Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor's heritage has become an unnecessary issue in the 68th Assembly District electoral race. This is a shame. How he identifies himself culturally really has no bearing on whether he would make a good state legislator. The argument should be confined to his record as mayor — one that deserves a good degree of criticism from where we sit — and it should not focus on how he may have missed an opportunity to reach out to Arab Americans during these frightening times of Islamophobia in America.
To recap: Mansoor was born in the United States to an Egyptian father, who was Christian, and a mother from a region of Finland influenced by Sweden. Mansoor attends a Christian church and has blogged that he doesn't really want to be lumped under the Arab American label. He has also gone on record saying that he recognizes his diverse roots as the son of immigrants from two continents, but sees himself more as an unhyphenated American.
Distancing himself apparently from his Arab roots in this way has caught the attention of Arab Americans, particularly those in Anaheim's "Little Arabia." They see Mansoor as self-hating at worst, or denying his background for political expediency at best. That could be the case — which could be seen as tragic or cynical — or Mansoor's statements that he doesn't identify simply as an Arab could be taken at face-value.
The truth is that we'll never know because how someone identifies himself or herself is a highly personal choice. It's really up to him — and every American, for that matter — whether he prefers to be an assimilationist or a multi-culturalist. Sure, Mansoor could borrow a page from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential run by playing up his multicultural features. Candidate Obama held out the promise of not only becoming the nation's first black president, but its first international one because of his bi-racial makeup as well as his experience of spending part of his boyhood overseas in Indonesia. In this age of politically correct multi-culturalism, Mansoor might do well as a politician to play up his bi-racialness and mixed heritage, but we wouldn't hold it against him either if he shied away from that and stuck with portraying himself as an American without a hyphen.
That said, we think voters should focus less on Mansoor's heritage and more on what kind of political acumen, skill and leadership he would bring to the Legislature, as well as on his voting record in Costa Mesa politics and positions on hot-button issues like illegal immigration. Questions about his race and how he identifies are relevant but it's time to move on and discuss what he would or wouldn't do in Sacramento.