03 March 2010

brace yourself...

... as the beat hits ya, dip trip, flip fantasia

First item: baby socks are the dumbest things ever invented. So stupid.

Second item: please view the history of hip hop, a la The Rub. Scroll to the bottom and relive your adolescence by scrolling up. Based on this I determined that hip hop, history, consciousness, and racial identity in the United States on or about 1990 or 1991. Ayano believes it was earlier.

Addendum A: author Heidi Durrow was interviewed on NPR yesterday about her book The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. This seems like an awesome book, I can't wait to read it. As I was listening to the interview and reading the excerpt on the page, I noticed that a friend of Ayano's (Fanshen Cox) is Heidi Durrow's partner in an endeavor called Mixed Chicks Chat. How very cool to have two degrees of separation. I also clicked through some of the comments on NPR's Facebook post about this interview. I love NPR, I really do. And I no longer can read the comments from other NPR fans because they drive me batty. It's all a contest of who can out-P.C. each other, and then who can out-libertarian each other. Very rarely are the posts isolated and individually relevant to the topic or interview; the hundreds of comments are various out of sync arguments about who is smarter or more sensitive or more qualified to comment on X issue. On one hand it makes me want to comment and tell everyone how much smarter or more sensitive I am, but then I'd just be one of 'them.' But aren't I already because I, too, am a fan of NPR. A digression.

Be prepared. Here we go.

Addendum B: Anyone who feels that we are living in a post-racial society is wrong. I thought of putting a word other than "wrong" but for now I will just say "wrong." The comments on this Facebook post fluctuated between an argument that said something to the effect of "She [the author, Heidi] is not multi-racial if her parents were both humans" and "Did she just realize that she is BLACK? There is a one drop law" and "I don't even see race." Oh. How glib and perceptive of you. Yes, we're all a part of the human race. Yes, we're all the same color when the lights go out, we're all red on the inside. Tell that to the police, to shop owners, to any and every other institution that systematically excludes, persecutes, harasses, or even inconveniences people based on how they appear. The issue of racism, racial identity, and the idea of the 21st century entering the realm of "post-racial" is one that ranks right up there for me next to food access and quality as a means of oppression. Panties? Bunched.

And what right do I have to say any of this as a white woman? I do not for one moment try to parse out ways that I may have been oppressed in my lifetime as an attempt to identify with people of any other heritage as a way to legitimize my opinion. I do not "know how it is." I don't. I do know how it is NOT. I want to know at what point people decided that racism was no longer an issue. I chose 1991, though I'm sure it depends on one thousand things. The events that precipitated this shift in awareness, I do not know. I'd have to write a research paper on that one. I'm happy to accept theories, facts, events, dialogues. But the fact is, it happened at some point that otherwise relatively rational and engaged people just offed the issue of racial discrimination as their responsibility. They just put up the "Gone Fishin" sign and turned their attention to MySpace. Race? What? We have a black president. Duh.

There should be a sideshow attraction at the carnival that showcases white people using street lingo from the 1990's: "Yo yo! Word up, Kaitlin! You go girl!" or "I'm down wit it. Let's go hit some skinz, homey." I'm not keen on giving up my tokens to gawk at a bearded lady, and this to me is just as bizarre (the voyeurism, not the lady). Maybe that is the point at which things changed. At some point cultural appropriation became mainstream. People selectively react to it (kaffiyeh) but by and large it goes noticed but unremarked-upon. Is it no big deal? Is it a symbiotic phenomenon? I think Tommy Hilfiger would beg to differ.

Last year a few friends and I went to a reading at Porter Square Books by the authors of the book Is That Your Child? Mothers Talk About Rearing Biracial Children. Turns out all of us who went were either mothers of mixed heritage children or of mixed heritage themselves. The book and the reading were "eh" but I think the authors did the best with the information they had and the context of the time about which they wrote (the 1960's, 70's and 80's). The one thing that I took away from this reading was a mother talking about her son going away to college and coming back to tell her that he had joined the Multi-Ethnic Students' Association on his campus. In the conversation that ensued, he said to her something to the effect of "Mom, you will never know what it's like to be me. You don't know what it's like to be biracial. So being around other kids who are from mixed race is the support that I need." Yup. Pretty much that's true. Okay.

My beef is this: you don't know. You don't know. You. Don't. Know. It's not yours to know. So don't pretend to know. Admit your ignorance. There is no shame in that! My frustration lies with those who cling so tightly to their "right" stance about not seeing race or only being black or that race is a false construct (fine, anthropologically, I get it... sociologically, you must be kidding). That people want so badly to define others in a way that is comfortable exclusively to them ("What are you?"), that is pithy and succinct, so they can then move on with their prejudices. Or, just invalidate one aspect of a person entirely. "She's not biracial. She's black." Well, she gets to decide that. And how interesting about the one drop rule. A construct of slavery that may or may not have been turned on its head, depending on who is using it and for what purpose. Is Barack Obama black? Don't answer that.

Yes. I am the [white] mother of a daughter who has a rich and varied heritage. Have I done research on how to rear a biracial child? Can't say that I have. Is that a mark of my ignorant and insular whiteness? It could be, except that I don't do much research about how to raise a child, period. I just do it the best way I know how, and I'm lucky to have a partner who trusts himself enough to do the same. I feed her what I know is best for her, and in many cases this is shocking or dismaying to people. We take her places that some people wouldn't bring their babies, not for any good reason. So therefore we also get to support her in how she begins to see herself in the world, in the best way we know how, by trusting that she is vastly intelligent and has no need for us to project on her our own identities or ignorance.

Watch these shows! Faces of America and African American Lives, both with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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