Archive for August, 2010

More Mixed Celebs!

Posted in mixed celebs on August 30, 2010 by jerlina

On sunday when I’m at home I listen to gospel on the radio, it reminds me of my grandma. So this weekend this guy Israel Houghton came on the show as a guest and started talking about all of the traveling and “thrilling” stuff he’s been doing and says, “you know, I got the crazy white genes!” So I thought, I should google this guy and make a post about him on my mixed blog. Turns out he’s half black, half white and from Texas. I really can’t stand his music but I haven’t posted on a mixed celeb in a while. Here is a music video of his which I find painful to watch but I thought I’d post it anyway.



My other blog, my other life

Posted in oakland on August 28, 2010 by jerlina

I want to confess that I have a life beyond thinking about being a mixed person. That life is highlited on my other blog Check it out and leave a comment!

Individualism and Communalism

Posted in kimya dawson, my theories about race that are true on August 26, 2010 by jerlina

I just sat down to write about individualism v. comunalism but I’m not sure what exactly I want to say. I do want to write about it in relation to being mixed. Ok, this is a simplistic version of what show up in a later posting which might be more thoughtful: white American middle class culture is individualistic. Most other cultures aren’t. So let me spell that out in terms of my own experience:

My grandpa grew up as one of 5 boys and lucky for him he was really smart. Really really smart. They didn’t have much but he worked his way up the ladder in the Royal Canadian Navy then went into hospital administration where he retired at the top of his profession. He was a lone ranger, a cowboy, a man of his own making who created his own wealth and his own identity with is own two hands. He is, as far as I can tell, a model individual. He doesn’t belong to a church, a cultural association, he isn’t even that into family life. No groups for grandpa, unless they are more of a meeting of individuals.  Oh yes, and grandpa is white, but even writing that doesn’t make sense because that isn’t part of his identity. Grandpa is an individual, not a member of any group, especially a racial group.

On the total opposite end of the spectrum is my Grandma Jonny. Although she was an outstanding person, it’s hard imagining her apart from the communities that she was apart of. Grandma was all about family all the time. I don’t know if I can remember ever seeing grandma alone, like as in being home by herself or going shopping solo. Grandma was so inseparable from her family that she almost can’t exist without thinking about other relatives at the same time. She didn’t go to church either, like my grandpa, and she wasn’t apart of any clubs, but she to me seems to embody a communal identity. She was a wave in an ocean called my family. And it’s probably obvious but Grandma was African American and loved R&B and gospel music and southern cooking. This was all part of who she was and I can’t imagine that she ever thought about struggling to find herself or distinguish her own identity. Who knows, maybe she did but I just can’t imagine it.

So having these two pillars in my life, two examples of how to live a noble life surely is confusing. A radical individual on one hand, a stitch in a quilt called my family on the other. And I don’t think this is a gender thing, although that could have something to do with it, I think it’s a cultural thing. Currently I am reflecting on how individualistic (or ‘self absorbed’) I have become since leaving home 10 years ago and can see this individualism in the culture I am currently apart of at Zen Center. I share the company of many “Jack Kerouac” types who arrived with nothing but a backpack and a dream of enlightenment. Here we are together in this beautiful valley, a loose band of individuals who don’t know or care for each other very well. On one hand it’s great to have the space to carve out my own identity and do what I want but lately I’ve been wondering about communalism.

I’ve been wondering what it might be like to be absorbed by a group of people who know and care about each other? What would it be like to open up my identity to include other people? I mean, when I think about myself it’s not just in terms of personality traits but in terms of who I am responsible for, who I connect with and am supported by. What if I actually thought that I belonged to a group of people who knew where I was coming from and might be able to support where I’m going? All this kinda sounds like fantasy, in part because I haven’t mentioned the suffocating and oppressive aspects of communal identity and living but for now I kinda want to focus on the benefits.

So I mention all of this here on my blog about being mixed because I think this issue is pretty common for us mixed folks. Especially in relation to how we identify ourselves culturally/ethinically/racially. Do we take on communal identities, can we become embedded in cultures and family groups or are we individuals? Is this idea of “choosing” an identity just another form of radical individualism passed on from our lighter sides? Is our choosing to identify as black or brown or whatever an act of aligning with our communal sides? Agghhhh!!! Can’t win can you?

Can we do both? Can we be individualistic and communal? I am pretty sure we can because I think that I do this, I switch between feeling like I am a member of communities- mostly my friends and family, and at Zen Center I am an individual, a lone warrior. In fact I seem to hate being treated like a member of some group when I’m here, I just want to be me, radically, uniquely, undeniably Jerlina.

So I wonder if it has been that way for my maternal grandpa and my fraternal grandma? Did they fluctuate between these ways of thinking about themselves? They probably have but maybe not as much as my and my brother.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.

(notice the different perspectives these two graphics show of individualism and communalism. I tried to find a neutral picture but had no luck)

Oh, I have to share yet another Kimya Dawson song and it is on this subject! Amazing! My BFF sang it to me after I wrote this post. It’s called I like Giants- listen to the lyrics, they are incredible. woweeee.

Raising Victor Vargas

Posted in mixed media on August 14, 2010 by jerlina

If you are craving a film with light brown curly haired actors watch this film: Raising Victor Vargas. Not only is it a brilliant very funny film but it is set in a Dominican neighborhood in New York which I really enjoyed. Watch it!

Sonja and the Kumbaya Kids

Posted in my theories about race that are true on August 10, 2010 by jerlina

Today I ran into my friend Sonja and she told me about her weekend. She attended a retreat for families at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and enjoyed herself. As soon as she finished my boss chimes in (I was doing garden work at the time) “Oh yeah, Sonja used to want to live in a community with lots of children to take care of, right Sonja?” “Yeah” she replied “I wanted kids of different ages and races and they would not have any prejudices they would just see each other as beings.” I wanted to punch her. “Do you know how maladjusted your kids would be!” I wanted to scream. “Do you know how mean society would be to those kids?” “Those kids of yours wouldn’t fit in anywhere!” Fortunately for her I was distracted by my work long enough for her to smile and say good bye.

This interaction was actually a great one. Terrific in fact. Apparently, unbeknown to me until today, I am angry about my own kumbaya upbringing. We were the weird family, also known as bohemian in some circles. I’m mad about that- being forced to be weird… for life. Well here I am nearly 28, still weird as ever and still mad about it. Sometimes I’m not mad about it, I’m actually open to it and grateful. When I was sitting in my mom’s house this weekend I felt really good about having a family which is so open, creative, curious and kinda crazy. It felt really good.

Well now I’ve got more to think about. I wasn’t raised as a mixed kid. Kumbaya kids are raised beyond race. So maybe this is why I’m so uncomfortable with it even now after all these years of studying it. I’m supposed to live beyond it and I can’t figure out how to do that anymore. What happened? What went wrong?

Culturally Mixed Hip Hop Electro Rock

Posted in mixed media on August 9, 2010 by jerlina

Here are three music videos by people who are totally culturally mixed and I love them.

Is Racial Identity Pathological?

Posted in my theories about race that are true on August 6, 2010 by jerlina

So this all arose after watching the film Inception last night with friends. Then I thought it through some more while I was harvesting sorrell this morning in the garden.

So, think about this:

It was when I went to college that the idea that I was different came alive for me- I was different based on a simpler idea that my reality/ sense of self is defined by my race and I am not connected to anyone who is not part of the same racial group as me . I became a black person at the expense of almost all of my other interests, connections and perspectives. I didn’t think about myself as a particular character or spiritual being or even a constructed narrative. I was one body among many who were part of this racial group.  So on the surface this may sound harmless, perhaps even helpful in guiding me through social relationships. However a closer look revealed that my world shrank instantaneously from a world of inter-connectedness to one of otherness. This was coupled with increasing feelings of alienation, isolation, depression and anger. This idea of fundamental difference spawned out of control and affected what seemed to be every aspect of my reality. For example I remember going to a career counselor and telling her “I’m open to doing most things but I have to work with black people.” My world was only as big as “the black community” which actually didn’t really seem to appreciate me that much.

What I’m saying here is that I think my adoption of this idea radically affected my perception of reality and my subsequent mental health. I can’t tell you what the social situation of my college was beyond my perception of it at the time so it’s no use blaming my problems on them anymore. I’m tracing the difficult time I had back to that simple idea: you are defined by your race and nothing outside of that matters.

So what I want to bring up now is that this “realization” of racial identity late in life among people who grew up in multi-cultural/ multi-racial homes and communities is common and often disturbing and disruptive. It seems that for most “black” and “white” Americans or people who are raised in mono-cultural environments, they are socialized (brain washed?) early on to believe that they fundamentally are their racial identity. Because it happens so early on and it is normalized it never appears as a problem but it certainly is shaping their perception of reality. This is not universally true but it’s common and makes me think that I am living in a world where people really beleive that they are their races and then act out these fantasies which reinforce their belief that these ideas are real. It’s like we are all living in this big nightmare.