Wednesday, June 18, 2008

white privilege


First let me say that I uploaded the wrong image and in so doing changed the title of my post.

My blog about Obama received some responses that I did not post here. Not because I edited or screened them but because some people chose to email me and I figure if they didn't want the comment here - they didn't want the comment here.

But let me tell you that I removed some of the quotes from my post. They are the quotation marks I usually put around the word "black" when I refer to Obama. And I removed them because many people take them the wrong way. As though I am trying to imply that he is posing as something he isn't. I am not doing that. And I refuse to call him mulatto. Look it up and if you have ever used it to describe someone before - stop!

I am actually commenting on the fact that the "one drop rule" is still in effect here in the U.S. and Obama and those like him are still black - no matter what their true ethnic make up.

The girls in the picture are my niece and my daughter. They are both born of people of color. My niece is of a darker hue - but blonde. My daughter is olive skinned but brunette. My daughter has "good" hair. My niece has GREAT hair.

No one will ever guess that my daughter (and forget about my son, my genes didn't even graze him) has black grandparents (no quotes there). She may go through life as I have - alternating between enjoying or suffering from white privilege. This is a relatively new phrase for me. Basically it means that I am a "black" person who can "pass" as a white person and as such can take advantage of the awesome set of amazing stuff that comes from that racial status.

It's possible that my daughter will simply be "white".

But she's not.

Whoa.

What a tangle of race relations.

I have no interest in letting my daughter forget who and what she is. But I also won't force her to integrate other people's form of racism into her world. She has not asked me why her uncle and her grandfather are "brown" (that's a quote from her) she just knows that they are.

No questions asked.

And color is amazing. Check out those little girls. They are cousins.

Color is amazing but has far less power than we tend to give it.

They are just two little girls.

Who love each other.

You can see that in the picture.

They don't notice that one is darker in any way but fact. Someday I hope that is the case with everyone.

I am including a poem I wrote about my personal struggle with this - because I can.

Black Denial - 2004

I am not black.

I say it with a deep sigh that comes up from my soul and escapes on the wind of my breath.

I am not black.

I carry this secret with me
Even though it rings false on the bells of my heart.

I am not black.

To latinos I am them.

Angry and insistent voices tell me

I do indeed speak Spanish.

“Look” they say, “you are like me.”

“si?”

I am not Latina.

Many try to see themselves in me.

Others try harder to find the differences.

I am not black.

Made clear in the exclusions of my youth
that mocked my cries of racism.

I am not black.

Made clearer when refused admittance
based on my skin tone. High yellow what?

The only reverse of racism is acceptance.

I am not white.

Once I wished for the sun kiss that would make that statement unnecessary.

I am not white.

My grandmother’s grandfather bought his freedom in the fields of North Carolina.

My mother sat in the colored section despite her light skin of confusion.

I am not white.

I am so many things that no one but me will understand.


“What are you?” Is the frequent question.

I am what we all are.

I am a human being, spouse, worker, lover, singer, writer, child, sibling, friend.

I am wonderful, beautiful, magical.

I am so much more than a color.


I apologize for my own personal little civil rights movement but for some reason this has been in my mind lately. If you are interested, I would love to hear about how you are handling color and ethnic differences with your children.

3 comments:

KT said...

I hope I am doing the right thing with my children. When we discuss differences in people I simply state that some people look different but everyone is the same inside. At their ages they relate to this and accept it. No questions asked. So-and-so has "brown" skin (just like your daughter says) and my oldest says that she has "peach" skin. I've used the term black before and she tells me it's "brown". More so she is interested in people's nation of origin. She is around many immigrant families and is interested in accents, languages, clothing etc.

Anjali said...

I'm in the middle of writing my next mamazine column on this exact topic.

Love the poem!

Unkie MC said...

We've come so far. We have so far to go.

Ultimately we will realize that we are all a part of and from the same family.

"humans evolved in Africa between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, with members of one branch leaving Africa around 60,000 years ago."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_African_Origin

You can move out of the house but not the family.