Mittwoch, 7. November 2012

Diversity and the US Presidential Election—Questioning President Obama’s Identity

On 6 of November 2012, American voters elected President Obama into office, for a second term, reaffirming their historic choice in 2008. Mr. Obama’s path to the Oval office was an extra difficult one, full of questions and challenges about his identity.

In early 2011, the unofficial beginning of 2012 US Presidential Campaign, Donald Trump who had indicated his interest in running for President of the USA on a Republican ticket, accused President Obama not meeting the natural born American requirement of the US Constitution (Article 2, Section 1) to qualify as a US presidential candidate. President Obama responded by posting his birth certificate ( in the internet as unfortunately, Mr. Trump was not the only one who questioned the President’s natural born citizenship.
The doubt about President Obama’s citizenship, even couple of years after in office, was not the first instance of his identity being questioned.  

There are continuous debates about his “color” and his religion as well.  In 2010, according to a survey conducted by Fox News, one of every five Americans thought that President Obama is a Muslim, in spite of the fact that Mr. Obama repeatedly confirms that he is of Christian faith ( After nearly four years in office, having repeated over and over that he is a Christian, many people still don’t believe that Mr. Obama is a Christian. (
The discussion is interestingly not only indirectly about whether someone of the Muslim faith is suitable to run for office in the United States, supposedly the country of religious tolerance, but also, about refusing to accept a man’s word for his religious identity; meaning, the public is defining a man as she sees fit and is ascribing him an arbitrary “undesirable” religion. Neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Romney’s religious identities were ever questioned. Although, there have been discussions about whether Mr. Romney’s Mormon religion was a “suitable” one for a President, no one ever questioned that Mr. Romney was a Mormon.
Last but not least, there are continuing debates over whether Mr. Obama was/is going to be a “black President” or the President Of The People. There are/were not many public debates about whether his running mates Senator McCain (in 2008), Mr. Romney (in 2012) or all the other “white men” in the past who ran the country were going to be a “white President” or the President of the People.
Even more ironic than the continuing public attack on President Obama’s identity is that, on the one hand, Mr. Obama seems to be “too black” to run the country but at the same time, the US public also wonders if President Obama is “black enough” (,8599,1584736,00.html).

Stanley Crouch wrote in New York Daily News that “Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.” (

The actor Morgan Freeman recently said that President Obama was not the first black president of the USA (  
It may be correct that Mr. Obama does not share a heritage with the African American community in the USA. However, for some taxi drivers or HR managers in Kansas City, he is a “black man.”
Among other, the debates underline that President Obama has many traits that are still considered questionable in the USA. His “foreign” name, his “dark skin”— traits that limit access to opportunities, that are a sources of everyday discrimination and injustice.
President Obama’s biggest accomplishment shall always be that he overcame the odds against him—his name, his “color,” his age, his perceived religion—and became the President of the USA. One will never be able to exactly measure his positive impact as a role model on African Americans and other minorities, but one should remember that he has changed the course of history. As—at least in regard to his presidency—he did overcome racism and other bigotry, along with him, so did the country.  
Because of President Obama, at least one 8-year-old boy has found his role model in the Oval Office. He can identify himself with this man: (at the time when the picture was taken, the child was 5-years old). Maybe he too, will be President some day?


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