The Perils of Compartmentalization

The Perils of Compartmentalization

Columbia Daily Spectator
New York, New York
Friday, 2008-09-26

Dennis Yang
Teachers College

When I arrived from California as an incoming graduate student at Teachers College, one of the first things I attempted to find was a large-scale supermarket—a task that proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. Without a car or friends nearby, I ventured on foot to the market nearest to my on-campus dormitory and was pleasantly surprised at my discovery. Though modest in physical infrastructure, this market was just like any other that I had ever visited; every item was organized and stacked according to predetermined labels. The chips were aligned, the vegetables were neatly displayed in an aisle, and the frozen meat section was impeccably synchronized—chicken, pork, beef…

…To my understanding, the cardinal reason why Barack Obama is being branded “black” is simply for no other reason than his skin color—which, by the way, is not by any conventional definitions, black. Obama, like other mixed-race individuals in America, is the victim of a society that prefers to attach labels on and insert into categories those people who unambiguously do not fit into austerely sealed boxes. What this election has shown is that Americans, in general, with exceptions of course, are unable to differentiate a child who is a product of one African American parent and a child who is a product of two African American parents. Debates abound regarding the importance of such clarifications, but to anyone who grows up answering questions, both internally and externally, about which pre-ordained ethnic/racial categories they are forced to identify with, this clarification is of monumental importance. We owe it to the multiracial and multicultural Americans from Sacramento, Calif., to Scranton, Pa., to extend appropriate recognition to their unique experiences in life…

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