Archive for the my theories about race that are true Category

Colonial Mix

Posted in my theories about race that are true on November 1, 2010 by jerlina

This morning I was talking with a friend about tensions between Natives and Hipppies in this small town where I’ve been living. This guy is a hippie and he was telling me about this native dinner that he went to where a guy repeatedly spoke about “us and them.” This language really bothered my friend. I thought to myself, “I wonder what it’s like to be half native and half hippie?” I met a guy a few nights ago, a young radical native guy, who told me “let me tell you, the Indian wars are NOT over.” Again, I wonder about the position of mixed people in this war.

So this leads me to make an obvious statement: not all mixed experiences are the same. If your parents are from waring tribes, it might be more challenging and confusing to create a cohesive identity. Here are a list of mixes that share this tense experience:

Jewish/Palestinian

French/Algerian

African American/ White American

Native American/ White American (or Canadian)

White South African/ Black South African

I guess this list is kinda lookin like 1/2 coloniser 1/2 colonised. Traditionally colonial mixes have been characterized as both the biggest sell outs (house slaves) and the most radical revolutionaries (Frederick Douglas, Louis Riel).  Well, my theory is that the more tension there is between the groups, the more distinct the mixed experience becomes. The more the groups don’t get along, the more alienated the mixed person becomes which I think, can lead to a desperation to fit in somewhere. I’m making this up but I beleive it is this desperation that leads to the intensity of stances that these colonial mixed people often take, in favor of one side or the other.

Currently I am living in a place where white and black people are living together pretty harmoniously and I don’t feel any tension around my own racial identity. I don’t feel a need to chose sides or assert my own unique identity. However when I’m in environments which are disharmonious I feel really stressed about chosing sides and my own identity construction.

I wish I could interview mixed people whose parents are members of waring tribes. I’ve thought a bunch about finding mixed people who are half Palestinian and half Israeli and interviewing them. That would be really interesting.

Listening to the Silence

Posted in my theories about race that are true on October 22, 2010 by jerlina

I was on a posting rampage for a while and then all of my energy around all things mixed came to a halt. I pretty much stopped thinking about this stuff. I’m in a new social environment where race has come up a few times but for the most part it hasn’t been a big deal. I wanted to record this moment- a moment when my racial identity isn’t a big deal. I feel silence and spaciousness around this issue. My interest and awareness of it have come to a halt for the moment, or rather it’s slowed down considerably.

So I’ll say it now: it’s possible to stop thinking about race for a while.

Stuff White People Like

Posted in mixed media, my theories about race that are true on October 3, 2010 by jerlina

I love this website. It’s funny and helpful in identifying something called “white culture” http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/. I want to start my own website entitled “stuffbiracialpeoplecan’tfigureoutwhethertheyloveorhatebecauseit’sstuffthattheylove andhatebutsometimestheydon’tloveorhatethatstuffbutwhydowehavetochose anyway.com

My favorite so far is their posting on “white people like picking their own fruit” which is funny to me because I live on a farm with lots of white people who LOVE picking their own fruit. It’s basically their spiritual practice. But the most relevant to this blog is their post on “white people like asian girls”  and “white people like having black friends” linked here:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/20/11-asian-girls/

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/21/14-having-black-friends/

When Our Bodies Betray Us and What We Can Learn From the Transgendered Experience

Posted in my theories about race that are true on September 30, 2010 by jerlina

I know it is well past time for a celebratory post but this isn’t going to be that post. It’s coming though I’m sure of it!

I was thinking this morning about a friend who is brown like me, she’s mixed too but culturally she is white. What do I mean? Well she is half Asian but it isn’t represented in any of her interests, who she chooses to spend time with, her music or food preferences etc. Ok, so my thought was “I wonder if she thinks her body is betraying her?” because her inner whiteness isn’t reflected in her outer brownness. I also have another friend who is white but he grew up in a black community. Culturally or internally he’s black but it’s not reflected in his outer whiteness. Sometimes I feel like “of course the whole world can tell that I’m a vegan anarchist buddhist multiracial lady who thinks too much” but then I get approached by people asking me questions like  “So as a black woman what do you think?” Usually I am thinking “I want to slap you.” What I’m getting at is that sometimes there is a disconnect between who we think we are and who people think we are by the information they’ve gleaned by looking at our bodies.

So this takes me to my next thought: transgendered people can teach us a whole bunch about living in bodies that don’t tell the whole story about who we feel that we are. Here is a definition of transgender brought to us by wikipedia:

Transgender  is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from the usual gender roles.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex).  The precise definition for transgender remains in flux, but includes:

  • “Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.”[1]
  • “People who were assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.”[2]
  • “Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the sex (and assumed gender) one was assigned at birth.”[3]

A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as “other,” “agender,” “Genderqueer,” or “third gender”. Transgender people may also identify as bigender, or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum, or the more encompassing continuums which have been developed in response to the significantly more detailed studies done in recent years.[4]

Similarly, when people identify with characteristics that are normally associated with people of other races it can feel like the body that they live in, which is an expression of that race, is betraying them. Our bodies are sending one message when our minds want to send another. I am thinking about one more friend now who is multiracial but his body looks white. His mind says “I’m a black man” or a multiracial man,  but his body is constantly sending out the message “I’m a white man.” Betrayal. Betrayal!

I love how deliciously confusing life is. If it weren’t confusing it would be so boring!

Isis King- America’s first transgender Top Model who is also multiracial. Go girl! (But I gotta say, she needs to eat something! Please!)

Mixed Baby-Daddies

Posted in my theories about race that are true on September 28, 2010 by jerlina

I found this really cute page on the Mixed and Happy website which features mixed kids and their dads. Which makes me think, why are dads so often left out of the discussion of mixed race identity? We hear a ton from the mommies and the kids themselves but what about the dads? Weird.  http://mixedandhappy.com/category/babydaddy/

White Privilege, Black Power and Some More Kimya

Posted in kimya dawson, mixed celebs, my theories about race that are true on September 28, 2010 by jerlina

This is a post of many themes. First I want to start a theme that I will continue writing more about but it has to do with white privilege. I mentioned in my “why it’s better to identify as mixed” post that mixed people benefit from white privilege which I whole heatedly believe is true. This morning I thought “white privilege functions more like a spectrum than either you’ve got it or you don’t.” What does this mean exactly? Well because I’m fairly assimilated into white culture I feel pretty confident when going into situations such as national parks, meditation centers, farmers markets, job interviews, museums etc. that are full of white people. After a while I usually notice and get annoyed but for a while I usually don’t notice that I’m the only brown person around. So this is where the spectrum comes in. Mixed people often have more access to resources that are usually exclusively white (intentionally or by default) but that feeling of inclusion (which really manifests as NOT feeling excluded because of culture or skin color) usually has its limits. Also, poor white people usually don’t feel privileged at all. Especially if they are assimilated into black culture. Oh it’s all so wonderfully confusing! Well, I won’t go further because I don’t have much more to say about it now, but I will.

On the subject of Black Power i want to talk about mixed kids with black nationalist dads by way of another mixed celeb spotlight! Did you know that Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones)- founder of the black arts movement had two daughters with Hettie Cohen? They were both beat poets but then Baraka became a black nationalist, moved out of the Village, up to Harlem and left his Jewish wife behind. Or so the story is told. Their children Lisa and Kellie,  both became very successful and I happened to have worked for Kellie when I worked in New York.

I am really interested in mixed people with black nationalist dads. Danzy Senna in her book Caucasia also had a black nationalist father and even though she passed as white she chose to identify as black. Lisa and Kellie identify as black too.  A friend of mine, however, who had a black nationalist dad who left his mom for a more afrocentric lifestyle chooses to identify as mixed. Food for thought.

Dr. Kellie Jones is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Her research interests include African American and African Diaspora artists, Latino/a and Latin American Artists, and issues in contemporary art and museum theory. Her teaching covers the 17th – 21st centuries

Lisa Jones is the Author of Bullet Proof Diva: Tales of Sex, Race and Hair which I read in high school and thought it was pretty interesting. Lots of it dealt with her experience as a mixed person who identifies as Black. In the book she writes, “My mother is white. And I, as you may or may not have figured out, am black. This is how I choose to define myself and this is how America chooses to define me. I have no regrets about my racial classification other than to lament, off and on, that classifications exist period.”

Ok now time for more awesome KIMYA!!! Woot woot!

This song is called Walk Like Thunder and it’s the best ever!

Assimilation?

Posted in my theories about race that are true on September 26, 2010 by jerlina

This concept has not been on my radar but now it is. I’ve got two stories for you then a definition. Story #1: I work at the farmers market and for the first few weeks I thought “hmmm… this is interesting. There are zillions of mixed families walking around this place but I don’t feel good about it. What’s up with that?” Then this week it hit me: although there were people of different colors walking around they all seemed culturally assimilated into the predominantly white, upper-middle class culture of the market.  So, instead of there being a sense of diversity, it felt like stifling sameness. This could all be in my mind but who cares. Story #2: I was walking through east Oakland yesterday and this young black guy starts yelling at me “are you black?” He must have yelled it 1/2 a dozen times or more. I thought “dang, why can’t he tell that I’m black? Am I that assimilated?” So in this story the word was already on my mind but still, it made me wonder- am I disappearing into white culture to the point of being unrecognizable by other black people? Well I don’t think that will ever really happen, but it crossed my mind.

I think that mixed people are really susceptible to cultural assimilation into whiteness because we are half white. Is it possible to kinda be white and kinda be black at the same time? I guess that’s what it means to be mixed. But still, is this possible?

Here’s the definition I promised:

Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multi-ethnicity that supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. It is opposed to affirmative philosophy (for example, multiculturalism) which recognizes and seeks to maintain differences.

The term assimilation is often used with regard to immigrants and various ethnic groups who have settled in a new land. New customs and attitudes are acquired through contact and communication. The transfer of customs is not simply a one-way process. Each group of immigrants contributes some of its own cultural traits to its new society. Assimilation usually involves a gradual change and takes place in varying degrees; full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from older members.