Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More On Being Mixed

I found a couple new websites that have been diverting my attention away from schoolwork (if it weren't these sites, it'd be something else). Yesterday, I finally got fed up with reading about a white/Asian binary to the point where I went searching for sites that specifically addressed issues between blacks and Asians. I found a perfect site, and it has led me to so many great readings on other sites, in addition to the pieces on its own site. I'm going to comment on some points made in some of the readings I've done in connection with the site and its links.

Some Latinos Are Black
This point was also made, I believe, in response to a post on Blackprof about how Latinos do not/will not support Goodblack Obama, i.e. the two groups are not always mutually exclusive. Now...I discuss them as if they are, and so do most people. There are reasons for that.

First of all, one of the pieces I read was basically saying, at one point, that mixed blacks aren't really forced to choose black as their identity or only be seen as black because nobody makes Latinos do this or sees Latinos as black, despite many of them having mixed heritage that includes African descent. Then I saw another piece say something similar, i.e. Latinos aren't involved in the discussion of how mixed people identify, how they should identify, etc, even though they're mixed. They can get away with refusing to identify as black, so why can't mixed blacks?

These people didn't realize a couple really vital things about how society works. It really reminded me of the issue of Asians as "perpetual foreigners," and here's how: I explained before on my blog that, in general, (I believe) that when people ask Asians where they are from, they're doing so not because they don't believe that Asian individual was born in the US but because they don't know the difference between things like race and ethnicity, ethnicity and nationality, and so on. Furthermore, it is my belief that if you ask people what "ethnicity" or "nationality" means, they wouldn't really know. If they did, if you asked them the difference between some of these terms, they wouldn't know. "Where are you from" for Asians is really a very sloppily-phrased/termed way of asking "what is your ethnicity?"

Asking that doesn't mean we don't feel you were born in the US or are American, especially if you speak good English and we haven't bone-headedly commented on that to you. The answer people are looking to hear is that you're Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, or whatever...in terms of ethnic origin. And I'm sure most Asians know that, but they haven't made the connection to the question being more about ethnicity than nationality, not to say that I'm referring to Asians when I say people don't know what these cultural terms mean. I'm also sure that they and everyone else in the US who does know the difference among these terms has seen several times when the terms have been used incorrectly.

Well, another term that is used incorrectly all the time based on our lack of knowledge is "Latino," or "Hispanic" or even "Mexican." And I can't claim to be an expert on who is Latino or what that term means, but I know some of the ways it's used incorrectly. The most prevalent way, to me, is as a race. "Latino" is not a race, and I can't tell you how many people I've tried to explain that to and they still really don't believe me or remember. But because most people think of it as a separate race, they think of "black" and "Latino" or "Latino" and "white" or "Latino and "Asian" as mutually exclusive. But, indeed, most Latinos I've encountered in my life have looked no different from any of the white people running around the US. Racially, they are usually white, and I would bet that's the race they mark on the US Census.

But this is part of the reason why I use "Latino" and "black" mutually exclusively--more Latinos are obviously white than obviously black. And even though Latinos who look like George Lopez and Jon Secada--and probably even Tony Orlando--should send bells off in people's heads about their African heritage, it's still not obvious to most people that, hey, these guys are probably really black racially (via the one-drop rule), or at least mixed blacks, instead of just the "Latino" labels they use to evade the question of race. The other part is the racism among the Latino community towards blackness and darkness. There are plenty of Latinos who look like Lopez and Secada who refuse to identify as black or even refuse to admit to any African heritage, and lighter Latinos who know they have "black" uncles or grandparents but state very adamantly that those people are not black.

Latinos basically get a pass because of people's lack of knowledge, not because of something mixed blacks and Latinos have equal control over. Latinos merely exploit everyone's ignorance. I could never fervently disclaim being black or that my mother is black because I look too black, but because black Latinos have slightly different facial features than black people and nobody understands that "Latino" isn't a race they can get away with, in some ways, inventing a separate racial category for themselves based on mixed-race identity. They get to opt out of blackness, and they keep it their little secret. Makes you ask a question I've asked myself several times before in relation to myself: if other minorities physically could pass as another racial or ethnic group, would they do it?

"Mixed" As A Separate Race
There has been a lot of discussion and commentary about this. I saw about a year, maybe less, ago a blog post over at Racialicious about the consequences of developing a new racial category for mixed kids and identifying as "multiracial" on forms instead of as each race. I've also seen many people claim that, at least for mixed blacks, wanting a separate racial category is tantamount to wanting to move up in the world and be seen as distinct from/better than blacks. When I learned of this argument and when I read the link on Racialicious, I decided not to tell what I think about the issue. But here it is:

On a personal level, I would like a distinct racial category for all mixed people (i.e. one parent is a different race from the other), regardless of what they're mixed with. This is not thinking about benefits conferred on the basis of race or what it would mean in relation to other black people. I'm thinking about what it could mean for me. You're talking about somebody who feels incredibly uncomfortable around white people, especially white men, and alienated by black people, especially black women. So, for me, it's about personal social benefits, not hierarchies or the government. I used to think that maybe if all mixed kids had their own racial group, then we'd do like all the other minority groups do, i.e. create a culture, social and support groups, flock to each other and segregate from everyone else...only this time it wouldn't be alienating.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to see that the reasons why I'd want to be just considered mixed or multiracial wouldn't happen, most likely. I mean, there are social and support groups out there, but I don't think they're everywhere. I feel that the fact that we're not a formally recognized racial group makes it more difficult to find these sources or these people because they get swallowed into or submerged by the dominant, recognized racial groups--they don't stand out. This university is the first place I've been that I've known of a mixed organization, but I'm finding that there are still reasons to be alienated--like not being in the right program, not knowing anyone when you first attend the meetings and everyone else is already in comfortable cliques, being queer probably could still be a problem, and so on.

Frankly, I also just have a personal problem with ever using race to connect to other people. I just do. And I can't get over that. And I think, more than the fact that I'm defensive about what a group of blacks at a Black org meeting would say or do to me, or not fitting in at a Women's org that is full of white women, I feel so awkward in these environments because I'm aware that there is a racial segregation undertone that is, especially with the Black org, actually being celebrated. I think about the fact that I quite naturally have made friends in the past three years who are from African families, mixed black/Asian, mixed white/Asian, just plain ole white, just plain ole black, Southeast Asian and queer, and that's what I like. In fact, one of my white friends and I have a joke that we need to find a Latina or Latino to be our friend.

I understand needing your space because being black or gay can be alienating in this kind of environment, but, for me, being in all-anything environments is alienating. There is just never anywhere I go and feel totally comfortable/at home, not even mixed-race meetings, except home or when I'm having one-on-one time with a friend. I don't understand people who suddenly feel okay just because everybody in the place is of their sex, racial background or sexual orientation. I guess I focus more on the individual.

I've also realized that most mixed people would probably segregate even further than that based on their particular racial mix. Someone can be white and Asian, but that doesn't mean they think it's okay to date blacks or a mixed black person just because they are the product of an interracial relationship--and, honestly, their parents probably would have instilled that in them anyway like my parents wouldn't be happy about my bringing home an Asian or Latino/a. And they still might not be interested in having black or mixed black friends, or their interest might be more on finding other white/Asian kids because of the assumption that they go through exactly what they experience.

My approach to identifying racially is to identify both as mixed and as black/white French. I think the same could and should be done for forms. Identifying simply as multiracial or mixed raises the issue of denying a parent's background just as much as identifying as only black or white, or Asian or white, does, because the word "multiracial" or "mixed" alone doesn't tell you much. As far as mixed blacks trying to escape blackness or become better than blacks...all I can say is I thought this is what blacks already believed was the case. In other words, when black people talk about things like colorism...the issue of having white blood and how that benefits those blacks with white blood is implicit in the discussion. Is the problem having this formally recognized?

For some mixed black kids, I would bet snobbery is the issue. But for others, I think a lot of it is basically the situation I described for myself. And then there are other mixed black kids who don't have an immediate drop of white blood, i.e. mixed black/Asian kids. How does colorism come into play here, or is it just being exotic? With or without the formality, everything and everybody will tell you that at least mixed black/white kids are treated better by most people anyway. We're already a higher rung of people, along with light blacks who aren't mixed.

For mixed blacks who realize that, escaping black identity, at least for that reason, is not really the issue to us. We don't need a separate category to be better than you in the eyes of society nor the eyes of many in the black community even. We do need somewhere to feel totally accepted, a group of people to identify with completely and some kind of group unity or community to feel part of, and we don't exactly have this. Unfortunately, my recent thoughts shared above indicate that some of us, with a separate racial category, still wouldn't have this. This is not to say I've changed my mind on a personal level.

How I Became Aware of Race or Being Mixed
I really couldn't tell you. I have no idea. I bring it up because I've seen Rachel at Rachel's Tavern express interest in how kids become aware of or curious about race, and books about mixed kids sometimes seem interest in exploring these kinds of stories, as well. The first thing I remember is being in pre-school--maybe four years old--and recognizing that almost everyone there was white and I wasn't. If this was my first awareness of race, it was very subconscious. The other kids didn't seem to like me or want to play with me, but I didn't exactly know why. And I think that was when the brainwashing began...when I started wanting white friends more than black friends, thinking whites were more attractive, being mean to dark black girls sometimes and not liking my black mother. In other words, if my parents made any mistakes with me in terms of race, having me in that white pre-school was it. Mixed kids should always be in racially mixed environments.

And, honestly, you could say everyone needs to grow up in such environments, but there are groups of people it's more crucial to than others for identity's sake--first and foremost, mixed and transracially adopted kids; then black, Asian and Latino kids; then white kids.

I really don't know how I came to understand I was mixed. It was definitely earlier on, though, because I remember being in elementary school marking "other" on standardized tests and later seeing that a teacher had erased it and marked "black." Back in the day, you were either white, black or other on standardized tests, at least in the South. Maybe the teacher thought I was saying I was Asian...??? I know I had asked my mother if my father was white a couple times when I was really young, but I don't know around what age.

When he was six, one of my nephews started questioning race. But before that, my sister and her husband had been talking to them about color anyway. I can't recall my parents ever talking to me directly about my color. My sister's husband is black--dark. So, we have a first in our family--a dark-skinned black girl. Though my mother is darker, she's not "dark." Anyway, it seems like the kids sometimes like to compare their skin colors and say what other people's skin color is, another thing my family has never done. Twice, my nephew has indicated to me that he doesn't know or is confused about my color/race...which makes no sense to me. I am light enough to be the lightest person in my law school--and a lot of mixed black kids attend this school--and I have white features...but, to me, it's obvious I'm black, and I think it's obvious to most people.

But when he was six, he asked why my sister--his mother--was black and why I was white. Then probably about six months ago, at age seven, he and his sister were naming everyone's color--he called everyone to that point brown, as they were--and he asked me what color was I. I said I was brown, too, but I guess technically I'm not. My mother responds happily to crap like that, talking about how I look like an "Indian"--which, Native American Indian, no, Asian Indian maybe. She is happy that my sister and I are light-skinned, and she always tried to attribute my problems with black girls growing up to their being jealous of my skin color...which I guess I never really believed. My mother has tried to falsely pin, I feel, a color complex on my niece just because she noticed she's darker than others. It could be true--my mother would probably know better than I do since she's darker.

I would hate to think the brainwashing has started with them. But it probably has. They are always in white environments, except when they're at home. All of my nieces and nephews like me much more than family members of my sisters' spouses, who are all darker. I know some of it is they are not as fun. But I remember once when I was in college and I tutored at a majority black elementary school, I walked down the hall and I heard a little black girl say "her hair is so long!" in amazement. What the hell??? I have never had so many black people like me in my life, either, as when I tutored at that school--all little kids, many of them black girls looking at me with wonder. And it's probably for a sick reason.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's Not Always About Choosing

With both a woman and a black man both running for President and being the frontrunners for the first time ever, an incessant amount of discussion, blogging, news reporting and commentating has been going on...to the point where I'm tired of hearing about the whole thing. Of course, it's not going to stop--it's only going to get worse. But one thing that really bothers me, perhaps the most, is this idea of choosing identities...and not just in the context of the election.

For one thing, take the fact that Oprah is endorsing Obama. Okay, everyone has to make this about Oprah choosing race over sex. Well, as I commented on AOL once to that argument, Oprah doesn't care about black Americans. I mean, she'll go build a school in Africa, but she'll also disparage black Americans in the process. I do suspect that race is part of the reason why she endorses Obama, but I also think it's the kind of black person he is. She wouldn't endorse just any black person because Oprah herself is not just any black person. Oprah is the kind of black person black people hate, and, indeed, most black people really can't stand Oprah.

In case you don't get it, it's the fact that she did go build a school in Africa and talks about helping blacks in Africa when there are all kinds of blacks in the US who could easily benefit from her assistance. It's the fact that she has a nearly all white [female] audience...because of the fact that her show has topics, guests and features books that basically cater to white women. So, no, we don't get the sense that she cares about or identifies with black Americans. Unfortunately, white people, being white people, can't see this and they yell "racism" towards whites and ignore that if she supported Clinton--as many seem to want her to do, or, at least, want her to have Clinton on her show--she would be doing...what? Would she being doing, in their eyes, the same thing, only this time choosing sex over race? I mean, could the woman possibly win for losing? Yet, some white people have the nerve to be angry with her over this or somehow think she's automatically supposed to side with sex.

Let's get this straight--the "normal" (read: not famous or rich) black people who support Obama overwhelmingly do so simply or predominantly because he's black. This is not Oprah's game. She has never supported a black candidate before, as far as I know and even by her own comments. She's supporting him because he's a "good black," or as I like to call him Goodblack Obama (pronounced much like "Barack," i.e. goodBLACK)...and I believe also because, like so many non-black people, she is, in my opinion, putting something new and "hope"--and for non-blacks their desire to prove they're not racist and neither is this nation any longer--above looking at political experience/longevity and who actually can beat a Republican. To me, the more I hear about Clinton and Obama going at each other, the less appealing either of them look...and the less "new" Obama looks than anybody else who has ever run for President. But, you know...the undertone of his being a change agent and taking things in a different direction relates a lot more to his race than anybody wants to admit. Suddenly, white is the face of evil and stagnation, even if it's feminine.

Even so, how would Oprah or my endorsing one or the other automatically translate into our choosing either our race or sex? First of all, Clinton nor Obama are Oprah or me. So choosing them isn't choosing my anything. Other blacks might identify with Obama solely based on race, but I don't. And I haven't planned on voting for Clinton simply because she's a woman. I just don't care that she's a woman. Honestly, if there were a white man running who had the best chance of beating a Republican into the White House, that's who I'd be supporting instead. There's not one running. And there's not a black female running--if there were, that way maybe Oprah and I could keep the public from sawing us in half, because her supporting Obama then wouldn't have to be about choosing race or sex and my supporting Clinton wouldn't be about that to everybody. The way things stand, if you're a black female you can't help but make the "wrong" choice to somebody, even if you're not making the choice they think/say you are.

And then there was this piece I read today. Now somebody's got to bring the sexual orientation angle into it! I mean, please! So what, now because I don't support Obama I've chosen sexual orientation over race? What...the...hell???? First of all, there is no way to make that choice, because none of these candidates truly care about gays or gay rights. So, much like with the example of the non-existent black female Presidential candidate, there is not the option of a solid candidate who represents us fully. You have no choice but to pick someone who doesn't care about that, regardless of race, sex or anything else. Just because other candidates might not have made that explicit, as Monroe claims Obama has...it's a silly distinction.

Second, there are so many other issues of importance than to make voting and endorsing all about one, even if that one issue is incredibly important to you. We all have to make choices when it comes down to voting in terms of having issues that don't neatly fit with a candidate's issues. Nobody is strictly partisan. I have many conservative beliefs, and yet I buck all those to vote Democratic--why? My liberal slants matter more to me, personally. I can live just fine without abortion being illegal or the right to shoot a gun at someone who invades my property, but I can't say the same about no affirmative action and high rates of unemployment.

And queers have to know that conservatives will do a lot more damage to the queer agenda in office than any Democrat--whether that person is Obama or not. And yet, much like 2004, a lot of queers will not see the forest for the trees and will refuse to vote...but will have the nerve to whine and whine and whine if a Republican gets back in office. Seeing the forest for the trees, though I can't say that I like or agree with any of the Democratic candidates, is the main reason I vote Democrat. I didn't like John Kerry, and I voted for him. If Obama somehow beats Clinton out...hey, I don't want him to be President, but I will vote for him because he's better than having McCain or Romney in office. All these minority groups who can't think beyond themselves or one issue shoot themselves in the foot ultimately.

Third, when will the dumb parallels between Asians and blacks and gays and blacks stop? I mean, sometimes the parallels make sense. But I don't think that because Obama is mixed and there used to be a law against interracial marriage that he somehow magically is supposed to get and support gay people. I get so tired of these dumb, overly-simplistic arguments. First of all, people act like mixed kids are, what, supposed to be ever-so-grateful to the Supreme Court? What do non-mixed people know about it? Many mixed kids, at some point in their lives, wanted to just be one race, and many more mixed people than that generally tend to identify themselves as one race only, as does society. It's not like we don't love our parents, but at the same time--more races more problems is a motto many mixed kids really could run around using. The major problem with a lot of these analogies is that the person raising them usually doesn't know much of anything about one part of the analogy, only seeing what's positive about it but never having to live the negatives of it. It's like white [gay] people with Brown vs Board of Education.

Second, I don't understand people's mentality on thinking being in the same/similar boat as someone else means you automatically understand or support them. Besides, Obama technically is not in gay people's boat. He was the beneficiary of an interracial marriage--he didn't engage in one, per se. As I've explained my theory several times before, it usually tends to mean the opposite because we create so many hierarchies based on differences and being treated differently ourselves. I wouldn't automatically attribute any opposition Obama has to gays to his being black, as approximately half the white population has a problem with homosexuality, as well, and so do many Asians and Latinos--facts that white gay racists conveniently like to forget or ignore.

And you can argue that being a racial minority should somehow breed more sympathy for gays on his part. It's just that, from my perspective, since being gay isn't exactly like being black, it's easy for a black person to take what's different about being gay--i.e. the sexual act--and say that makes something gross or unacceptable about it that isn't there with blackness or interracial relationships. The fact that it's similar to arguments made about blacks and interracial marriages in the past doesn't matter--it's still a different type of people wanting something that is different in some way from what these people wanted in the past. I'm definitely not saying it's right, but I'm not bothered if he can't relate to me as a queer person because I recognize that's it's not as similar as so many people would like to think. After all, white gay people don't understand blacks, and I don't understand white women, but we all had/have our struggles for equality. The bottom line--the fact that rights are involved and being treated badly based on differences--is similar, but that's about it.

And then, not dealing with politics--being multiracial is often, to other people and sometimes to the multiracial individual, about choosing one identity over another. And being a queer minority is often, to white gays, about choosing race or sexual orientation. And, last year, when I was involved with a Women's organization on campus, they framed the lack of black, Asian and Latina female membership in terms of choosing race over sex. As one black woman angrily pointed out to me, the black women were not "choosing" race over sex. If they wanted to be involved with the Women's organization, they would be. They hadn't even thought about the sex aspect, and this is often true with black women.

We don't arrive on campus saying, "hmmm, do I want to join the Women's org or the Black org? I pick the Black org!" It's not like we can't be involved in both. Many black women will arrive on campus and automatically not even think about the Women's org. While the white women are sitting around acting like this is a big problem or wondering what they've done alienating, the black women are off happy as can be at the Black org event. And if the Women's org has an event that's interesting, the black women will go--not because it's about women, but because it's interesting and personally relevant.

Another reason why it's not a choice--and this is true with sexual orientation and multiracial identity, as well--is that we already have an idea that we're not truly welcome in these spaces. In that sense, we haven't really even been given a choice, i.e. it's the black female President again. Face it, the best chance for a black woman to fit in somewhere is a black space; a queer black person, a queer black space; and a mixed person, a mixed space. Out of these three groups, mixed people probably do more "choosing" than anybody, but they probably wouldn't if people weren't asking them to so frequently. For these other people, why everything has to be a grand, indirect statement of choosing identities is beyond me.

Educating Queers: TV As A Mirror

I seriously thought about not watching "The L Word" this season. I realized I don't feel anywhere near the same way many lesbians seem to about the show. In fact, I had to admit that I don't really even like the show. It seems the more I watch it, the more problems I find with it. Yet another reason why white queer females and I simply can't do business.

However, while watching the latest episode, I realized that, despite the show's many flaws, there is one thing it is starting to do right: give a glimpse into the alienation trans individuals get from the queer community. I guess asking them to also show the way the queer community alienates blacks and sometimes other "people of color" is asking too much, but this is a start as the show is finally doing more than brief, shallow explorations of racial & ethnic issues, being stereotypical, depicting most queer women as prettier and more feminine than most of us [queer women] usually see and generally being all about sex and relationships. I must say I'm very surprised to see the show do this with trans people, and I hope they won't be as shallow and fleeting with this as they have been with race.

What I like is how realistic the depiction seems, although I'm speaking as someone who is basically an outsider to the queer community and doesn't really know trans people/trans experiences with the queer community/etc. Even as that kind of person, I could tell pretty soon upon starting to explore the queer community a bit more that trans people are alienated just like bisexuals are. Trans issues always seem to be discussed in separate forums than lesbian and gay issues, and not as often. Everything about the "LGBT" community and being LGBT tends to focus mainly on the 'L' and the 'G.' I'm also sure I had read things about trans alienation, such as the piece from my Critical Race Theory course about how some queers consider trans people traitors to gays and lesbians for changing genders and oftentimes sexual orientations in the process, and the piece from my class on queer minorities that discussed LGBT activist Sylvia Rivera's unreturned support for gays and lesbians.

On "The L Word," there is a character who was born a woman but lives as a male, has taken hormones but hasn't had surgery. The show has explored some of those trans issues and the fallout that can result around it, such as losing a girlfriend you had/met before you started going through hormone therapy and were a woman, or people not knowing what sex to call you during/after the transition or identify you as when looking at you. But until recently, the show had never really gotten into the actual alienation. What I liked was, in this episode, entitled "Let's Get This Party Started," they showed, what seem like, two very real types of alienation trans people get--"to the face" and "behind their backs."

One of the women on the show is what I would call a "professional homosexual," i.e. not only her personal life but basically her professional life and image is centered around being a lesbian--or bisexual...these days, who knows what she is. Since I'm not all that into the show, I couldn't give exact specifics, but basically the lesbi character, who has a huge web presence as a professional homosexual on the show, ended up telling the trans character that she didn't want the trans woman blogging on her site/blog about trans issues because the site is really for lesbians and lesbian issues only. The trans character tried to point out that there is an identity intersection and/or intersecting issues there, but the lesbi character basically wasn't hearing her. The trans character's blog entry had upset some lesbians and those lesbians let her know that her discussion of trans issues wasn't welcome via comments to her blog post, and the lesbi character basically indirectly sided with them by choosing to not upset lesbians rather than be inclusive and acknowledge that the trans character's issues were relevant as someone who used to be a lesbian female.

Then there was another issue. A gay male character on the show has a huge crush on this trans character, and they ended up dancing together in a scene in the episode. These two women who are main characters on the show as of right now and are in a relationship with each other noticed and started talking about it with each other. One of them said she was happy for the gay male because she knows he wants a boyfriend. And the other woman responded with something like "you mean girlfriend," and they both started laughing. In other words, it was a refusal to recognize and respect the trans character's gender identification and transition.

What I also liked about this scene is this: the show is centered around this group of friends, but, to me, there are certain people who have been brought into the group but never exactly included. There are some characters the group appears more to simply tolerate than actually like or have a friendship with. One of these people, to me, is the woman who brought the trans character into the group's life in the first place, although there are one or two people in the group whom she's closer to than others. Interestingly enough, this woman's character initially was depicted as this confused, messed-up bisexual. Still, she is and has been more accepted than the trans character ever has been. The trans character has never fit into the group, though the group generally tends to treat her with a fake politeness but tempered with distance. He has never really been welcomed or included.

Honestly, this is what I feel when I have been in queer environments, as well, as a black person. I have also suspected that some of these people would talk about me behind my back, particularly in relation to my bringing up racial issues. In a way, I feel the show's depiction of the trans character and his lack of acceptance goes toward confirming that feeling alienated isn't always in a person's mind, even if no one is even remotely doing anything all that out-in-the-open that is wrong or alienating. Sometimes when you're around people, you just get a feeling. I can recall other scenes in other seasons of the show when the trans character has been out with the group but has felt awkward with them...because an awkwardness was, or at least should have been, visible to the audience. Sometimes the people in the situation, well-intentioned as they may be, don't notice that they are sending out negative or alienating signals/vibes.

At my university, I am aware of trans individuals on campus, but I don't get the sense that they are alienated by the school's queer community--just the opposite. That doesn't mean that this alienation isn't going on elsewhere, or even here at this school. As I've written in other posts, I believe my university is genuinely accepting in terms of sexual orientation and identity but fake-ly accepting in terms of race...the fakeness being that lack of awareness of or willingness to admit to their own racism that white Liberals tend to possess. I am also sure that trans people here have experienced this alienation shown on "The L Word" and then some prior to coming here, and surely they will experience it once they leave.

I hope what this show will do is open some queer people's eyes to one of the community's real problems. To me, this is the kind of thing a LGBT TV show should do, instead of just being sensationalist, escapist and "sexy." If you have the power to get this kind of show on the air, use that power for good instead of using it the way heterosexuals do with their shows. Expose people to real issues in between make-out scenes. Straight people aren't the only ones who need to learn a thing or two about what queer people are like or queer problems. After all, I don't think I've ever known a group of people to watch a show more closely and remember every little thing about it than lesbians with "The L Word." Mixing that fanatical devotion with efforts to open their eyes and minds is the best thing the writers/producers/creators of the show could possibly do--maybe we could change the queer community for the better. Maybe one day, I could finally feel comfortable in LGBT environments.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Everybody's Talking But They Don't Really Know

I found an interesting discussion today over at a blog that is dedicated to interracial dating from the perspective of white men favoring black women. I've been to this blog before on a few occasions, but I don't follow it because I find something creepy about following a blog such as that one. I respect what the guy who started it is trying to do, in a sense, but, to me, there is just something creepy about 1) devoting an entire blog to your interest in another race, and 2) people who claim that we all should be open to different races going day in and day out to a blog that is specifically (but, in a way, indirectly) about not dating people of your own race. In other words, it strikes me as a fetish or obsession. I'm sure that's not the intention of the blogger and that many of the visitors date people of their race. Still...hard to really describe the feeling.

Anyways, here is the discussion. Several thoughts/ideas are mentioned that I want to discuss.

First of all, I didn't know who Kola Boof was, either. In fact, I found the link--and, in the process, out about Kola Boof--because I was reading a message board where someone had as their signature a quote by Boof. The quote really caught my eye to the point of doing a search on Boof because she said something nearly word for word that I've written on my blog before--it's in one of the links to the right for Newbies, i.e. "How White Are Asians & Latinos"--that I hate phrases like "women of color," "people of color" and so on because minorities don't have any solidarity with/much total similarity to each other and so forth, and that's what those kinds of phrases imply. I wanted to find some of her other works to see some of her opinions, specifically wishing to find whatever piece that quote came from.

In the search, I was led to that interracial dating blog and found a discussion about Boof/sparked by Boof's comment to another comment made about her on the owner's blog. As many of the comments indicated (and I haven't read all the comments yet, as there are nearly 300), while I don't totally agree with Boof's comment I do agree with some of it completely and see where she's coming from with other portions of her comment.

A few things about her comment/other people's comments made me want to comment, particularly what she and others say about not wanting mixed kids/wanting to be able to see themselves in their kids/not wanting to deal with the issues, the possibility of having to reluctantly bite the bullet and date/marry outside your race, double standards, feeling betrayed by black men and how to identify/teach mixed kids about their identity.

First, obviously, I've written a bit about my being mixed. I don't find it offensive that some people don't want mixed kids. To each his own. I see some reasons for concern. I think that, at some point, blood has been mixed to the point where there's a real danger of if the lineage is mixed one more time one of those identities will disappear, at least in a particular family. After all, it would be hard for a white/Asian person who looks near-white and is married to a white person to have a kid who looks 100% white to teach that kid about being Asian and send that kid out into the world talking about they're part-Asian, too. You can try, but there will be a lot of confusion--not necessarily on the kid's end. The parents themselves can be confused about what to do, and you know society in general will treat that white-looking Asian kid like he/she is crazy. I understand not wanting a part of who you are to drift off into the mainstream.

I don't think that because you have a mixed kid, you can't see yourself in them. After all, some mixed kids don't look all that mixed, and many who do still resemble the "minority" race enough to see yourself if you're the minority parent. I think those kinds of comments also, though, underscore how vital race is to people, because I feel that these people are strictly thinking about skin color. There are so many other ways to see you in your kid. In my family, I don't know if my father really sees himself in us, but I know that my mother sees him in us. She, every now and then, points out ways in which we're like him. My mother calls him by my oldest sister's name whenever she's indirectly trying to tell him that he and my oldest sister are just alike. She says about me and my other sister that we have his analytical mind and his sense of being organized. She talks about how I look like his family, i.e. hair and body build, and facial features. At the same time, there are people who have said I look like my mother, despite the skin color difference (I go through weird phases...sometimes I do look more like her...others, I look more like him).

I also think these discussions have a very implicit notion of heteronormativity in them. In other words, people, including Boof, come off as if they think our role in life is to produce children and keep our race alive. Even if I were completely heterosexual or did somehow end up marrying a man, I don't think I would have kids for a variety of reasons. I understand her point about blackness and black/African history going on through having black kids. But I think the opposite about it--I can't stand the thought of bringing a black kid into the kind of society we have in the US. People talk as if you're torturing kids by bringing them into the US as mixed, but bringing any kind of black kid here is torture, too. My thought has always been, kind of jokingly, that if I had a kid I'd want them to look as close to white as possible.

On the other hand, I did mention in my post about growing up mixed that I think one of the mixed groups that has it the hardest is mixed kids who look white. That's assuming they're not going to just pass. Running around looking white but letting people know you're not just white is a huge mess, because it totally trips people out. People are disturbed that their comfort level with racial identification and visibility are being challenged, and your white-looking black/Asian/Latino self is the reason why. This has been one of the reasons I've been dying to have a discussion about race with my friend Angel, the mixed white/Asian who looks white. I have no idea what she would say, but other stories about such mixed people convince me that just looking more so the minority (or whichever race is more minority than the other, i.e. black/Asian=black) race is actually the easier way to live.

Also as I mentioned in my post on being mixed and as I remember commenting over at Rachel's Tavern once, people really don't know what they're talking about in regards to mixed kids. Blacks are always alienating other blacks for any and every reason, whether they're mixed or not. The aspect of not fitting in is not unique to raising a mixed kid, especially as the class differences that I mentioned in my last post continue to grow and grow among blacks. Blacks generally seem to be in denial that we're not a big, happy, supportive family, most especially the kind of black people who are mainly the ones responsible for the reasons why we're not.

It has always seemed to me that most blacks don't really complain about the standards blacks have for all blacks so much as just go ahead and do what it takes to meet those standards because they think that's the right thing to do. For example, I remember meeting a black guy who told me his story of blacks challenging him racially, and he said he started making himself into the kind of black male he was expected to be. He was one of those kinds of black people to balance himself--he didn't start hanging out on the streets...he went to college and made mostly 'A's in all his classes, which were generally math and science classes...stuff black people tend not to touch.

But he was still, like I say about bourgie black people, one of those who could easily still not be "black enough" to less fortunate blacks but pressuring other black people about it. There probably was not one time he and I didn't speak in which he had something negative to say about how I was. What amazed me about him was he felt like he could do things like tell me I have "no soul," i.e. black/urban soul, and that I'm not the kind of woman who would appeal to most black men, and still think I'd want to talk to him on a regular basis. I didn't, and I stopped talking to him. Nothing "tragic" there--problem solved quite easily, actually. To me, how well-adjusted a mixed person or any black or minority turns out has a lot to do with how they're raised and just their innate personality type. I've never been much the kind of person who needs to fit in or approved of by others. I complain about blacks and whites, but don't get me wrong--I'm happy I can't identify with these people most of the time in terms of personality and I see them as the ones with the problem. I think it's better to be an individual than a mindless victim of group-think.

Reluctance to Interracial Dating for Black Women
I find it weird that a lot of black women would rather do something they talk about in terms of it being something they'd rather not do/are forced to do than be alone. This is probably just my own personality thing, but I don't see anything wrong with being alone rather than interracially dating, especially if interracial dating is, indeed, something you're not particularly interested in doing. But, then, I'm someone who thinks "love" is pretty much fake bullsh!t and will probably be alone forever myself.

I find myself wondering if these people who talk about interracial dating as an inferior alternative really mean that. I know black women who have a contradictory conscience when it comes to whites; in fact, I think more people than you realize do. In other words, there are black women who can say really racist things about whites and/or say they'd prefer a black man, but then they are a little too excited over/into the idea of having a white boyfriend. What can I say, this is the US, where black people have been brainwashed into buying white standards of nearly everything and, at the same time, hate that that's the case and "hate" white people for it.

Double Standards
One of the comments gave, what I believe is, an incorrect reason for her having a double standard when it comes to seeing black men with white women while she can date white men. I've mentioned this before on my blog, too. I think many of us--not just black women--have double standards, and I think the reason is that we know why we interracially date. We don't know why others do. All we have are our assumptions. And with respect to blacks, it's a lot more common to hear black men say what's wrong with black women than to hear black women say what's wrong with black men...not to say black women never do.

So when we see black men with other women, we assume they don't like black women. Even if the black woman doesn't like the man or like black men all that much herself, it's still bothersome because it feels like a snub based on race. In other words, it doesn't feel any different than the racism we get from whites or getting implicit messages that we're not good enough or pretty enough like when we get it from whites. In fact, getting it from people of your own race is worse than getting it from whites, Asians or Latinos.

But we, as black women, are black ourselves and know our reasons for liking who we like perfectly well. We have black female friends we talk to about the issue, so we know other black women's reasons for liking who they like. Frankly, because of that, I know that there are times when black women think pretty similarly to how they assume black men do when it comes to members of their race from the opposite sex.

In other words, sometimes black women don't like black men, either. Sometimes they have a fetish. Sometimes they feel black men aren't good enough. Sometimes they are brainwashed by whiteness. And the more black women interracially date, the more it seems like this is moving towards being the case. It's not that they are all bitter about black men turning them away or beginning to see that black men are not that much of an option. More and more black women are simply skipping over black men, just like black men do with black women. While I think way more black women than black men are still generally resistant/hesitant to interracial dating and some really do just fall in love with someone of a different race (nothing wrong with the latter), I'm hearing more and more black women come off like black men when they talk about interracial dating--either the same naivete of "race doesn't matter" or "black men are too this that and the other."

I think a lot of the women who claim they don't feel betrayed by or a sense of loyalty to black men are the kind of black women as described above. One such woman in the comments mentioned not liking black men herself. You know, I don't feel betrayed/loyal, either, not so much because black men don't "belong" to black women as why feel loyalty to people who obviously don't feel it towards you. Face it, black men don't care about black women. And betrayal? Look--since black people are so into pointing out to the free world every little thing that's wrong with black people, let's talk about some of our more serious issues, for a change. One issue that has gone ignored for far too long is just how badly black men are affected by colorism, self-hatred (or, at least, same-race hatred/internalized white supremacy) and standards of beauty. See, we want to talk about these things in connection with black women and make it seem like black women are the only ones who have mental issues.

And, while we're at it, let's talk about sexism in the black community in this context and give the rap music context a break, because interracial dating is a lot more about sexism than racism, whether it's black men dissing black women for white women or white men dissing white women for Asian women. Bottom line, men don't want women they perceive as too much trouble and not "feminine" enough. To all men, that's black women; to white men, that's white women, too. To me, black men are showing us their mental issues are a lot worse than black women's mental issues.

I wouldn't say black men are betraying me or other black women if they don't want me. If anything, I feel partially relieved because now I can walk down streets without having to worry about some black male harassing me. Ten years ago, I couldn't say this. It's fine if a black male is interested, but it's the way black men tend to approach black women and/or the way many of them can't just take no for an answer or gracefully that is a problem. I also must admit that I'm not particularly attracted to black men, in terms of personality. I don't really have an opinion about whether or not they "belong" to us, but for black women who prefer black men and don't want to be alone--or even for black women who don't prefer black men and don't want to be alone, thanks to black women's low level of appeal to men across the board--I do recognize black men's interracially dating at the rates that they do is a problem. I also think Boof is right on that the rates are abnormal, particularly in certain kinds of black men and in comparison to rates of some other groups (black women, Asian men), for it to just be some coincidence or magic of love.

Identifying As Mixed or Black
I think people who argue that mixed blacks are generally going to be perceived as black have completely valid arguments. I also agree with people who point out that you're denying one of your parents/a piece of who you are if you just identify as one race. What I think neither side is getting is that you don't have to totally be mixed or black. For me, I'm cognizant of whom I'm talking to or what the situation calls for. In other words, you don't always have to say you're mixed or always say you're black. When I'm talking to people whom I know it's not going to make a difference with them what I call myself--I will still be just black to them--I don't waste my time talking about being mixed unless the situation calls for it. Don't fight pointless battles.

There are just certain spaces and certain people where you can get through to them by identifying however you wish. But when that's not the case, I settle for simply knowing who I am to myself. It's not important to me for everybody to know my colorline or assert myself and my identity to everybody. Parents and others can impose on you whatever they think or how they think you'll be seen by the world, but there comes a day when you can make your own decisions. If you want to go out there and tell people you're not black or white but mixed--have at it. If you want to go out there and be just black, whatever. You won't please everybody. To me, some white people love that Barack Obama is part-white while there are others who don't care, i.e. they don't like him because he's black to them. There are blacks who have diverse opinions as to "what" he is. As the discussion on that blog shows, there are people who don't consider mixed blacks black at all, which is just the weirdest bullsh!t...but whatever.

Just know that there are all these different perspectives. It's really no big thang, and it doesn't have to make your life a living hell. For me, I'm not white because "white" is associated with white Americans, in my mind. I'm not a white American, and I'm glad I'm not because I don't want to be like or associated with those people. As I mentioned before, I'm French to the extent that "Asian Americans" are Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino or whatever. I have no problem saying that to anybody, but oftentimes it doesn't make a difference in how I'm viewed, at least not to "Americans." Usually when it does make a difference to people in the US, they're white. At various times, I will call myself black or French or black and French or mixed. I don't have to just pick one and claim it every time. Some whites do the same thing. One of my best friends and I, at various, points refer to ourselves or the other person as German or white, black or French, especially when we're talking about stereotypes.

Personally, to me, telling your mixed kids what they are is not anywhere near as important as telling them what the world and people are like and giving them a racially well-balanced existence.

Reflections on Race & Class

I don't know why I haven't done this before, but this is the perfect time because I've been thinking about this at various points lately. My last several posts have been, essentially, directed at whites. Now I want to speak to black people, specifically the black bourgeoisie. Still, the "lesson" is vital for whites and others to get, as well.

First of all, I think a lot of well-off black people don't realize they are such. Let me give you a brief rundown of whom you might be so that you'll recognize I'm talking to/about you.

You attend(ed) college--any college. Anything more than college...come on, now--don't ever tell me you're not "advantaged" relative to many other people in the world.

You've pretty much never had to go without, and instances that you have it was almost always because somebody said "no" rather than they simply couldn't provide for you what you needed/wanted.

You have a good job, and that doesn't necessarily mean you're a lawyer, doctor, engineer, businessman or anything else fancy. Just a job that allows you to pay your bills, have a nice place to live, provide for your kids. You can be nearly living paycheck to paycheck--honestly, who the hell isn't, especially if they're black? The point is your job does the trick.

You can go out and get many of the things you want. Even if you have to think about it financially, you still have the ability.

You either grew up in, at least, a decent neighborhood, or you live in one now. Doesn't matter if your neighborhood wasn't predominantly white. You weren't afraid, and there wasn't a lot of crime. Same goes for your schools growing up.

Your parents have been able to financially support you at least for half of your life with seemingly little difficulty. When you went to college and ran out of money, you could ask them and they'd give it. As an adult, when you get into a financial bind, they can give you money.

Your parents never made you feel like you couldn't do something because of race. I'm not talking about stuff like be President, even though that could be true. I'm talking about college was never out of the question to them, and neither were a good career or good grades. In fact, they kind of expected these things from you.

I think this about covers it. You don't have to meet every one, or even most, of these. Some of these, just meeting one or two of them together should say a lot about either your class then, your class now or the road you're on. Essentially, my message to you goes something like this:

You, my friends, are elitist, stuck-up, naive, classist snobs!

Now, before you get upset...I'm probably not entirely guilt-free from it, but, much like with my own racism, I'm conscious of it, in addition to the fact that not every black person alive is like us...and aware that there are good, legitimate reasons why not.

Yes, I said like us. I'm bourgie, too. In fact, I meet almost every check on the list. Not only have I been to college, but I attended one of the best in the nation. My law school is even better than that. When I didn't get what I wanted growing up, few times that those were, it was because my parents simply wouldn't buy it...not because they couldn't. I never got that convertible Ford Mustang or Jeep Wrangler, but I got just about everything else. Seeing as how I'm about to graduate from law school, much to my chagrin I'm probably about to be a lawyer. Eventually, I hope to be writing and publishing my own books, as well as other people's works, and hope to continue to be published in other people's anthologies and see my works in journals. Before law school, I had my own business.

I have always, but especially in the past 10 or so years, conceived of items I've wanted and immediately purchased them. And if not immediately, it didn't take very long, or someone else would buy it for me. Part of the reason is, though I have been in college and am now in law school, my parents give me money. Not only that, they give my married 32- and 37-year old sisters money. And, people...I'm not talking about "just" $20 or $50, either. I basically grew up in good neighborhoods and attended good schools. These were especially true with regards to my time in high school which, to me, is the most important time of a teenager's life in terms of setting the pace for whether or not he/she will attend college, what college will that be, what kind of graduate school and career options will be available to him/her, etc. The only part of that list not true to me is the very last check. Nobody ever expected me to be a lawyer or attend professional school. Nobody expected me to perform well on the LSAT. They never expected to see me attend the best universities in the nation. And they never expected me to take advanced classes in high school or do well in them.

I also want to say that this kind of list is the kind of stuff that pisses anti-affirmative action whites and Asians off...you know, despite one major thing: at least with respect to whites, meeting this list does not make a white person well-off. Being black and middle class is not the same thing as being white and middle class. For example, living paycheck to paycheck is serious business for white people. Having a parent or family member who is a lawyer, doctor or businessman ain't no big thang to them or to anyone else looking at them; it's normal when it's white people.

I, on the other hand, would never be able to convince my family members or any other black person on earth who hasn't attended law school that the legal profession is the damn devil, because all they're focused on is, "WHOA, I KNOW A BLACK PERSON WHO IS A LAWYER! ALRIGHT, NOW, A BLACK PERSON DONE MADE IT!!!! WHAT? WHAT YOU SAY? YOU DON'T WANNA BE A LAWYER?!?! QUIT COMPLAININ' AND GET THAT MONEY, GIRL!!!! WE ALL GOTTA DO THANGS WE DON'T LIKE!!!!" White people can understand not being happy as a lawyer and walking away; blacks can't. And some of the neighborhoods that would qualify as "decent" for blacks would be thought of by whites as "ghettos" (though they aren't) or almost certainly no place any white person would ever consider living unless they absolutely had to, i.e. they was the white people's version of po.

My point is more is still expected of middle class whites and they, consequently, have higher standards and access to better resources than middle class blacks. There are also more middle class whites and middle class Asians than middle class blacks, percentage-wise, which says a lot to begin with about a difference in racial equality and who needs more help becoming middle class. And with respect to higher and lower standards...when less is expected of you, you tend to expect less of yourself. And even if you don't--and I know from personal experience--when you grow up around people who are a lot more "simple" in terms of lifestyle and background than the people you spend every day with once you "make it," it doesn't matter how far you've come or how middle class you were as a black person, you still don't ever really fit in. Where you come from always affects you. Every day, I'm reminded that I didn't grow up with the same kinds of parents, in the same kinds of environments, in the same kinds of schools, with the same amount of money, as the white and Asian kids--and even many of the black kids--at my schools. There is still a huge class differential.

The point of this Reflection is black people are no longer as "the same" as they used to be, and I detect a distinct difference in outlook between the black "haves" and the black "have-nots." The reason I think my fellow black "haves" don't detect this difference, or at least don't understand why it exists, is because many of them are still thinking that all black people are the same or, despite changing class differentials among blacks, that we still somehow should magically be the same all because we're the same race.

Not too long ago, I wrote about how defensive I feel when black people start talking about colorism, as the "privileged" person in that scenario. I think the same used to be true for me when black people put middle class+ blacks down. It must be so that I've made more progress with accepting my place as an economically privileged black person than a light-skinned black person, because I eventually finally told myself--and started saying to others, as well--that, hey, middle class+ blacks really do think they are better than other blacks. I looked at me. I looked at my family. I looked at the people I go to school with. It was just true. It is still.

And I think most middle class+ blacks are just as much on the defensive-and-therefore-denial bandwagon with class as I could be possibly with with colorism, because every time an issue that "exposes" and/or reminds everyone of some "tragic problem" in the "black community" comes up, these are the people who, along with whites, Asians and Latinos, always rush to point the finger at black people and/or the black community...even when the person who was wrong in the situation isn't black. Now, I want to say that not every "black" problem or issue is solely because of racism. It's not so that blacks play no role in many of their own problems. But I think most black problems/issues are more of a combination of both than most bourgie/non-black people ever want to acknowledge. But even if they don't mean to, it pretty much always sounds as if the bourgie black people solely blame "lower socioeconomic" blacks...and if not them, then entertainers such as rappers and athletes...who, let me be honest with you, are probably pretty much all black people who grew up "lower socioeconomic," unlike you.

See, I have a hard time believing that black people who know would blame these blacks for everything. And if you're 50 or 60, Bill Cosby and people like you, and grew up poor in a completely different time...I'm not talking about you. Just like bourgie black people, you have no idea what "lower socioeconomic" black people go through today. You've been in the entertainment industry too long, making too much money for too long. Much like I do with Oprah, sometimes I have to wonder if some of these people remember where they came from and how they grew up.

Here's the thing: people use that "where you came from" crap with black people like us. What they don't get is we didn't come from that. That's why we have a hard time understanding. But, honestly, it's really not that hard to figure out, or, at least, it shouldn't be. Black people who didn't grow up like us don't know the things we know or have the opportunities we have, just like we don't know the things our white counterparts know or grow up with the opportunities they had. So when you're chastising them on listservs, in blogs, on TV shows, with friends or in discussion groups for living as they do or doing certain things, you need to remember telling people to change or be like you is easier said than done...and think about how it would make you feel, especially hearing it from someone who clearly is better off in the world than you are.

Think about how white people make you feel when they say you need to stop relying on affirmative action or stop pulling the race card when someone has clearly done/said something racist. You feel like they're idiots, don't you? They don't know what the hell they're talking about; they ain't black! They don't know what you go through! You want to knock their teeth down their throats. And, most of all, you don't hear a thing they say. I mean, you hear it...but you dismiss it. They're not going to make you do what they say you should; what makes you think you have--or deserve--that power?

You want to know why some black women go and be in hoochie-mama videos. You want to know why black men keep putting out records and images that hurt black people. You want to know why some black women sell their bodies and why some black men rob stores or break into people's houses. You want to know why black men won't take their @sses to college. Well, if you really want to know, ask somebody. And this time, don't jump down their throats before they even get the responses completely out, like Oprah and some other blacks did when they had some black rappers and record execs on her show last year.

Or, better yet...it's called read a book--and not that damn Cosby one, either. Yeah, read a book...you know, that thing you think all of black people hate to do. That. Sometimes, it's even called "listen to the lyrics in my songs." Yeah, that thing you claim you don't do when you listen to the very songs you degrade whenever a white person uses them to be racist. Yep, that. Not all the songs say anything useful, but every now and then they do. Or go spend time down in the projects or really get to know someone who came from there fairly recently, or someone who, as my mother would say, didn't have "a pot to piss in" growing up. Go find out how the other side lives instead of telling them what's wrong with them. Seriously, you want to know why some people "choose" to make money the way they choose, but you're also the jack@ss who has come as close to having everything handed to you as a black person possibly can. Hmmm, wonder why people who ain't had sh!t handed to them do the things they do.

I'm not picking on you because you grew up "rich." I'm picking on you because you're just as bad as racists are, and that pisses...me...off. Furthermore, when you're all out in the open with your uninformed rants about what's wrong with all of black people and what all of black people need to do, Whitey is listening and using that to his advantage. If what you were saying was right, I wouldn't care. But since it's usually dead wrong, I have a problem with it and a problem with you. If you've never been in the situation where you've needed to conclude that you'd do whatever to pay the bills, don't speak. If you've never been tired of having nothing, don't speak. If you've never had a dream that you've wanted to come true so bad that you would do stupid, even degrading, things to realize it, don't speak.

Finally...I recently was reading a message board post by a black person who referred to black rappers as sell-outs. I agree. They have sold black people out, all for their gain and to our detriment. See, people think that when blacks call other blacks "sell-outs," we're doing it because they are successful. That's not what "sell-out" means. "Sell-out" is being a black person who has "made it" but has turned his/her back on blacks in the process, or a black person who does things to harm other blacks. Rappers fit both definitions. But the majority of you bourgie black people also sell out every day in every way, and don't ever forget it. Don't act like they're the only ones who don't give a damn about black people. You sell out doing that "black enough" crap to other blacks around you when you know you've had that done to you, and you sell out when a black person attempts to contact you for advice on how to get where you are in the world but you never respond or do but give lukewarm/basic-to-the-point-of-being-unhelpful advice then send them on their way.

And you sell out by telling black "have-nots" that they need to be more like you but never think to tell them how, not even in a way that is more like taking their hand and being a big brother/sister than being a white supremacist in blackface. Rappers hurt black people, and so do you. You can argue you don't have a duty to other people all you want. You're thinking about your own prosperity, and everybody else can and should figure out how to make it their own way. I agree--at least with the "no duty" part. But rappers say the same thing. Why is that argument fine for you, but not for them?

You're just like them. They're selfish to the detriment of blacks, and so are you. You might not be the hoochie girl in the video or the rapper with the nasty lyrics/videos, but you're doing the modern-day "yassa" and "nahsa" for white racists at your corporate law firm all so you can make way more money than you need rather than doing work that directly helps these people you criticize while whites, Asians and Latinos use you to say all kinds of things about blacks that aren't true. This is what rappers do with white record execs, and this is what every race does to black people with rappers and video girls. Whether your employer is using you to demonstrate blacks are lazy/less intelligent/whatever negative or to say "See? Those other niggers are all exaggerating about their problems. You're not like them. They need to work hard and be more like you, and then maybe they would get somewhere"...this is the kind of crap you've sold blacks out for.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Done With White People

I'm taking today off, at least the earlier half, so I have time to write about something I've concluded lately.

I don't exactly know the correct way to express this, except, I guess, through further explanation, but...basically, I decided that I'm done with white people. That's not totally news. There are very few whites I speak to now anyway, and I haven't made an effort with whites in years, which is what I mean by "done"--"done" making an effort. So, it's not to say that I will never have another white friend aside from the ones I do have. But why this is important is thinking about this a little more has made me realize a big reason for why I'm not interested in the GLBT community or GLBT issues, particularly fighting for them.

Before I started becoming more curious about GLBT community and thinking more critically about being queer myself, I was done with white people. That presents a problem, given that, possibly depending on where you live, every single GLBT thing is white--from events to gathering, "support groups" to queer interests and stereotypes. In my last post, I was talking about racism vs hatred and all the different ways one can be racist without hating other people. Last night, I also read a few blog posts by others who have tried "fighting" racism within their own families but gave up after realizing it was impossible to change their families. I thought their posts were so perfect, because they go along with my recent posts about anti-racists, particularly the very first one, my Reflections post. To me, their work is so pointless. If you can't even change your family's mind, whose mind can you change??? Why this is relevant, in a second.

Back to my point about racism vs hatred. I explained the difference between "hating" based solely on skin color and "hating" based on experiences with people of that skin color. To put it more clearly, people most often carry racism towards others not because they hate that person's skin but because they hate the experiences that person brings to them. So what I'm saying, for me, is not that I now "hate" all white people based on skin color; I'm saying I give up based on experiences. Like the women in those posts above, I give up. And like the majority of blacks eventually do, I give up. Not only am I not going to try to "explain" things to whites anywhere other than my blog about racial differences (okay, I say this, but...), but I am done going into white spaces trying to fit in or looking for friends. As I said, this is not new for me, but it's just a new conscious thought.

Sure, we might all be queer at the GLBT meetings. But we're not all the same race. And, no matter what, race is too hard to overcome. The thing that happens--and the thing I hate to see happen--is there comes a day when, one by one, each person who used to think we could do something about the problem of race...realizes it's just too much for him or her. I read what white (and some non-white) anti-racists have to say, and I realize blacks give up before everybody else does...because blacks have the experiences--from whites--to realize before everyone else that, hey, this is not going to happen. I can go to as many white schools, work as many white jobs, make as much white money as I want...I can not act like a "typical black b!tch," I can go to class every day, I can do a great job at work, I can even make the effort. But if I get anywhere, it will be as "the exception"...and that's not even true with every white, Asian or Latinos person, nor even with most white, Asian or Latino people. This is what I mean when I say I consider anti-racists--though the general white population also fits this--naive.

When blacks give up, they withdraw completely from whites, usually into self-made predominantly black groups. MSNBC recently did this week-long feature on black women, and one of the nights examined how so many black women start their own businesses. Given that the feature was completely shallow, they didn't think to ask/examine questions such as WHY. It was to be a testament of how well black women are doing. The truth is, maybe some of those black women have their own businesses because they are tired of white people and white environments--tired of being one of a few, if not the only, black person/woman working somewhere; tired of being told what to do by white males; tired of "having to prove" oneself; tired of being treated unfairly. Maybe it's not that black women are suddenly confident, independent upstarts or the new model minority that can be used against black men to say "why can't you be this way?" Maybe this is black women's response to racism.

And if I weren't so physically tired and in so much debt, I would march right out there after receiving my diploma and start up my own business for many of the aforementioned reasons. I can't stand the thought of being in one more all-white environment or having white men tell me what to do, the thought of feeling awkward for however many more years every day of my life and being ignored day in and day out.

If I can't stand that, then how am I supposed to go to simple meetings where pretty much everyone there will be white? After all, I know what will happen. I've been in GLBT environments, and this is exactly what has happened: with the exception of one "good" white person, no one else ever spoke to me unless I spoke to them. Funny thing that--that "good" white person was a Conservative; everyone else was a "Liberal." They were all sooooo destroyed about affirmative action getting struck down in Michigan, but they also quickly said that they'd rather that have happened on election night than Republicans maintaining control of the Congress and Senate. Of course, a couple of them also just had to get into a discussion of the benefits of affirmative action, with one wannabe-white quite erroneously Latino saying people should not gain admission to school "just because" of their race.

Riiiiiiight...you queer white "Liberals" are really so welcoming...you really understand me.

And then there's the way a lot of white queers want you to completely forget about race. We're all gay now. Being queer transcends race. We're all on the same level. We all have the same issues.

Uh...no, we're not, and no, we don't. For instance, sitting around listening to a bunch of whites and one Latino demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about and fake support of affirmative action when you're the only other minority in the room, especially given that affirmative action is incurably synonymous with black people in most everyone's minds and I'm the only black around...???? White women can try to make themselves the victim in affirmative action fights all they want, but they are just fine without affirmative action and everyone knows it, including them, apparently, since they can sit and say they'd rather lose affirmative action than have Republicans in powers. Nobody thinks "white women" when they think affirmative action. And not to mention that they can walk into GLBT environments and leave with new best friends and new girlfriends/boyfriends--I can't do that.

Then there are the ones who think that black people should understand queer people better than anybody on the face of the earth. Why? Because queer people understand black people so well? Are you kidding? As racially alienating as I've found black people to be all my life and hetero white people to be the last ten years of my life--particularly the last three years--I have never met more people who just don't get it, who are the most obviously intimidated when I'm around and who won't have anything to do with me than white queers. To me, they are worse than white heterosexuals. So, why would I be done with white heterosexuals but make an exception for white queers? If anything, white queers are a big part of what made me throw up my hands.

I have no idea if she still reads this blog, but a white trans woman who used to attend my law school asked me if I attended GLBT meetings and was going to a GLBT event (we "met" online). How do you tell a white person why you don't attend GLBT events? If you simply say you don't feel comfortable, they attribute that to not accepting your sexuality. If you say you don't feel comfortable because of race, they say the white people in their organization aren't "like that," or that there are several minorities in the organization.

Two things about that: "several" to white people means something totally different than it does to "people of color"--they see 4 colored people out of 30 people and think, "wow, diversity!" We see 4 colored people out of 30 people and think, "damn, ain't no black people here!" Bringing me to my second point--"other minorities" or "people of color" isn't good enough to every minority, especially black people. Black people want to see other black people! And in that organization the trans woman asked me about, the one meeting I ever went to, there were about 30-40+ white people and two black people, with a couple other minorities.

I hate questions such as "are you going to the XYZ identity meeting??" To me, that is a question that is asked to test whether or not you're XYZ enough in an effort to decide whether or not you're acceptable. I can't avoid it with black people, but I can with queers by not telling them I'm "one of them." Gays are so much like black people. They have a set of questions that they ask to test you when they first meet you, and I hate dealing with that stuff. I've also realized that most queers think going to GLBT things is the quickest way to become comfortable with your sexual orientation, to make friends, find support/community and so on. This is another thing that just makes a lot of black queers different from white and other queers. GLBT environments are just not accepting for everyone; they're just not "home" for us all. But white queers, not realizing the experience is different for many black queers, still give this advice to us, that we need to get out there and meet other queers.

Knowing what I know about white people, I, at least, don't want to meet any white queers. I don't want to talk to them, I don't want to spend time with them, I don't want to be around them. What other options do I have, then? I don't live in LA. I don't live in Chicago or Atlanta. I don't live in NYC or DC. And, you know what, I don't want to move to any of those places, except Chicago (another piece of "advice" given to me by a white queer, i.e. move to LA). After all, my life experiences with other minorities, particularly blacks, aren't all that much better than my experiences with whites. Moving just to find other black queers isn't worth it to me, especially if I'd have to move somewhere like Los Angeles! Besides, I've met a few minority queers here, and they test you, as well. I fail. I'd fail out there, too. Worse yet, I'd be stuck in shallow-n-fakeLand.

Admittedly, I perceive the GLBT struggle as white, reflecting white interests. I have a feeling that if GLBT minorities got up and had their say, they'd complain about some pretty different things than queer whites do. When I think about my concerns as a GLBT person, they don't match what white queers say. Clearly, there are black queers out there who do share white queer concerns--they have a web presence; I consider them "professional homosexuals." I'm not interested in white concerns, and that adds to the difficulty of befriending white queers or going to their events. I don't know a lot about black queer concerns, but I suspect that if they are also an intersection of racism and sexuality, particularly as they relate to the GLBT community and general racism unrelated to sexuality...then many of those concerns are just as hopeless as ending racism is. I know my concerns have generally been dealt with by just giving up on the GLBT community and on coming out, as well as on whites in general. Other blacks/minorities can (and do) simply do what straight minorities do, i.e. form racial/sexual identity groups and segregate.

Anti-Racism Revisited: Is Racism "Hatred"?

Cont'd from The Rage of Minorities

hatred and racism aren’t the same. racism can include hatred but it doesn’t have to. this is why, for example, I can be racist but have white friends and be romantically interested in white people. indeed, there are black racists who have white friends and white racists who are married to a member of a racial minority group. people who really do hate white people will not have white friends, date white people nor even talk to white people unless they can’t help it…and the same is true of whites, Asians or Latinos who hate based on race.

I think this is another reason so many people don’t realize they are racist or why stereotypes and generalizations are racist. hatred is not necessary, although it certainly is sufficient, to be a racist. see, definitions of racism can entail thinking you’re better than others on the basis of race, or thinking something with a racial association is better on the basis of race. well, the truth about racial stereotypes and generalizations is they are usually thought and/or said with an underlying connotation of disapproval of the stereotype/generalization with a simultaneous preference for whatever that means for others not of that race (i.e. at the very least, approximating a race-related superiority/inferiority mindset).

for example, I don’t talk about how I perceive young whites as alcohol-happy, young white women as too interested in their physical appearance and looking/feeling sexy or Asians and Latinos longing for white approval just to make a point or to state “the truth,” just like whites don’t admit that they perceive blacks as hip hop lovers from broken families who don’t care about education just to state “the truth.” I’m holding the fact that I don’t perceive blacks, Asians and Latinos as shallow, slutty alkies or alkies-in-training up as race-related characteristics that somehow make us better than whites, even if only in that one way while we perceive other things about whites that make them better than us in another way. similarly, I tend to think blacks are better than Asians and Latinos because I generalize that blacks don’t thrive on white approval like Asians and Latinos do (also a generalization), even though I know there are some blacks who do thrive on white approval, Asians who don’t, etc. Just as there are people in my family whom I feel better than, that doesn’t necessarily mean I hate them. The difference, though, is my feeling better than them doesn’t have anything to do with race.

sometimes stereotypes/generalizations about certain races have a positive connotation; however, that still suggests an accompanying negative, disapproving connotation for people from groups perceived as not fitting those stereotypes. this is most evident with examples about Asians, such as intelligence, hard work and a polite demeanor. in turn, it is suggested that other racial groups are, at least, not as intelligent (and possibly not intelligent), not as hard-working (possibly not hard-working) and not as polite (possibly not polite). my observation has been that when people engage in this deceptive exercise, they are applying the “good” stereotypes/generalizations to whites and/or Asians, leaving blacks and Latinos to be the ones associated with their negative counterparts. these are examples of being racist even if you genuinely don’t mean to be, and that makes it difficult to recognize that you are not, after all, someone who has never engaged in racist behavior or thoughts.

I can already see, for example, someone arguing that generalizing that all blacks like rap music is not racist because it doesn’t imply anything negative. Though not each and every stereotype/generalization results in a negative connotation, we’ve all no doubt engaged ones that do…and even so, a generalization as simple as “all blacks like rap music,” particularly when put together with other simple generalizations, tends to lead to, what I call, “degree 2 racism,” i.e. making decisions that alienate others based on race or in race-related ways. A very good example of this is, when explaining why one does not have friends of another race or doesn’t date people from a certain background, responding that you tend not to have anything in common with them. The generalization itself leads to ruling all people with a certain race out, even if you argue that you’d be friends with or date someone from that background with whom you do have something in common…because you tend to use the generalization to decide who you’ll get to know in the first place or to conclude that you and this person probably have nothing in common.

There are also people who like or can tolerate some differences but not others, and this can also be decided on the basis of race, i.e. Asians, but not blacks, being fine for/to whites, based on stereotypes. And there are people who actually value differences that mean you have less in common, which also signals to me that, sometimes for people who don't value those differences, feeling like they don’t have something in common with someone hints at disapproval and, thus, inferiority of the other person because of their interests/personality/etc. Commonality is a common “excuse” among all races, but especially whites, for whether or not they associate with certain races. So, imagine the number of relationships people of these races who spend most of their time in predominantly white environments are able to cultivate, and the ease with which such relationships come about, as compared to whites in that environment.

I raise the difference between hatred and racism because many people think Kim is hateful and, thus, racist (or racist and, thus, hateful). in her case, she likely is both. I just felt the need to clarify the difference between the two. Obviously, hatred can exist outside of racism, and, as I explained, racism can exist independent of hatred. To me, Kim is not of the “holier than thou” group like I believe the majority of people are. It’s possible she hates white people, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable charge. It’s just, like I said, we don’t tend to care about the “wrongness” of hating whites, and many minorities don’t think in terms of “racism is wrong” regardless of whom its towards.

I also am not sure anyone nowadays ever really "hates" people “just because of skin color” as whites tend to describe it. Usually when hatred or anger towards whites arise, particularly from minorities, it relates to characteristics attributed to whites based on experiences with whites. That doesn’t mean she’s not racist. But the closest I would come to believing that moves beyond “personality and experience” into “anyone with a certain skin color” is when a racist refuses to have anything to do with people of that skin color, which is not what the majority of people do. Many of us simply ignore others from certain backgrounds, but we wouldn't completely reject them.

As many times as I feel like having nothing to do with all whites, I, personally, find it impossible to carry out, not really because I can’t not interact with whites, but because I genuinely like whites who illustrate to me—even if they don’t realize they’re doing it—that they don’t have those personalities and wouldn’t re-enact such experiences with me that some minorities associate with whites. This is why I can count three whites among my best friends, including a white male (the main group of people I have negative thoughts about). However, there are some people out there whom, no matter how much any person with a certain skin color “proves” him/herself, they don’t like that person. That is "hating" people just because of their skin color.

sometimes you can sound like you hate people when you’re really just angry and venting, even people you care about. as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know why people point out anger and bitterness as if they are negative feelings that should not be expressed in regards to racism. I understand that many whites feel Kim is angry at [all] whites, not that she shouldn’t be angry about racism. I don’t know what’s so unacceptable about this (see discussion below about “some” and “all”). I think this is just another one of those things that whites should just accept an explanation from minorities about, even if they don’t understand or agree with it, and is something that demonstrates their lack of racial understanding.

“interjections” (on Livejournal) was simply not clear enough in expressing that when you experience a lot of racism you are pretty much bound to become angry and develop difficulty viewing whites as individuals (not that I think anybody ever goes through life without viewing people as a group regardless; I don’t) and that she was likely interpreting people’s responses to Kim’s anger as saying they find it unwarranted and unacceptable, disapprove of it and completely disregard Kim's works/ideas because of it.

I think Kim’s anger is normal and should be understood. I don’t think whites, even if they have experienced racism, understand because, as I’ve said, social racism towards whites tends to be spotty rather than ongoing and ongoing systemic racist against them is non-existent. I would imagine that whites get angry about racism towards them when it occurs and when they think about it…but minorities who recognize ongoing social and systemic racism against them never stop thinking about it because it is ongoing…and, thus, they never really get a break from being angry about it. If white people don’t want to think about racism or race, they generally don’t have to; we do. Sometimes, we can be angry (and angry at you, even you, in particular, haven't done anything) that we never get a break and you do.

people also say she acts superior because/and as if she understands race and racism better than whites do. In truth, so many minorities are like this. I just think this is, yet, another silly thing for whites to gripe and argue with minorities about. It somewhat goes back to thinking racism is racism is racism, regardless of the race its directed towards, not recognizing there are two major types of racism—one of which whites don’t experience and the other being a type they usually don’t experience as often as minorities usually do—and whites feeling attacked. To me, it’s obvious that the more experience you have with something, the more you understand it—which is why I not only consider whites “naïve” but minorities who haven’t really experienced discrimination or don’t recognize it “naïve,” as well.

That part shouldn’t be offensive to anybody. I can understand having an issue with feeling superior because of it. But many of us just do, as I explained in the "Reflections on Anti-Racism" post, feeling superior just for being the ones to survive more racism in the first place and [some of us] still get things that are more easily obtained by whites and are really meant for whites only despite racism. Not understanding these kinds of things, in and of itself, demonstrates, to me, that whites don’t usually understand race and racism as well as minorities do. We're not necessarily saying it to look down on you or say you're stupid, although I think many racial minorities and queers still somehow expect members of their counterpart "majority" groups to "get it." My take is there is no real way for you to "get it," unless you make the conscious effort to go out and learn about it, so there's no sense in acting like whites or heterosexuals are just exasperatingly dumb when they inevitably don't "get it." I save that for other minorities.

People also point out that she generalizes, as if this is something we don’t all do, especially when it comes to race. As I’ve mentioned before, implicit in generalizations is that there is a missing but understood word (like the “understood ‘you’ when giving someone a command), and that missing word is “some”…not “all,” as people interpret generalizations. people who understand that understand that she is not attacking all white people. it’s a simple concept to me, something I understood even before I started applying to law school—I say that because if you get LSAT study materials that are decent enough, you’ll learn about words such as “some,” “all,” “most” and “majority.” For your info, “some” can mean as few as “one” (though it usually doesn’t) and “majority” can mean as little as 51%, and that’s how I utilize these words in my blog (“some” meaning more than “one” when I use it) and how I would prefer for people to interpret other pieces they read anywhere. It's rather difficult to have these kinds of discussions otherwise.

As for me, I identify with Kim’s anger. However, having read a little bit about how she grew up in her piece about transracial adoption, I can see that’s an experience that outdoes, I think, all of my racist experiences. Therefore, I think she’s angrier, and I don’t blame her. because some people don’t seem to get it, from reading responses to Kim’s pieces…usually when I write in this blog, I’m not angry or writing with the intention that anger come through. I’m writing to be honest and let people know how some blacks, at least, and/or some queers think about an issue that I either don’t feel is discussed enough or tends to generate the same opinions/responses repeatedly while less popular viewpoints fail to be expressed.

Although I’m angry about how I’ve been treated and really resent whites, I’ve reached a point where discussing discrimination is similar to reporting, for me, mixed with critical analysis. Usually if I’m cursing quite a bit in a post, I’m showing some emotion (though not necessarily angry). But these Anti-Racism pieces, for example, that I've written are not with anger, which is important to say considering the piece about minority rage. Writing about race as a minority doesn't always mean you're doing so to express anger or lay fault.