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Reshuffling the race cards

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Obama himself said as much when he gave his historic speech on race back in March, acknowledging the racial divisions that still exist in the west while also suggesting that it’s time for people to move on.

In fact, while some cynical people may want to promote Obama as a candidate who bridges the race divide, I’d rather see his nomination as the exact moment that race no longer mattered in America. That’s because for Obama, race really stopped mattering 47 years ago when his parents — a black man and a white woman — decided that it didn’t matter to them. I think that’s a far better message than the triumph of a black candidate over a white candidate in a divided country.

Why do we even feel the need to lump people into one category or another? And I’m blaming the media here, because we’re the worst offenders when it comes to oversimplifying the truth.

When Tiger Woods became the first black golfer to win the Masters in 1997, most sports reporters overlooked the fact that he is also half Filipino, and that it was a victory for the Filipino community as well.

When Halle Berry became the first woman of African-American descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, many reporters missed the fact that she’s half white, the product of supreme tolerance rather than racial division.

Mariah Carey is of mixed Irish, Venezuelan and black descent, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to label her as one race or another through her whole career. Beyonce Knowles is the product of two mixed race parents, but still got in trouble playing “white” in Dreamgirls.

Historically, people of mixed race have almost had it worse than people of one race, because there are bigots on both sides that believe races shouldn’t mix. Just look at how the Métis were treated in Canada, for example, or mixed race citizens in South Africa during the days of apartheid.

At this point in history, mixed race people shouldn’t be forced to pick sides or accept partial labels for their protection, or to make things easier on reporters.

No doubt as a white male, I’m missing something here — I’ve never really been a member of a minority, although given the shifting demographics in Canada that’s something that will likely change in my lifetime.

On one hand it does seem kind of petty to deny the black community a chance to celebrate an important psychological victory because Obama is half white. On the other hand it goes against Barack’s own goal of making race irrelevant to label him as a black candidate. Especially at a time when biracial relationships are more common and more widely accepted than ever.