuns that made America the powerhouse it is today.

I do think however, that this attempt to make Obama the "other" is a dangerous strategy. Aside from destroying any respect McCain once commanded, it ignores the browning of America. I think this not just because I live in California, the "brownest" state of fifty, but because through immigration, rising numbers of mixed marriages and therefore mixed-race children, whites will not be the dominant race in America by 2042. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while minorities make up one third of the U.S. population currently, by 2050, 54% of the country will be made up of minorities. Instead America will become a "majority of minorities"- yellow, red, beige, brown, black. The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at the University of California, Los Angeles estimate that by 2050 the numbers of bi-racial or multi-racial people will triple in the U.S. to 16 million people.

Shifts in cultures and beliefs can be difficult and complicated even within one's own family, let alone an entire country and there are probably many people out there who find this information rather disconcerting and will take time to make peace with it. The younger generation who has grown up in this transition will probably think nothing of this shift as they are a part of it. However, with regards to this upcoming presidential election, I think it is time to stop alienating the future majority of the country.

*John McCain addressed Barack Obama as "that one" during the 2nd presidential debates to the surprise and dismay of many.