Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Perfectly Undefineable Identity of Barack Obama

So close. My heart races at the thought of voting today. As there are two democratic candidates with strong momentum, it makes it all the more exciting for me to participate on a side.

I choose Obama. Without delving into platforms, I largely base my support upon his character and his identity--or the identity I perceive him to have, I should say.

As to which candidate connects to me the most, I gotta go for the least defined. Hillary Clinton is a white woman. Her being white is not necessarily what distances me from her as I am a woman of color. It is more that her identity is not complexified enough, multiple enough. My own identity as a woman is of color is not solely that: I have a mixture of identities in which I am a Latina but not indigenous; I am the daughter of immigrants, but a U.S. citizen. It goes on.

Personally, Hillary's white-woman identity is is outweighed by Barack Obama's mixed identity and complexified status as a person of color.

As a fan of Gloria Anzaldua, I embrace the multiplicity of Obama's character. He has experienced the United States from inside and from outside its nation-state. He is the son of a mixed couple--a white mother and a Kenyan father--yet raised with an Indonesian stepfather. He cannot be boxed into a racial category--his ancestry apparently does not trace into United States slavery, yet he is referred to as a black man and United States citizen.

I recognize that one's experiences and physical characteristics should not solely merit judgment--Hillary can't control that she's a white woman just as Barack cannot control his mixed identity.

But what I truly appreciate in Barack Obama is that he applies his mixed characteristics towards his consciousness. His conscious experience consists of plurality--he does not have the luxury of boxing himself into categories: he is not just a man, nor is he just a black man. Because he cannot singularize his identity, I feel that he has the strongest sense of identity of all.

Barack Obama's identity is extracted from people. From family, to friends, to anyone that he comes into some form of contact with. His identity is not grounded onto something, but rather assembled by a mixture of interactions.

To run as a white woman for president, Hillary is not at a disadvantage. However, to run as a white woman who has cemented herself in that identity, Hillary is distanced from the various aspects of her platform. She might defend important issues concerning people of color, for example, but always as a white woman.

Barack cannot select an identity, he cannot fit himself into a conceptual structure. The issues he faces continue to provide him insight into his identity, whereas the issues Hillary faces are channeled into her accumulated sense of "professional experience."

What this means for me is that Barack is a leader who continues to learn--from the very core of his being--from those he encounters and from those experiences he lives on a day to day basis. I strongly believe that he connects to a wide range of people--he will not know everyone's experiences, but he recognizes that the United States is a complex structure of infinite lived experiences.

To avoid definition is to reject confinement. Barack Obama, through his strong sense of identity as a member of the people of this country but not as a specific type of people, recognizes the core multiplicity of our physical and conceptual nation-state.

I passionately support Barack Obama. For his platform, sure, but so much for his rhetorical meaning to our nation.


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