The Color of Change

Obama's victory is a new opportunity to explore outdated color lines.

ByABC News
November 13, 2008, 5:57 PM

Nov. 14, 2008— -- In the days leading up to the election, Tracy Rector, 37, wore a button emblazoned with the message "I'm Indian and I vote."

That simple statement belies a complex heritage that spans no fewer than four continents. But for the sake of convenience, the Seattle mother of two was willing to let brevity trump accuracy.

Her 13-year-old son, however, wasn't.

"Where do I get a button that says, 'I'm Cuban, French, Sicilian, Native American, African-American, Irish, Mexican, Hungarian and Scottish ... and I vote?'" Rector's son Chai asked her.

As Barack Obama's profile soared, she said, so too did her sons' eagerness to embrace and identify with every piece of the racial whole they inherited from both of their parents.

"[Chai] feels as if his peers treat him differently because the most powerful person in the world is a person of color," Rector told

But Obama's victory isn't significant only because it provides a new generation of mixed race Americans with a powerful role model and a relatable story of growing up with multiple loyalties.

His example, as a man with both black and white parents, gives a country, too comfortable with a rigid approach to race, a new opportunity to examine the outdated color lines and social pressures that define, in many ways, all of its people.

"I think it's time for the conversation to open in this country," Rector said. "Things aren't just black and white; there's gray in that middle ground and it's very fruitful. For us to have a president who is biracial and multicultural, it's going to bring to light for many people a deeper understanding of race."