ARP Tuesday Links

Get in your box: In The Seattle Times, a bi-racial writer discusses how the 2008 presidential election, featuring a bi-racial candidate, has reawakened her own questions about race and where she fits. (Editor’s note: It annoys me a bit when writers like this one balk at Barack Obama being identified as a black man. It is true that the senator is bi-racial, but I think it is the right of bi- or multi-racial people to decide on the identity that feels comfortable to them. Obama has said he identifies as a black man and that should be okay for all of us, just as it is okay for Tiger Woods to be Cablanasian, Halle Berry to be black, Mariah Carey to be white then bi-racial, Keanu Reeves to be white (I think that is how he identifies.) and the late writer Anatole Broyard to live his life as a white man while his family lived theirs as black.)

In our small Midwestern community, we never really fit in. Other than a spattering of Confederate flags and a few KKK’s scratched in school desks, racism was never really the issue. The daily frustration was ignorance. My siblings and I continually faced the questions.

“Where are you from?”

“Here. Ohio.”

“No, where are you from really?”

My brother, my sister and I would exchange stories about what people thought we were: Hispanic, Jewish, Native American, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern.

The guesses never got it right. It was clear that even though we were half white, and culturally white, to be part white was to be not white at all.

Graduation speeches in English only, please: Most thinking people would find Ellender High School co-valedictorian Cindy Ho’s sentence-long tribute to her Vietnamese-born parents touching. But the American-born student, who shared valedictory honors with her cousin Hue, set off a firestormwhen she included the words “Co len minh khong bang ai, co suon khong ai bang minh” in her speech to fellow graduates of the Houma, La., school.

The 18-year-old graduate told classmates that the line, roughly translated, was a command to always be your own person.

That part of her speech has resulted in unintended consequences that may affect how local public-school graduations ceremonies function in the future.

Some Terrebonne Parish school officials now say all commencement speeches should be spoken in English only, and they want a formal rule that says so.


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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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