Barak Obama has been asked the other version of the question far too many times. To understand why racial differentiation in social research might get difficult as years go by, read the following anecdote by Robert Putnam that he mentions in his latest study, E Pluribus Unum Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century (2007):
Several of my grandchildren were raised in Costa Rica, the children of an American mother (my daughter) and a Costa Rican father. A few years ago they moved to Pittsburgh and at the end of the first week of school, my granddaughter Miriam came home and asked my daughter: ‘People keep calling me “Hispanic.” What do they mean? I tell them “No, I’m Costa Rican.”’ My daughter, a social historian by profession, but also a mom, knew she had to answer the question seriously, and she replied: ‘“Hispanic” is how North Americans refer to people whose parents came from Latin America.’ ‘Oh,’ asked Miriam, ‘is Daddy Hispanic?’ ‘Yes,’ replied my daughter. After a pause, Miriam asked: ‘Are you Hispanic?’ and my daughter replied ‘No.’ After a much longer pause came Miriam’s inevitable question: ‘Am I Hispanic?’ ‘That’s a difficult question, isn’t it?’ replied my daughter.