Listeners: Race is More Than What You See

Hear feedback from listeners and the blog. This week, a conversation about Sen. Obama's racial identity has people talking. And one listener offers a passionate response to a conversation about how Latinos in the U.S. will vote this November.

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CHERYL CORLEY, host:

It's time for Backtalk where we lift the curtain on conversations happening on the Tell Me More blog and get a chance to hear from you. Douglas Hopper, our web producer, joins me in the studio. Hi Douglas.

DOUGLAS HOPPER: Hey Cheryl. Welcome back to the program.

CORLEY: Well, thank you so much.

HOPPER: Let's talk about a conversation from earlier this week. Michelle talked with a group of people about their biracial identity. The conversation was sparked by the biracial identity of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's likely nominee for president. Throughout his primary campaign, some people questioned the characterization of him as an African-American since his mother was white. One of our guests, Elliott Lewis, wrote about his experience in "Fade: My Journeys in Multi-Racial America." He gave Obama some love for the way he's handled the issue.

Mr. ELLIOTT LEWIS (Author "Fade: My Journeys in Multi-Racial America): He is someone who clearly embraces his multiracial ancestry, while maintaining a black identity. Biracial, to me, is sort of an umbrella term that encompasses both black and white. It's not some third, other category, off on the sideline.

HOPPER: There was lots of listener reaction, like this one from Adria Patell (ph) from Dayton, Ohio who agreed and shared this personal insight.

Ms. ADRIA PATELL (Listener): As a white woman married to an Indian man and about to have a baby, the concepts of multi-cultural identity are on the forefront of my mind. I would like to point that merely looking like a certain race does not get rid of the other parts of who we are. No matter what you look like, one should have the space to be proud of all of those parts.

HOPPER: And Thad Modeo (ph), who has African-American and Mexican parents, said growing up bi-racial has at times been a lonely experience. He said, "I was never really accepted within either group, as I thought I was a round peg being forced into a square hole. Sometimes you feel like you're alone, even your own parents, despite their own experiences with discrimination, do not have the same experiences as you". He went on to say that he stopped trying to explain who he is, but sometimes he has fun calling himself a blaxican.

CORLEY: Well, all right. A blaxican. That's a new one to me. What else are people talking about?

HOPPER: Well, after Obama clenched enough votes for the nomination we also spoke to journalists who write for international publications. Jesus Esquivel of Mexico's Processo Magazine said Latinos weren't likely to vote for Obama.

Mr. JESUS ESQUIVEL (Processo Magazine): They are kind of racist. It's true. I just came back from Miami, and I was talking to Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexicans, and they basically were saying even we don't like the Republican Party, we are going to vote for McCain because we don't want to have an African-American in the White House.

HOPPER: Well, Daniel Garcia was listening and thought what Escoval said was completely out of line.

Mr. DANIEL GARCIA (Listener): Like in any culture, there are some Mexicans that are racist, but that is not the general truth. I am from Mexico, and I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Still, I always knew that I would support Obama if Hillary did not get a nomination. Also, all of my Hispanic friends like Obama. I think it is wrong for your guest to generalize all Mexicans in the U.S., on the air, and say we are all racist just from a few conversations that he had in Florida.

CORLEY: All right, well thanks Daniel for that perspective. We appreciate all of your comments. And thank you Douglas for giving us a peek into the conversation that continues each day after the show. And remember, if you want to get into the mix, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again that's area code 202-842-3522. Or visit us at npr.org/tellmemore and blog it out.

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