Eugene Cho

a black president playing with his asian-american niece. huh?

Why can’t I stop looking at this photo?

Per the note on the Official White House Photostream, President Barack Obama plays with his Chinese-American niece Savita Ng [child of Conrad & Maya Ng] during the family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Aug. 25 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I am so mesmerized by this photo.

A bi-racial Black President playing with his Chinese niece…  Wow.

The world is changing. America is changing. Are you changing?

What comes to your mind when you see this photo? Please don’t say, “Oooh, look at that Socialist baby…”

obama_sevita

[h/t  i.y. & white house photostream]

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39 Responses

  1. phyllisophy says:

    what comes to mind: how cool is it that your uncle is the president of the usa?

  2. gar says:

    One step closer to an Asian American in the White House? Hope so.

    But I definitely love the fact that our biracial president has a person of Chinese descent in the (extended) first family…😉

  3. saras says:

    that baby is loving life!:)

  4. Marlow says:

    This is a good thing for the world!

  5. Linda Gilmore says:

    A couple of thoughts:
    This is the future — this is what America will look like more and more in the next few years (and I’m fine with that).
    What an adorable child.

    And one more thing — I would be remiss as a K-Stater if I failed to mention that Pete Souza, the White House photographer, is a K-State grad.

  6. your friend says:

    I often do not see that people look Chinese or black at first sight. I first see smiles, laughter, movement in a photo.

    Maybe the reason is because I have been surrounded by people of another ethnicity for 25 years by now and I feel I at home, I know I belong. I have long forgotten that they look different from my typical caucasian looks.

  7. Bill Kinnon says:

    How cool is that! A beautiful image.

  8. Kim says:

    I first see: pure glee and gentle care

  9. Corrine says:

    how cool is it that your uncle is the president of the USA? – I 100% agree with that comment.

    Mostly, I just see it as beautiful photo. Two very happy people enjoying life. And, the baby is adorable, of course.

    I wish that this photo could just be appreciated as a great shot by a good photographer and a heartwarming subject matter. What I mean is, I wish multiculturalism wasn’t such a shock. Why should it be such a big deal that there is a biracial President (a fact many people actually ignore, his poor mom-doesn’t she count). Why is so profound that he is playing with an Asian-American baby?

    Why does “race” matter so much? Maybe if we just appreciate the photo for the smile that it brings, then race *won’t* be such a big deal.

    Corrine

    ps. Yes, I am “white” but my background is Native Canadian, Irish, German-Jew, Turkish-Hungarian and Roma. I have an olive complex and tan VERY dark and looked very Middle Eastern as a child. I was followed home in grade school and called racist names, so I do understand the problems of racism.

  10. My first reaction is that God is so amazing we often fail to realize Him in the small stuff. Though we are as diverse as any of Gods’ Creation we are basically the same; that’s why we reproduce after our kind…people. I Love you Jesus

  11. Kacie says:

    Yeah, that is just crazy. It’s surreal for me, but I love it, because although I’m from a Midwestern white family I grew up overseas and my friends are from everywhere, so the Obama family mirrors my life somewhat and I LOVE IT.

  12. Joe says:

    My first thought when I saw the photo yesterday was:

    I wonder if Eugene is going to blog on this photo?

  13. Mike Clawson says:

    My thought was that she doesn’t care at all that her uncle is the President. All she knows is that it’s a lot of fun when he lifts her into the air.:)

  14. Steve K. says:

    first thoughts/reactions …

    this is beautiful

    this is the future of the United States

    this makes me feel joyful and hopeful

  15. Adriana Nguyen says:

    Now this is something I can relate to.

  16. ryan says:

    my first thought is, I love that she has no real idea who he is (how famous, powerful, etc.) but just loves this interaction with this man who cares about her.

  17. justin says:

    i think: “that baby looks alot like katherine heigl’s newly adopted korean baby”

  18. david says:

    @corrine: i hate to play the “race police,” but the reason race does matter so much is because of the fact that we live in a highly racialized society, no matter how “colorblind” the intentions of nice people may be. the reason that race is significant for this particular photo is that it speaks to me as a person of color in ways that are tacit and intangible, reminding me of how amazing it is that these simple photos would have been inconceivable just a generation before.

    so is it in part a beautiful image of two people, regardless of race? yes. but is it also much more than that because of our nation’s unique racial and political history? of course. lastly, i’m sure you’re a nice, intelligent, thoughtful person, but i would just personally recommend against saying that you “understand the problems of racism” because of some childhood difficulties. certainly those experiences can provide a window into the realities of discrimination, but they hardly help us to grasp the complex and pervasive nature of a racialized society.

  19. steven says:

    @david,

    Why is it that you are allowed to have insight into racial issues, but Corrine isn’t?

    Is hers no less a valid or insightful position because she is of a different race than yours?

    Your position is valid, but so is hers. Neither position should be invalidated because of the race of the position holder…

    …don’t you think?

  20. julie says:

    I think the photo is gorgeous.

    Unfortunately its rare to see one of its type, except in carefully crafted “multicultural” advertisements.

    I’m married inter-ethnically (I try not too say “race” because race is pseudo scientific). There’s not too many cards, photos, knickknacks that represent us. (In such a materialistic culture that’s quite a shock:)

  21. Barb says:

    a foretaste of the Kingdom of God

  22. elderj says:

    I don’t think of much when I see it. Nice photo is all. I mean… I don’t see anything particularly profound in it.

    The world is changing. America is changing. I don’t know about that; it all depends on how you measure it.

  23. david says:

    @steven: i didn’t mean to imply that corrine isn’t “allowed to have insight into racial issues”; of course she is more than entitled to her perspective (and invited to share it, as she has). nor was i trying to “invalidate” anyone’s “position.” what i was getting at is simply this: it’s one thing for me to say that i have experienced discrimination as a person of color (or as a white person, or what have you); it’s another thing entirely to assert that “i understand racism” when we need to be particularly careful of making claims on what we do or do not understand in consideration of the complex, systemic societal inequities wrought by a culture steeped in racialization. i think (just my assumption here) that corrine actually meant the former; it was merely my suggestion that she avoid wording it that way in case of implying the latter. this is probably not a great example, but no matter how much i’ve studied slavery (from a historical, sociological, psychological perspective, etc), i would hesitate to say that i “understand” it to those who are much more intimately connected to its ugly legacy.

  24. a reluctant blogger says:

    Awesome P.R.

    I’m not saying it’s contrived.

    I’m saying it has a purpose.

  25. Leah says:

    My first thought is that it’s really cool to see the president in such a normal, everyday human moment. I think we sometimes forget that political leaders are people like us!

  26. […] American figure representing a multi-racial family!  Does my heart some good   Thanks to Eugene Cho for his post point me to it! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Deadly recession cure […]

  27. […] As a fall treat, here’s a picture from the White House photostream of Barack playing with his Asian-American niece, Savita: Eugene Cho blogs about it. […]

  28. Janice says:

    What comes to your mind when you see this photo? Please don’t say, “Oooh, look at that Socialist baby…”

    I had to really laugh out loud! That was the first thing on my mind haha!

    Okay, I give the president the benefit of a doubt.. I like this pic. Awesome. No it’s not about an Asian American being one step closer to the White house..
    Pictures speaks a thousand word. This picture shows no barriers. No matter race, jobs, single or married, homeless, rich.. we all can still love each other regardless.

    Community! ( Can you tell I’ve been watching your sermons online LOL):)

  29. Mary says:

    I feel fondness for a beautiful multiethnic family, as something I can relate to. And I echo Barb’s encouraging sentiment: a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

  30. Marciah says:

    I’m thinkin’ I gotta get me an Asian-American neice. So cute!

  31. Trevor says:

    Beautiful photo, but are we reading too much into the meaning with the whole “America is changing” thing?

    The thing that most strikes me about the picture is not the racial aspect, but the fact that we get to see the president’s humanity and joy in the simple act of playing with a child. That’s not a side of the leader of the free world that we get to see very often. When we see him on TV, he’s usually in a suit, standing at a podium, speaking about policy issues that sometimes seem esoteric. This brings him down to our level. In this photo, it’s Uncle Barack, not President Obama.

  32. Rachel says:

    Unfortunately, I think racism is still rampant. The photo captures an ideal that is still ours to strive–racial harmony, understanding and acceptance.

    We’ve come a long way, but still a long way to go.

  33. Christina says:

    The first thing I think is “progress.” :)

  34. Nancy says:

    This is a beautiful picture. The baby is adorable and she is so innocent and loves her uncle playing with her. Of course, she doesn’t realize that her uncle is the President of the USA which is equally cool! He could be the garbage man and she still would be happy with him tossing her in the air. Babies are so cool that way. There’s no judgment – good or bad!

  35. Ditto to what most people have already said in their comments.

    Let me play my “race card” here, if you will.
    Savita is an Indian name (too). Does anyone know the origin or this child’s name?

  36. […] As a fall treat, here’s a picture from the White House photostream of Barack playing with his Asian-American niece, Savita: Eugene Cho blogs about it. […]

  37. Kendrick osorio says:

    I love this photo and our President !

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She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

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Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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