Our President Finds His Apostrophe

 

Even before the “Birther” movement, Americans were familiar with President Obama’s Kenyan roots.  It says a lot about how far we’ve come in this country that we elected a man whose middle name is Hussein and who is, by purest definition, African-American.  What a lot of us aren’t aware of, however, is that the President’s great-great-great grandfather hailed from Moneygall, Ireland.  This fact was duly noted when President Obama visited the Emerald Isle last month.

The President, by some accounts, “shook every hand in Moneygall,” and his hoisting of a pint of Guinness at the local pub made headlines across the globe.  Fintan O’Toole wrote in The Irish Times:

There are lots of people who look a bit like Barack Obama but are as much Irish-American as the obvious Micks.  …’Irish’ is not a racial category.

O’Toole reminds me that we have much more in common than is immediately obvious.  Who would look at President Obama and think “Irish?”  Yet there he was, in a pub with his mates, connecting to long, lost roots that never disappear.  It reminds me that there is a branch of the Berlack family that traces its roots directly to Prussia and Jewish culture, without the stops in Puerto Rico and Native American culture wherein my immediate roots run.  Yet, we’re all Berlacks.  Connected.  Rooted.

In New York, during the Puerto Rican Day parade, the saying always goes: “Today, we are ALL Puerto Rican.”  In a real sense, in a rooted sense, President Obama reclaimed the O’Bama in him.  May we all do the same….

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5 Responses to "Our President Finds His Apostrophe"

  • Stephanie says:

    “by purest definition, African-American.” I have such a HUGE issue with this term. I don’t understand it and I pray you can enlighten me (again). I don’t agree with tagging anyone “X” American – if you were born in this country you are an American, plain and simple. You may have a heritage that relates to another country but you are American – not Mexican-American, African-American, Irish-American (you get my point). Yes I’m white, yes I have a lineage that mixes multiple cultures (including African) but I was born in this amazing country and I’m proud to say, I’m American. Labelling and separating ourselves (how I view these terms) are so detrimental to our goals within our country to be united. Can you be proud of your heritage – ABSOLUTELY!! We are a melting pot – be proud! What is the point though of indicating your heritage when you describe yourself (whether on an application or other) if you are an American? I’m sounding off Steve!!!! (But I ain’t yellin….ya get me?) LOL

  • Eugena Holman says:

    STEPHANIE MAKES SUCH A VALID POINT. We are all American, however, I appreciate the fact that we will never forget that this country is supposed to be the melting pot for all cultures by labeling our roots. Take notice that when you go to the UK there is great diversity there too but you never hear anyone call themselves African-British or Indian-British they are just BRITISH.. as with any other country on this planet. I look at it as a reminder that this is the place where EVERYONE can live. Although it didn’t begin that way for most of our cultures, we are working toward that truth… especially with the election of the FIRST African-Irish-American President and who would be surprised if he isn’t a bit British also being that he shares an ancestor with Brad Pitt ( I forgot where I read that tidbit).

    My maiden name is BOST which is Scottish/German/French/English so I guess I could look into just how many cultures I come from in addition to being African American. But in my head looking at my father I would swear we were Puerto Rican but he says we are Cherokee and I just don’t believe him. I say all of this to make the point that it doesn’t really matter to me what my culture is I am going to eat different foods and switch my heritage to suit my needs, because at the end of the day I just want to be Irish on Saint Patty’s day… Caribbean on Labor Day … Puerto Rican on Puerto Rican day.. Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.. and GERMAN BECAUSE HITLER WOULD ROLL OVER IN HIS GRAVE… LOL

  • I also have long had a bit of a problem with the term African American. It is not that I have any problem acknowledging my African heritage, but I’ve always thought the term to be overly broad and generalistic You will never hear a white person refer to their ethnicity as European-American. You may indeed hear Irish, Italian, German, or what have you, but you won’t see the lumping of an entire continent of diverse and varied peoples into one group.

    The Nigerian living in America, besides the obvious surface commonality of skin color, has very little in common with the brother from Botswana living here, also an African. From Algeria in North Africa, to Zimbabwe in the south, the African continent embodies a broad array of peoples and cultures, they are not even all black. So for the term African American to now be interchangeable with black , and to have it be exclusively black, I feel is to deliberately delve into an arena of self selected ignorance.

    South African born actress, Charlize Theron, who is white, caused quite a stir some time ago when she said she considers herself African American. Before you scoff at the notion, just think about it for a moment. She was born in Africa, and now by choice she’s an American.

    The term leaves itself open to many, many problems. I can go on and on on this topic, but this is supposed to be a comment, not a dissertation so I’ll finish here.

    In closing, I direct you to my last name; MacArthur, one of the most recognized clans of the Scottish highlands, ironically, with roots in Ireland as well. This black man with a full blooded Chinese great, great grandmother is well aware that most of us, if we look closely, are the results of an extremely complex, and intricately woven diverse tapestry of cultures and ethnicities.

  • steveberlack says:

    I completely agree with each of your points about calling ourselves simply “Americans.” Once we all actually TREAT each other as Americans, maybe we can get there….

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