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Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama- "Before and After": Guest Speaker Professor Lewin

Obama- "Before and After"

Guest Speaker: Professor Lewin

March 9, 2010

Recently Solutions Across Borders invited Professor Lewin from the Black and Hispanic Studies Dept. at Baruch College to lead a discussion on Obama before and after his election into presidency. In 1.5 hours we were able answer a lot of each others questions and touch upon different issues of identity, race and religion which are all issues that are important to the average educated American.

Professor Lewin, started off the discussion with an interesting question that was raised by the media many times, and other times surpressed or toned down by the American Black community. The question was, is Barack Obama white or black? Many of the students who attended the event answered black, others white and the remaining answered both with a giggle. Depending on whom you ask this question to today, you will receive different answers. I am sure this was the case before Obama actually became President of the United States, but did people actually stop to question or think about which one Obama was more of? The reasoning many of the club members came up with was that, Obama was first and foremost a politician and then black, white or both. Before you stop to label this one individual, it is important to define the standards to how a mixed person is supposed to identify themselves in society.

This one discussion of race and color led to many other interesting debates. It was announced by a club member, that Obama was one of the many “icons” which faced this dilemma. Who is Tiger Woods? Yes, many of you will first recognize him as a recognized golf player and then others may slowly identify him by the scandals he is associated with. But how many of you will identify him as part African, part Native American, part Asian and part Dutch? In fact, the truth is people usually most directly refer to him as just African American, but he refers to himself as a “Cablinasian,” this is an abbreviation he formed from Caucasion, Black, American Indian and Asian.

Getting back on track and talking about Obama, what race does he associate himself with? As if that question is not complicated enough, what religion does he find himself practicing. In actuality, Obama's family's religious background is very distinct, his mother was an agnostic and his father was a non-practicing Muslim. Does this religious background influence the Obama we know as a person today? Our President used his diverse background and name as a way of getting votes notably from minority groups and especially the black community as we know, but does this mean Obama recognized himself just as an African American? Does he disregard his Caucasian blood? These are all questions which remain unanswered and are becoming more important today, as we are getting a chance to know our President even more closely than we did before his election into office. There were many other issues that were covered in the short time the club had in discussing this widespread topic, but the issue of culture, religion and race seemed to serve as the cherry on top.

-Suveen Sahni

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