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.