Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Rose is a rose is a rose..."

Gertrude Stein, an American who spent most of her life in France had it right.

I came across an interesting Op-Ed piece this morning. For a Black person, there is nothing like living outside of the USA to begin to understand your place in the world. In England, Black History month is October. But, it’s not just for Black Brits, almost every non-White person is included.

Even though I had my own challenges with colour, colourism and cliquish behaviour, I began to see myself as part of a more global community. Not just an American - but a brown person in a world largely controlled by a minority.

And I find myself agreeing with K.A. Dilday - the term African-American really excludes our friends, allies and distant family.

Excerpt Going Back To Black
by K. A. Dilday, a columnist for the online magazine Open Democracy.

It’s hard to understand why black Americans ever tried to use the term African-American to exclude people. The black American community’s social and political power derives from its inclusiveness. Everyone who identifies as black has traditionally been welcomed, no matter their skin color or date of arrival. In Britain, in contrast, dark-skinned people who trace their relatives to particular former colonies can be cliquish. Beyond the fact that blacks make up a smaller share of the population here, this regional identity may be a reason that the British black community isn’t as powerful a social and political force.

On Mr. Obama’s behalf, American blacks have set aside their exclusive label. Polls show that about 80 percent of blacks who have voted in the Democratic primaries have chosen him. And all of the black people in the mountains of Morocco, the poor suburbs of Paris, the little villages in Kenya and the streets of London are cheering Mr. Obama’s victories because they see him as one of their own.


Karen James said...

A while ago Ethan said to me, "Mom, I'm not white. I'm peach. White isn't a colour." And, I thought--wouldn't it be nice not to be so singularly defined. I could be "pale and spotty," as I would so much rather be seen as ridiculous than untrustworthy. Several years ago a friend of mine said he had to check a box while immigrating to Canada. The box was in regards to his religious orientation and the one he was supposed to check was "Muslim". He had not practiced the Muslim faith religiously in years. He did not want to check that box. But, he was coming from Iran and he wasn't Christian, so he had to check it if he wanted to come into the country. He did and he didn't ever feel good about it--not because he didn't like Muslims, but because he didn't identify with the set of beliefs assigned to that religion. I feel that way when I have to check the "white/not Hispanic" box on forms here in the US. I do it, but I don't feel good about it. Labels come with so much history.

Christina Springer said...

"I could be "pale and spotty," as I would so much rather be seen as ridiculous than untrustworthy."

That's one of the most awesome statements I've ever heard. I'm not surprised to hear/see it coming from you. There are people who've "done the work" and still haven't figured out the concept and impact of "white privilege" in they way you just did. (Then again, you've never shied away from "the work."

Labels are funny things. They are like shorthand. A quick and easy (lazy) way to quickly articulate the multiple layers of identity. They allow us to sort, sift, accept, discard...rather than spend time.