Poster Child for an Entire Race

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog posts on President-Elect Obama got me thinking about the expectations made of a poster child for an ethnicity or race.

American Heritage defines a “poster child” as “A person who is a prominent example or type of something” which can just as easily be applied to the evils of a certain set as the good but right now I’m more concerned with the expectations made of a supposed “poster child.” And maybe that’s the wrong term for what I’m trying to de-tangle from my brain but for now it’ll suffice.

Anyways, it struck me how I hadn’t really realized before this that some people might be looking to Barack Obama to represent the entire African-American community, putting him on trial as the first African-American president. And how much I hate it when I think of the responsibility inherent in representing Korean-Americans.

Not that I’m foolish enough to think for a second that I actually am a visible or prominent representative of the KA community but in certain ways I do represent. As a member of a minority in America, I understand that some people who have little or no experience with my particular ethnic group categorize and view it through the lens of learning, otherwise known as “oh, so that’s what Koreans are like” or “huh, that must be an Asian thing.”

And then, if you do something crazy or heart wrenchingly horrible like shoot up your university, you immediately create the intuitive bridge between your representative group or subset and idiocy/violence/hatred/ignorance, for other people.

It’s just that, when Obama stumbles or makes a mistake or doesn’t live up to the idealistic standards of the people, some of them are going to cry “Black” in the worst way possible. Which galls me to no end, but Obama seems like a more intelligent and mature person than I by whole boatloads so perhaps it doesn’t gall him, this sad way humanity works.