The racially motivated "shameful episode" surrounding President Obama's birth certificate is a reminder that Americans have always been suspicious of "the other," writes Timothy Egan at The New York Times. Just a few generations ago, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney would have been vilified for being a Mormon, a religion then labeled as a "devil's cult," and faced a vicious backlash "led by Mormon-haters and the Trumps of his day." These days, though, Romney, "whose ancestry includes six polygamous men with 41 wives," is considered harmless and 'white-bread,' because the country has finally conceded that Mormons are Americans too. Can mixed-race politicians with "exotic backgrounds" like Obama expect a similar outcome in a few years? Here, an excerpt:

The father [Obama] never knew was from a Kenyan goat-herding family, and the stepfather he barely knew was an Indonesian whose main passion was tennis. Obama was raised mostly by white grandparents from Kansas, and a free-spirited mother with a passion for education.

It’s a miracle of sorts... that Obama’s own family with Michelle now seems so grounded — and normal. It’s also startling that Romney... is now considered an icon for traditional family values. Mitt’s great-grandmother, Hannah Hood, wrote how she used to 'walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow' over her husband’s many wives.

The background of both men is telling, in one sense: how success can emerge from the blender of American ethnicity and lifestyle experimentation. But it takes a generation, or more, for many people to get used to the novelty, as the long, despicable sideshow over Obama’s birth certificate demonstrates.

Read the entire article at The New York Times.