Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The First Family, a Mixed Family, an American Family

Today is the dawning of a new era in American politics. Perhaps that will strike some as being either hyperbolic or overstating the obvious. But partisanship aside, what I mean is that quite literally, the face of the White House, the face of American power, looks very different from previous First Families.

Many have commented on the historic nature of President Barack Obama's inauguration as the first African American commander-in-chief. Yet the real historic nature of his presidency was on the platform surrounding him. The faces surrounding Barack Obama of his family and friends was a TRULY mixed picture -- of races, of ethnicities, of religions and regions.

Today, The New York Times has an article called "In First Family, A Nation's Many Faces" in which they detail the many cultural crossings within Obama's extended family. They also provide a very handy map listing the many connections that the Obamas have to various nations around the globe through their diverse kinship networks (see below):

And the Times also provided a photo from Maya Soetoro-Ng's wedding in 2003, which includes the Obamas and their daughters, Obama's sister Maya, Konrad Ng with his brother Perry, and his parents Joan and Howard, and seated is Madelyne Dunham, Obama's grandmother:

[By the way, let me once again register my annoyance that every media outlet I've encountered refers to Maya as Barack Obama's half-sister. SHE'S HIS SISTER DAMN IT. Are we only counting the "biological" half that connects them through their deceased white American mother? Ugh. It just makes me so ANNOYED because I'm sure that they do not feel as if they are "half" siblings--and I'm sure for countless families around the globe, we do not count our kinship with our family purely through genetic quantum.]

It's really exciting to imagine who is going to be coming into the White House--whether as guests or as political figures or as friends and family of the First Family. I suppose one can even say that the choices Michelle Obama made in terms of the two designers of her day and evening wear signal a nod to the racial diversity of the nation, since Isabel Toledo (designed the lemon-grass coat and dress she wore during the day) and Jason Wu (designed the ivory ballgown) are both immigrants and people of color.

At any rate, it's the dawning of a new day in the face of American politics. And what a happy day it is for those of us who truly believe and desire a mixed-race America.

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