by Foon Rhee
deputy national political editor
November 10, 2008
Of the two awkward attempts at humor during President-elect Barack Obama's first press conference, his reference to not talking to dead presidents is the one that has received most of the attention.
"I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances," Obama said Friday. Within hours, he had called the former first lady to apologize for what his spokeswoman called a "careless and off-handed remark."
But over the weekend, parts of the blogosphere also commented on the other joke, which he made in regard to choosing a puppy for his daughters.
"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic," he said. "On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."
During the campaign, Obama celebrated his biracial heritage as the son of a white mother from Kansas and an African father from Kenya -- and many biracial Americans celebrated with him.
But now on some message boards and blogs, some are saying they were offended by his self-deprecating description of himself as a "mutt."
One of the most thought-out is from a woman who runs a blog for Korean-American mothers. "I've heard mixed-race people use that term to describe themselves before, usually in the same ha-ha way Obama did. I've also heard it thrown around as an insult, a pejorative, a slur. I've felt the slap of that word across my face and it is not a word I can 'reclaim,' she wrote.
"My fear, however, is that Obama, as the first mixed-race president, will shape the way most Americans view people of mixed race for at least a generation. And will Obama calling himself a 'mutt' -- with humor, as if the word is nothing, nothing at all -- make it socially acceptable for people to start calling me a mutt? My kids?