Wednesday, June 16, 2010

President's half sister speaks on her mixed-race blessing -

Maya Soetoro-Ng
    • A 9-year-old Barack Obama, right, with stepfather Lolo Soetoro, mother Ann Dunham and baby half-sister Maya Soetoro, who said her brother was always comfortable with who he was.
    • Growing up in Indonesia, Maya Soetoro-Ng often felt too American. Although she adored her native land's traditional gamelan music and shadow puppets, spiced cuisine and Hindu epics, her manner was too loud, too irreverent — hallmarks, she said, of being raised by a strong American mother.
    • "Wherever I was, I felt somewhat inadequate in terms of the purest expression of culture," said Soetoro-Ng, a Hawaii-based writer, educator and half sister of President Obama. "I wished I completely belonged somewhere."

      Her older brother Barack never seemed to struggle with his cultural or racial identity in the same way she did, Soetoro-Ng said. Son of the same white mother but a Kenyan father, Obama identifies as African American — choosing to check that box exclusively and not also the one for white on his 2010 U.S. Census form.

    • Nationwide, 7.3 million Americans identified as mixed race in 2000, the first year the U.S. Census allowed people to check two or more racial categories. The number is expected to rise in the 2010 census.

      But Fulbeck told the 200 audience members that race is more of a cultural construct than a biological one because all people are descended from a common ancestor in Africa.

      Soetoro-Ng and her husband, Konrad Ng, have two daughters of Malay, Indonesian, Scottish, Irish, Hakka and Cantonese descent. Already, 6-year-old Suhaila has begun to claim multiple identities, both ethnic and religious — embracing both Christ and Buddha with no compulsion to choose, Soetoro-Ng said.

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