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Archive for the ‘race relations’ Category

What about the President?

I’m sure there isn’t a bride of color anywhere in the US who wasn’t affected by the idiotic comments of Justice Keith Bardwell of Louisiana, about two weeks ago.

Having dealt with racism in its various forms my entire life (from the very overt to the completely subconscious), I am not at all shocked by these types of views. I am, however, disappointed and annoyed, for all kinds of reasons.

I have a strong suspicion that Bardwell’s comments about interracial children are just a cop-out, a  half-assed attempt to justify what is nothing more than blatant racism. After all, what if the couple in question turns out to be infertile? What if they decide to adopt? I just think these statements are too clueless and “See? This is for the greater good!” to be true. They just don’t make enough sense.

First of all, blacks have a long history of accepting mixed-race children… after all, nearly all of us who are African American (that is, descended from slaves) have some race mixing in our history. Yes, there are a few blacks who (often justifiably) worry for the well-being of a mixed child, mostly due to the racism they’ve experienced themselves. But really, how out of touch do you have to be to realize that some of the most famous Blacks in America, rightly or wrongly, are mixed-race themselves? And, it bears pointing out, there’s the President! Wasn’t he voted in by Americans of all races? More evidence, to me at least, that Mr. Bardwell is severely out of touch.

I just think Bardwell is a racist. I also think he is not alone.

When my (white) fiancé was born, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 U.S. states. No one needs to point out the ugly legacy of racism that we still deal with on a daily basis. If anything, Mr. Bardwell is a reminder, to me and to anyone else entering into an interracial marriage, that it won’t be particularly easy all the time, and that we (and our “mixed” kids) will have some idiots to deal with.

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“We want you back”

It’s only now, 3 days later, than I can begin to cry over the death of Michael Jackson. I experience grief for him the way I’ve grieved for people I know personally; shock, disbelief, sadness; the feeling that the person you’ve lost is everywhere and nowhere at once. Compounding things is the tragedy his life became; the complexity of his legacy; the somber lessons about fame, work, and music that we are to learn from his life & death.

I’ve written before about the need for celebrity grief. Grieving people in the public eye, or with whom we grew up, is necessary and a rite of passage. Our culture is shaped by people who live their lives publicly, and when those lives end we are required to look at them honestly, grieve respectfully, and see them for the complicated, human people they were. Those who want to place Michael (or anyone who has died, for that matter) in an “either/or” box are missing this crucial point: it’s entirely possible that someone can be complicated, deeply flawed even, and yet contribute something of value to the world.

I took special notice of Lisa Marie Presley’s statement, released on her MySpace page. It’s particularly heartbreaking, because Lisa speaks candidly of wanting to “save” someone she loved from his own self-destructive impulses, and of course, being unable to do so. Lisa says,

I became very ill and emotionally/spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain self-destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.

I was in over my head while trying.

I had my children to care for, I had to make a decision.

The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.

How many people die every day that could have been “saved?” What is our responsibility to someone who doesn’t want our help? Relatives & loved ones of drug addicts, alcoholics and other risk-takers experience this all the time. How much of ourselves are we supposed to sacrifice? When do we make the decision to stop saving someone else and save ourselves? Which is more important?

Later in her statement, Lisa says she hopes everyone who worried over Michael can be “set free.” I hope she includes herself. And in her case, God bless her, she’s witnessed the same type of death twice, which is two too many for any one lifetime. It doesn’t seem there’s anything anyone could have done.

Perhaps most upsetting is how young Michael seemed; how terribly naïve; how full of energy he appeared to be. Watching him dance and jump and move and laugh is heartbreaking, knowing, simply, that he was so alive and now he isn’t. It’s always a little easier knowing someone died after they were “ready”; when they had made preparations and accepted that their time was over. I don’t think Michael ever could have been in this category as he seemed way too committed to his Peter Pan existence.

And here he is, literally singing to his inner child:

Between Two Small Worlds

Today there was a great post on Racialicious about Blacks & Latinos, specifically, Afro-Latinos. Explored in the post (and ensuing discussion) were issues of self-identification, cultural pride, what “recognized” Hispanics/Latinos think of Afro-Latinos, etc.

I love these types of discussions because they remind us that race and identity aren’t clearly defined, especially when you are a subset of two minorities. As a black person who speaks fluent Spanish, I can identify with this and detailed a few of my experiences in my comments. Speaking Spanish (and my affinity for the language & its cultures) means that I have given myself a global view of my experiences as an African American, and for that I often feel like an anomaly. I live in Texas, which doesn’t help — people here, white or black, still call Mexicans “Spanish”.

Strangely enough, the only time I’ve ever felt comfortable in this cultural divide is when I traveled to Puerto Rico late last year. Being a Spanish speaker and a black person was no longer an anomaly (and neither was being a full-figured woman) and I believe it was the first time I ever felt completely accepted and included. It was a great feeling, and one of the main reasons I want to go back.

A Racialicious reader asked me about my experiences in Puerto Rico, and my answer to her got so long I decided to make a post out of it. Thanks for your question, Xey!

I’m also an African-American Spanish-speaker (studied Anthro and Foreign Languages), and coincidentally, I’m planning a trip to PR with one of my A-A female friends who also speaks Spanish. Small world. Got any pointers, tips for travelling in PR?

Hey, congrats on your upcoming trip!

Hmm, tips for traveling… well if you are speaking in terms of general travel advice (where to stay, etc.) then I don’t have a whole lot to offer; I stayed in San Juan the entire week I was there, but plan to visit the whole island the next time I go.

Socially, I noticed that I was treated more like a “local” the more relaxed I was. I spoke Spanish very freely (instead of the usual “I hope I’m not making a mistake” mode I’m often in) and got more comfortable with myself. It happened very organically, and my favorite moment was when a white tourist came up to me, speaking his very bad Spanish. I was very excited about that, as I haven’t ever traveled anywhere I was not seen as an “other.” In PR, I found it very liberating to be in a place where the standard of beauty included me (I say this as a woman who is also full-figured; this may not be an issue for you or your friend).

Also, I was in San Juan with my white fiancé. I wasn’t in a tourist area, but was staying in a rented apartment in a residential area that seemed quite upscale to me. The general perception was that I was a boriqua who had brought her boyfriend to the island. However, I was there for a full day before his plane arrived, and I did notice that I was treated differently as a single black woman than as a black woman with a white guy, although I was assumed to be a “native” in both cases. I’m not sure if this is because of the racial/color issues inherent in PR society, if it was because it’s more acceptable to be with a man–any man–than to be a single woman, or if it was a class thing and people were being nice because they thought we had money. I would love to explore this more, given the chance. But I also loved that we were freely spoken to by black Puertorriqueños, and I felt embraced by them in a way I don’t often feel from blacks in the US.

Racialicious also has some posts on Blacks in Brazil (another place I intend to visit) and I will respond to that another time.

Parental Privilege

An interesting “article-about-an-article” appeared in Racialicious today. The author analyzes Nicole Sprinkle’s essay in the New York Times, where she discusses raising her own White/Colombian daughter. Sprinkle displays a disturbing level of white privilege, openly wishing her daughter would disinherit her Latina heritage. (I won’t elaborate on this, as Sprinkle’s essay is rightly ripped apart by Thea over at Racialicious, and in many of the comments on the original NYT page). While vaguely acknowledging the reprehensibility of these attitudes, Ms. Sprinkle defends them as her “parental right.”

What a nightmare. I’ve heard White parents spouting this crap when they discuss adopting Asian or Black children, who then grow up with upsetting racial identity issues of their own. I remember some distant cousins, who would surely be incensed to hear of my upcoming interracial marriage, making fun of bi-racial kids on sight, calling them “confused.” My mother says she disagrees with Whites adopting black kids for this very reason, citing instead the problems black couples have when they attempt to go up against the adoption industry. She has a point. But there are too many unwanted & mistreated kids in this world. There are bi-racial kids who can grow up with a clear sense of who they are.

I guess I’m glad I’ve thought about this, because now, here I am about to walk down the aisle with a White man. We plan to have children eventually, and if that doesn’t work out, we’ll certainly consider adoption–interracial, international, domestic, etc. Obviously, no matter what we choose, we’ll be facing some of these issues.

I believe they’re similar to issues any minority parent faces, but somehow magnified: How to give the child a sense of identity? With which race will she identify most? Will either of us be offended if our child doesn’t identify with us? Will he feel left out if she ends up being very dark? How will I feel if she is very light? I know how to be black. I’m an expert! But my child, my Black/White child, will inhabit a world incredibly different than my own. What will that mean for us?

It is not, as Ms. Sprinkle asserts, my “parental right” to foist my identity on my child without examining my motives. It is, however, my obligation to examine my own biases and flaws, and do the best I can.

“Silent Invasion” [Every economic crisis needs a scapegoat]

This NYT article (from this Sunday’s edition) made me terribly upset.

The story is about a town in Texas and its mayor’s struggle with the issue of immigration. Apparently, the Hispanic population has soared, and the whites, no longer the majority, are feeling “invaded.” The article points out that Mayor Geary has “hispanic friends” (citing his favorite waitress and a co-worker, sounding eerily like all those racists that say, “I have black friends! One of them cleans my house”), but also engineered the city’s unprecedented “Hispanic Round-up,” where anyone who seemed illegal was taken away–even legal immigrants. The phrases that stuck out for me were:

“Silent invasion”

“Anyone who comes across the border should be shot” (This one met with applause) !!

“They don’t have any culture”

“Good old boy”

“Us”

“Them”

This whole paranoia & hysteria is Jim Crow all over again, but with a dangerous new economic “justification.” What a nightmare.

The comments reflect similar ignorances, with people saying to “take back America” and using the familiar “Go back to Africa Mexico” rhetoric. Also jumping into the fray are a few self-hating Latinos and legal immigrants, and a few logical voices suggesting some sort of compromise that doesn’t involve skin color or language.

My new catchphrase is, “What is wrong with everybody?” I say this all the time.

I don’t have anything intelligent to say…

Originally I wanted to write a clever post about what it’s like to deal with racists every day in one’s place of business or in daily interactions, but I am too worn down for that.

I unfortunately can’t give too many details, but I am so tired of racism in my everyday life! It is exhausting.

I know it was worse in many ways for generations past, but I also believe that things are difficult in a new way now; our parents & grandparents didn’t have this burden of “pretend integration” that we do now, which is strange and surreal. People discuss race in this odd, superficial way; as if they are really making progress. In many ways, things haven’t changed in the slightest.

Race has been discussed in a  new way in recent years; first with Katrina (when several obviously racist email jokes were passed around my office) and now with Obama.

Incidentally, if anyone spoke cleverly about race recently, it was Eric Holder, who was quite blunt and forceful about the subject. He is even more tired than I am.

I’m in shock…

OBAMA!