My President was a Third Culture Kid

My President was a Third Culture Kid

Although he may not have meant it, Ta-Nehesi Coates’ article on President Obama in The Atlantic pretty much names him a Third Culture Kid (TCK) without explicitly saying so. According to Wikipedia, TCK’s are “children raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the culture of the country given on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years. They are exposed to a greater variety of cultural influences.”

Third Culture Kids often learn to live in two spaces without fully occupying one or the other.  Without being capable of occupying one or the other. President Obama was raised a black man by a white woman and white grandparents. But his racial characteristics are not simply what has helped him appeal to white and blacks (and other minorities). From Coates’ article:

To simply point to Obama’s white mother, or to his African father, or even to his rearing in Hawaii, is to miss the point. For most African Americans, white people exist either as a direct or an indirect force for bad in their lives. Biraciality is no shield against this; often it just intensifies the problem. What proved key for Barack Obama was not that he was born to a black man and a white woman, but that his white family approved of the union, and approved of the child who came from it.

Click here to read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time.

Being a Third Culture Kid is perhaps analogous to being bi-racial in some aspects. There is a marked cultural difference between being Black in America and being of European/Caucasian ancestry. And so President Obama has learned to how to code-switch between worlds. He was taught to see the positivity of his white side by grandparents who embraced him wholeheartedly.

Obama’s early positive interactions with his white family members gave him a fundamentally different outlook toward the wider world than most blacks of the 1960s had. Obama told me he rarely had “the working assumption of discrimination, the working assumption that white people would not treat me right or give me an opportunity or judge me [other than] on the basis of merit.” He continued, “The kind of working assumption” that white people would discriminate against him or treat him poorly “is less embedded in my psyche than it is, say, with Michelle.”

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I Bought (Another) House – Wait, Why?

I Bought (Another) House – Wait, Why?

… or Shut-up State Farm, Your “Nevers” Commercial is Wrong!

A few years ago, I moved out of my house in the ‘burbs into an old apartment in the ceetee. No longer did I have to brave a 45-60 minute commute to dahntahn or have excuses for not going out after getting home in the evening. I once took a bus home at 2:00 AM after a party. It was a new lease on life and I swore I would never buy again. I was free and unmoored; the world was my oyster!

Today, I closed on a new purchase in the Mt Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Wait, what? … I got bored. And at least it’s not in the suburbs, right? Right.

No matter the allure of the jet-setting modern life, as breathlessly hyped by the media, I don’t think humans will ever stop searching for community in some fashion. It’s why we get to know the local bartender or recognize the same food delivery persons. Why we make friends with neighbors we wouldn’t have otherwise befriended. Why we stop to pet the same dog almost every morning. Why we yearn for old friends to move back to the old homestead.

Why we buy a house in our hometown even while wondering how nice it would be to live in Dubai.
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Yellow Indians, White Asians, Black Europeans

Yellow Indians, White Asians, Black Europeans

… And Green Clovers?

It’s easy and sometimes even required in politics to categorize peoples into very simplistic groups. Otherwise it would be difficult to sufficiently demonize whole swaths of the population.

Given its rather binary racialized history, the USA is a nation that is used to clumping minorities by general skin color, rather than ethnicity. Black = black. Yellow or similar epicanthic fold = Asian. Brown = Latino. Brown w/beard = Muslim = Middle Eastern. Red = dead.

There was a time that differences among white people, ie their European ancestry, made a real difference in the body politic of the USA. Italians or southern Europeans stood in contrast to English or eastern European immigrants. Those days have largely passed; mostly culinary differences remain, along with other exaggerated and benign differences (ex. Italians talk with their hands).

Pockets of this-or-that non-white or black ethnicity didn’t move the needle until they started growing in population in the 20th century. But such is the way our country was set, that this increasing diversity has proved to be difficult to categorize and understand by the elite classes.

In the early 20th century, American newspapers were all atwitter over the Dusky Peril:

The negative characterization of ethnic communities that was rampant at the turn to the twentieth century — Sikh immigrants were accused of stealing jobs and even for the emerging use of marijuana in the west during that period — can’t be ignored in how these communities were mistreated.

Though, ostensibly, there is reason other than racial/ethnic discrimination that can be identified as the motive in both acts of violence, a necessary question is warranted around whether the incidents would have been violent, or would have occurred at all, had the victims not been from ethnic communities, and more, whether this tendency is just a relic of the past.

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Follow the Fold and Stray Some More

Follow the Fold and Stray Some More

In high school, one of the musicals we did was the Guys and Dolls. I recently sat down and watched the 1955 movie version starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. One of the major plot points of Guys and Dolls is the fight against sin, namely gambling and drinking. One of the first songs, Follow the Fold is as follows:

Follow the fold and stray no more
Stray no more, stray no more
Put down the bottle and we’ll say no more
Follow, follow
Before you take another swallow

Follow the fold and stray no more
Stray no more, stray no more
Tear up your poker deck and play no more
Follow, follow, the fold

What a quaint notion. That private citizens would hold forth against such depravity. Even more incredible that the state would actively prosecute those seeking to gamble. Prohibition didn’t work in the United States. Outlawing gambling hasn’t worked either, as we can see by the growing legalization of casinos throughout the country.

Is there a state which, seeking to grasp ever more tax dollars, hasn’t legalized casinos? Read more about Follow the Fold and Stray Some More

Adding Deeper Darkness to a Night Already Devoid of Stars

Adding Deeper Darkness to a Night Already Devoid of Stars

Human beings are violent. As a group. As a species. We are violent. There has never been a period where there is not some type of war being waged on this planet. Some people say that the ‘Muslim world’ needs a reformation, similar to the one experienced by European Christianity. That such reform will bringRead more about Adding Deeper Darkness to a Night Already Devoid of Stars[…]