Sunday, January 27, 2008

Meet Maya Soetoro-Ng (aka: Obama's Sister)

In light of last night's Democratic primary victory in South Carolina by Senator Barack Obama, I thought I'd post a link to a New York Times interview with Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng (click here).

Things are really heating up for both parties as they approach Super Tuesday. Honestly, I can't remember things being so tight or so exciting going into any national election. I hope things don't also get too ugly.

I also think it's interesting that Barack Obama, while self-identifying as a black man, is also self-revealing about his mixed-race/transnational/transracial background. And it makes me wonder...because the truth is, most people are "mixed"--if you don't just buy into the purity of the American racial pentagram (white-black-Asian-Latino-Native American) and if you especially realize that most white and black Americans who are 4th and 5th generation and above have some inter-mixture in their families, then really, there are probably all sorts of tangled family lines in Clinton, Edwards, McCain, Romney and Huckabee's family trees (should I also mention Rudy, although does anyone think he's really in it anymore?).

Wouldn't it be great if, as a way to get beyond the ugliness of the "racialized/racist" atmosphere of these primaries we could get all candidates in both parties to talk frankly and candidly about the mixed race nature of their own family trees....Who wouldn't love to hear those tales told...but yes, that'd happen as quickly as our sitting administration admitting that "Woops" we made a mistake--never should have sorry...we messed up. Our bad.

[June 24, 2008--Addition: For those of you wanting more information on Maya Soetoro-Ng, you can see this post from March 15, 2008, which includes a video that Soetoro-Ng made for her brother's campaign and a New York Times article about their mother Stanly-Ann Dunham]


Lesboprof said...


I am so glad you provided the link to the NYTimes interview with Maya Soetoro-Ng. She seems very thoughtful about racial and religious issues, and about the challenges of being culturally diverse in a world that does not recognize or validate those identities. In truth, she sounds like Barack in his first book, yet with more insight and understanding, perhaps brought by age.

I try to give family members room to be whoever they are--they are not the candidate, after all--but I always find it helpful to learn about family members and see what they can tell me about the values of the family.

I only wish the interview was longer.

Jennifer said...

I agree with you Lesboprof--I found her to be thoughtful and to have an interesting and insightful perspective into race and politics and her own family life.

It's interesting because in Asian American activist circles and blogs, there has been a bit of a debate about whether to support Obama--whether he is sufficiently in tune with the Asian American community. Some groups have been quite piqued by his camp for various reasons (in one instance in particular, it seemed pretty petty). Some CA APA political groups are questioning his ability to put key APA politicians into positions of power once he is in office.

And that makes me sad, because while, of course, I'd like to see more political representation of Asian Americans in US politics, I don't think that this should be the only criteria of who to vote for--in other words, if Romney promised to fill his cabinet with APA people, I don't think that means every APA person should vote for Romney--this is not the only issue that is important when choosing a president.

So I also wanted to put this link to show that while I have no idea how Obama feels about specific Asian American issues or whether he will or won't populate his administration with APA apointees, there are people very close to him, like his sister, who have an understanding of what it means to be Asian American.