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22 de Marzo, 2007

The White Lens IV [The White Idea]

Categorized under Cultura , El Malestar Pálido , La Lente Blanca | Tags: , , , ,

YOU CANNOT BE HALF-WHITE because "White" is an idea. It is not a lineage. It is the idea of being both untouched by the Brown™—unmixed with the dark beast of Other—as well as guided by notions of White Supremacy. The "One-Drop" rule kept White slaveowners from having to be responsible for the babies they planted in the wombs of their Black slaves because mixed with "Black blood" the "White" idea is eradicated. Of course you can have that idea safely envelope you (you can become an honorary White®) if you are multiracial, say part-Mexican and part not, or part-Korean and part not, or part African-descended and part not—basically, if you can fool the eye enough to allow you consideration. However, that consideration is not complete until you cease any scary activity or identification with the Brown™ part of your lineage. If you can shed the accent, learn the Queen's English as preferred, skip the ponchos and "vatos" and menudo, think of Mexican immigrants as Illegal Alienz, consider Racism in the past, or best yet—crusade against your own type of people—you are well on your way.

Barack Obama is a good example of someone who may be eligible for honorary Whiteness. That's why Biden saw and heard him and wanted to invite him into his kitchen. That's why (in my opinion) some of the Black community are musing on keeping him out. They don't trust an honorary White®. After all, we all know what they are capable of. They are capable of being Colorblind. Which means seeing no allegiance but to White Mainstream America. No roots, no special reparation, no otherly consideration.

Far too capable. Michelle Malkin, the Queen of Colorblind, has successfully become White®, at least temporarily. At least until she pulls her own type of Gonzales, and is reminded that her Whiteness was only an honorary award, one that not even marrying a White man, becoming a Brown-hater, and getting cozy in Bethesda, MD can make permanent.

I've lived in Bethesda, MD. I remember it well. It is "White Suburbia." I was eight years old. It was where I met a large part of resistance to my name, which is Spanish and unpronouncable to the English-only tongue except in a tacky, simplified, Anglo-tinted version now made famous by a movie star who went by "Leaf" for most of his life. Bethesda was where I was humiliated all the time in class as even the TEACHERS who were supposed to know so much stumbled like fools trying to get the non-English "J" and the alien-inflected "Q" over their tongue during roll call. Bethesda is where I was asked by the judge if I wanted the New White Daddy to adopt me; if I would give my eight-year-old permission. I already hated the man, the New Daddy who had married my mother and changed everything in my life. And yet, I didn't balk in those judge's chambers to say "yes." But did I know what I was agreeing to? Hell no. I just knew I was in a Special, Grave, Important place and someone was asking me my permission and it was someone I had no right to give a hard time to. And I was just befuddled by the whole process.

So I said 'Yes' and with the sweep of a pen, the placing of a shiny, gold, sticker onto a sheaf of papers and the pressure of a seal, the surname I was given at birth—the one I'd had for the first eight years of my life and that tied me to my physical appearance, my nanita, my papi, his papá, and all my Mexican lineage—was stamped out. It was neutralized, made Irish. Made short, and common, and easily (oh so easily) pronounceable, and something everyone could appreciate. The State reached back into all my documents and changed them. My caretakers, the government of Maryland, USA, and the spirit of George Orwell worked together to create the impression that I had always had the New Name; that I had always had the White Father, that my real father and my real last name had never existed. To this day, my legal birth certificate has the wrong man listed as my father. It's a lie. And I lost the original. There was (and is) no place and no document I could go to to prove my memories were real. Except one. There was one sheaf of papers only that showed the change. The adoption papers, themselves. Otherwise, I had been given a new name, a new father, a new identity, and the rare chance to be White®. As long as I stayed out of the sun, I was pretty good at honoring that idea. The White Idea.

Especially once I changed my first name to "Jack," shortly after that. Someone had told me that "Jack" was the English equivalent of my real (Spanish) name. And honestly, that was who I wanted to be: the White version of me. The one with no messy Mexican past. The one with a name everyone could pronounce. The one who wasn't asked about his "Nationality." The one who was not connected to the murk of Mexico's dark, unspoken stigma. Nanita, my Papi, tortillas, chiles, olive oil, Lady Guadalupe, hot, desert winds, adobe, the sound of Spanish...this was all so far away. Probably a dream. So I decided to become White®.

And began to lose my mind, very slowly. Not all at once, and never completely. Not in a dangerous or dramatic way. Not in a way any more mad than most the people I meet in life. In a creeping, insidious way, a way that blinds you to much of yourself, and thus the Truth. Any truth. Because when your feelings and image of yourself are conflicted in such a way, how can you be at peace with much else? The image of everything that I had grew jittery and began to slip to the side over the long stretch of days, as if a filmstrip being sped through the gears of the projector was slipping. The flicker, here, of a scene cut short and a bad edit slashing a thin line across the actor's eyeline. A spreading dark dot on the lens, a strip of shadow folds under at the edge of the screen, a smear of unexpected emulsion dances, a shadow blooms like a flower.

Once in a while, you bump into the shell of the Idea, and it is unsettling. I grew to fear the random people—usually kids at new schools—who would ask me if I were Puerto Rican. Or the random brown women who would speak to me in Spanish without knowing I had given up my Mexicanness. Didn't they know I was White®, then? Don't remind me of those things, those sounds. What did they see? How did they know that tongue was in my past life? What is peeking out of my eyes, my face? I didn't understand their ability to see into me in this way.

I grew to hate fluorescent lights. Yes, because they drain your soul of feeling. But also because (what I think of as) the olive-like base of my skin shows up there egregiously, more than the ole Fluorescent Light Green that settles onto all skin under those lights (There is an unnatural/non-analagous spike of green in the visible light spectrum of non-adjusted fluorescent lights, as studying cinematography taught me). Or the Winters, I hated them too. Not just for the lack of light and the sadness that settles under the hundredth layer of snow or for the cold that comes along with all the whiteness, but also because the color drains from my skin in those long, grayed out months, although it never leaves completely. My skin, to me, looked sickly during these times. I did not know it was my eye, waiting for a pink shade that never quite rose to the top. And if you are expecting to see pink, what would my skin look like?

My eyes. They became so confused. It's getting better. But there were, during these days of Whiteness®, troubling moments. What was showing through? My forehead didn't look right, something was wrong with the area between my eyes and my ear or maybe it was my nose or my lips....maybe....the skin, the sheen of the skin...the courseness of the hair, it was ugly, "like a dog" I said, shaving my head.

But I didn't even let myself think in honest terms anymore. I sublimated the White Supremacist notions that my New Legal Father constantly oozed into other shapes of less-obvious thought. After ten years of his influence (as well as mainstream "universal" (White®) culture), instead of thinking facial hair brings out the Mexican in me (even tho many have said so verbatim) I just thought facial hair looks ugly on me. Because in that strain of White® thought, Mexican=Ugly. And so I avoided facial hair (especially a mustache) at all costs. Instead of thinking taking Spanish in High School will tie me more to my Mexicanness I just thought that French would be more "interesting." (Also interesting that they were conquerors, for a while, of Mexico). Instead of thinking The sun makes me so dark I stand out as not-White™, I thought to myself as I reached into my late 20s The sun will age my skin, I should start avoiding it. Instead of thinking the darkness of my Brown eyes point toward the land of Quetzelcoatl and the nopales and steep mountains and sand I thought Brown eyes are dull, they look all one-color dark and it's not pretty...it sure would be nice to mess with those new, snazzy, green and blue contact lenses.

And by the way: how do I know that those were not real thoughts? For example, how do I know that my thoughts about the sun weren't valid? I really felt that way, right? It's true science, right? Prove it's wrong, that I wasn't realllllllly concerned about aging, but about my White Appearance. Because I would have argued you on any of these things. Although I now know they were sublimated thought. And how do I know? Because nowadays—and my face is ten years older, even, I don't care if the sun ages me. I see nothing scary about having lots of lines in my face when I smile, or concentrate, or get even older. Because I have a mustache now, and I enjoy it. I like that it echoes my father's appearance, and mi abuelo's, too. Because nowadays you couldn't catch me wearing fake color in my eyes. I love brown eyes. And especially my brown eyes. Get it? I love my eyes. As they are. Myself. As I am.

And these all changed and became apparent for their true shapes when I turned to look at what I had been avoiding for so long. That's how I know.

This dynamic of sublimated/disguised thought is exactly why "intention" is irrelevant when we talk about the White Lens and about Racism and about all these issues. Because in this culture we become brainwashed unless we have painful teachers (our own personally-based realizations and experiences with media and other humans) to remind us that the programming does not include us. And because if you are White® 'round here, you would not bump into that shell, that edge, that reason to remember that you have been inculcated with a paradigm of thought that necessitates the standards of White Supremacy.

And when your brain has been programmed, how relevant is what you "intend"? Hell, you don't even know what you really intend in those cases, half the time.

The reason I use many images of myself in this blog is not just because I'm a show-off performer-singer-actor lookitme type person. It is because the journey I make here is so very much about identity. So much about "race" and how this figures into my self image.

Some have said to me, so dismissively "Oh you think too much about this/worry too much about this/crow too much about that/make too much of this." Aside from being the most amazingly insensitive and stupid things to say, they are also precisely wrong, and such thoughts are, in fact, tied to the same roots that feed from the perpetuation of White Supremacist thought. They are invested in my not awakening.

Not thinking about this for so long led to nothing healthy. It led to confusion and sublimation and anger and self-loathing and projection, and—O, a host of things. A host of ideas and non-ideas and knee-jerk movements and wrong turns that I no longer want to repeat. I am thinking about this just as much as I need to. And when I am done, I will move on. Lately, I've even begun to have passages of time where all of THIS just fades and I feel normal. Okay in my skin, not thinking constantly about WHO I AM or WHOM I DON'T BELONG TO or WHAT I AM or IF I LOOK WHITE OR MEXICAN and all the rest of that. This is something else! And it feels good to not be so consumed with all of it. And that's where I want to be. But I won't get there by not talking, not thinking, not writing. I will get there by finally looking into myself and at all those things I had run from. I am getting there by doing just what I am doing. But it is true that while I do it, I kick up some feelings. And not just in myself.

In the Summer time (even Spring) my skin reacts to sun very quickly. I can get very dark. Last summer I got so dark an Indian (Native American) friend was frustrated by it. "Damn. What were you...outside forever? You're darker than me, and I'm Indian!" She was jealous. But in a friendly, funny way. This is a new reason for me to love Spring and Summer. I can get as dark as I want. And it erases the ambiguity. In fact, it even scares people sometimes and I really get that full "brown man" experience. That is not the part I like. I actually was completely surprised when I began meeting that reaction in earnest. I think, sometimes, that I probably have a pretty interesting experience of this because I can move back and forth a bit from not-so-brown to damn-brown. Although not as much as I used to think. Because just because you are thinking you are White®, you forget that others can see your Brownness if they don't choose not to. Very often. That is why I would get spoken to in Spanish and similar experiences. This is what begins to make for so much confusion, this gap that can grow between how others see you and how you see yourself. Because the truth is, I tried to unsee all those startling and unsettling elements that would reflect from mirrors. It wasn't that I just denied them physically (names, contacts, hair) but that along with this movement, I was beginning to deny these elements psychologically. To the point that I would look in the mirror and I just couldn't even tell what my skin looked like anymore. A slight change of angle would shift it back and forth.

But as I said, in the summer, the brown settles obviously into my skin and ties my eyes, and hair together in one soothing, complete feeling of brownness. And I like that.

When I lived in Postcard Town, NY (not a real name, a ritzy very White neighborhood I speak of sometimes where I began to really think on a lot of these things) it was that first Summer that everything changed, reactions becoming odd. It was that Summer that, when my mother came to visit she was so impressed by how dark I looked she called her friend who was expecting me at the DMV for a license renewal to warn them that it was still me holding the ID card. I was surprised she did that. But perhaps that is how startlingly dark I can get. I like the brown. In the Winter, I feel yellowish.

A lot of the problem, when you are looking at yourself as White®—when you are of a pigmented "race"—is that your measures are standards that default to White As Beautiful. So suddenly, instead of seeing yourself showing a skin tone that can be traced mentally back to Indians and sunny, southern, lands; you see it and how far it varies from Pink and say, instead, that it looks "sallow" or "yellow" or "sickly" or "greenish." But does it? Or are you using the wrong measuring stick? When White Supremacy has been laid into your brain, you don't look at being relatively small as a sign that you are connected not to big caucasoid frames, but rather to smaller, lithe, Indian frames. You think (and are told) that you are defective. Because you are defective in comparison to a false standard. To a standard you ought not to be using.

If everyone around you had fingers that were nine inches long and never told you that having your-length fingers was a sign that you descended from the Human tribe, you would grow to see your fingers as lacking, dinky, inferior, ineffective, ugly, deformed. But surprise, surprise. One day you see pictures of Human Beings. You are overjoyed. You feel amazing kinship and self-acceptance. You had been using the wrong standard all along. Your mind has been infested with a bad idea.

Because White is an idea. And for me, it is not the right idea.

I cannot be "Half-White," because I cannot have half a brain of White Supremacist thought. I cannot be "Half-White," because I don't want mirrors to buckle and flip in front of my eyes anymore. I cannot be "Half-White" because I cannot exist as a division defined. I cannot be "Half-White," because the idea of White is one of not being touched, tainted, or aligned with the Brown™. And I am descended of and a member of the Brown™. And I am damn proud of it. And I am proud throughout all of myself and my heart and my body. Not just half.


--

addendum: I use "White Supremacy" a bit flexibly here, in different ways, not always as we mean it such as in "White Supremacist groups" and the like. Bear with me while I feel out a fitting lexicon for this new (to myself) body of thought.

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Comentarios (44)


ilyka dijo:

GRVTR

Everything you say here--this, this is what the League of Defenders of St. Angelina Jolie are not comprehending. There were more than a few things I don't think I was comprehending myself, come to think of it.


Rafael dijo:

GRVTR

I know how you feel, except that because of my Criollo lineage I passed off as White(tm) until I said my name and then people winced, especially when I insisted that the say it right, not in a mangled mess, with the accent all wrong. Or when I reminded them that their is a world bigger than theirs. And when they ask me where I stood on the issue of the freedom of my people, and they, many of them WHITEPROGRESSIVES(tm) would say "but its a shame really that you don't vote for President, why is not your island a State already." As if assimilation did not have a price, as if the only answer was to deny who I was or what I could be. That the Past is the Past and therefore not important.

My mother warned me about speaking out, that it would be dangerous, but now I understand that the dangerous for them and not me. To be careful and not speak the truth about who I was and what I believe. Because when I spoke, I became "El Matador" a reminder of truths forgotten and unseen.

Nezua, let them melt under the Sun, you wear it proudly, as I am sure your papi, your nanita and everyone before them did, now and forever.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

i agree, ilyka.

--

beautiful stuff, rafa. thanks for sharing your thoughts, too.


Kevin dijo:

GRVTR

This is an amazing post. I hate that I read this after I just posted my latest link roundup (I'm thinking about slipping it in anyway, but I may have to just give you you're own post prop anyways).

This is sorta off topic, but if you're so inclined you should shoot me an email via my blog. I have a few things I'd like to talk to you about.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank ya, kevin. i appreciate the propz in any case, any form of course. and the time taken to read.

i've emailed you.


erizzle dijo:

GRVTR

the "too much thinking" line always gets me. only when we talk about power and privilege do people start saying ridiculous things about the usefulness of not being thoughtful.


tizoc dijo:

GRVTR

sr. k-jonez, thanks for sharing your 'awakening experience' / maybe and hopefully the pasty veil of the 'White lens' will be removed from the rest of us as well ..


Hugo Schwyzer dijo:

GRVTR

Came here from Ilyka's who linked to an oddly similar post of mine today. I've tried many times to write a celebration of WASPiness that was at the same time a rejection of Whiteness. Not quite there yet. Good stuff you've got here, and it keeps this lad thinking.


L.G. Fucktard dijo:

GRVTR

"Write with blood, and you will discover that blood is spirit. It is not easy to understand the blood of another. I hate the reading idler. He who writes for the reader, does nothing more for the reader. Another century of readers, and spirit itself will stink."
-- Nietzsche


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thanks tizoc, thanks hugo. great quote, LG. how i do miss reading the ole infirm german.


L.G. Fucktard dijo:

GRVTR

"How I hate the non-reading idler".
-- Nietzsche


chicago dyke dijo:

GRVTR

well, now i'm in tears, and my heart is overflowing with love for you. i will link and answer this, because it deserves serious attention. thank you for speaking this truth.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

CD, thank you so much.


Kuahmel dijo:

GRVTR

Peace to you and peace to your entire blog, but there is one matter of dispute inside of the logic.

As much as folks have disdain for the English language, neither Spanish nor Portuguese nor French are native tongues of original people either. When I say "original" people, this means brown, black, yellow; "African," Indian, East Asian, "Amerindian," whatever you want to call it. All above are original people and all are brothers and sisters.

Also, all have suffered the pain of European ideas dividing us and convincing us that it was our true base, whether by speech or by ideology in worship.

These tongues are what we have to use as forms of communication, and NOT where our history begins, as the European wants us to think. Never ignore the history of the Spaniard, the Briton, the Frenchman, or the Portuguese. All of them played the game of trying to master us. No one of them is better than the other in this regard, as they each committed the same genocidal crime in the name of crusading, living in luxury, and subjugating those different from them. This is why our people are mostly lost today and why our job is a daunting one.

I look forward to building with you, bro. Peace.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Hi, Kuahmel.

What is "the logic"? Before I engage your comment, I wonder what you are responding to. I will guess, for now. Are you thinking that I value Spanish over English? Or that I do it because I think it's "purer"? If so, I must agree with you. I mean, that is, I know. I know Spanish is the language of the conquerors, too. My current thoughts and feelings for it are simply because it was taken from my life early, and because I still carried the Spanish name and affiliation. In my own life (and not historically) English was the conquering tongue. And Spanish was the lost "native" language, alive in my earliest memories only.

But I do understand your historical points. And I appreciate the reminder.

Thank you very much for all the good thoughts and energy.


Rafael dijo:

GRVTR

True enough, but after 500 or so years, we made it our language or should I say our languages, from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego. It is an integral part of who we are, of who I am.


darkblack dijo:

GRVTR

As long as you're true to yourself, you will never go wrong.

And stay away from Postcard Town...It's full of unfriendly ghosts.

;>)

Blessed be your journey, Nezua.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

agreed, rafa

--

thank you, darkblack. ain't that the truth bout postcard town...damn place is haunted.


Sume dijo:

GRVTR

Just wanted to give you a shoutout. As a Vietnamese TRA, your post resounded with me down to my atoms. Props!


papa2hapa dijo:

GRVTR

Props. I lived in MD near Bethesda, and know exactly how "white" that place can be. I don't even know why it is that way, especially considering how close it is to the melting pot of DC.

As a TRA, I understand the whole concept of name change. My anglo name is Jewish, but I'm not christian nor jewish in any way. How odd is that?


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank you sume and papa2hapa. i appreciate the words. and i completely understand.


n3rdchik dijo:

GRVTR

Wow - awesome. You have given me a lot of food for thought.

We are struggling with the concept of "Whiteness" here, because despite both families identifying as "White-TM" for at least 2 generations - my sons are visually "Brown". Both hubby and I are trying to give our boys a positive identity and ways of dealing with @ssholes and struggling with a culture that we can hardly lay claim to, but want for our sons.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

n3rdchik, i am glad you are thinking hard on it. i hope my experience can provide one tiny piece of whatever you use to help you understand what you need to provide to them. and thank you for thinking of them in this way.


Mnemosyne dijo:

GRVTR

Well, not to argue with you ... ;-)

But it's interesting that a friend of mine had the opposite experience: she is white/European (at least part German, IIRC), was given a Spanish first name (Tia), and was adopted by her Filipino stepfather around the age of 10, so she has both a Spanish first and last name without any Latino/Hispanic/whathaveyou ancestry whatsoever. People usually assume she must be Latina because she has dark hair, but she's tall and quite pale and, well, German-looking.

So what is she?


Luis Martinez dijo:

GRVTR

Let's be Optimistic and at the same time realistic about our Circumstances of Living in The USA specially if you live in predominantly white neighbor - i'm located in central Massachusetts region with predominantly white communities in the suburbs as well mixed races as you enter the Cities of Boston Worcester, as i moved from texas where there's a vast German immigrant majority but as you move accross the map you'll notice a slight change of cultures and shades among communities where average brown Mexican might still consider them as a White folk Gringo, i personally call them Mixed race or Mediterraneans [that is] the Italians portugese Greeks jews armenians etc etc the only diference is that these people of mixed races have assimilated to the American overall masses is due their small number in need to fit in to the All American caste, if you ask them what race do they self categorice to they'd likely to call themselves "white" American as to fear being cast out of the flock however back to their own communities they will naturally carry on their Cultural ethnic lifestyle among themselves in cook their own ways in order to feel themselves like being back to their own cultures - on the other hand the average Brown mexicans are considered outsiders not for resisting to assimilate to the overhall masses as some are tries to make us believe [even though some of us are educated English speaking people] but in general is due to the misinformation propaganda and stereotypes - my strong believe in this case scenario is that if we don't do much to change the aspect our community by not educating ourselves for progress then our kids will continue suffering the pains of our own unplanned path to get somewhere in life - in our communities we must educate ourselves to Undertand that in order for our kids to live a better life we must secure ourselves financially before having kids - the way to succeed in this changing world is to catch up with the pace First before ever thinking of having kids of our own .


Ill Do Chay dijo:

GRVTR

Great post, Nezua. I find great irony with the summer tanning. My pasty european-mix sister roomed with a POC at Emory (she was what they called "pecan-tan"), Anyway, my sister was trying to "catch up" to her friend's tan, and didn't know why she couldn't until it was 'splained to her. Interesting how the standard of beauty wanders around. Of course, that's a White(tm) standard- if you are White(tm), a dark tan is lovely.

I tend to think that being White(tm) can't be done partly. It has to be all or nothing - along the lines of the single drop of blood rule. So Kindasleazy Rice and Abu Gonzalez are White(tm), because they've totally bought in (sold out?). Conyers and Waxman can never be White(tm)


BTW, I really like your White Lens series. It's very provocative, in a thoughtful way, and, at least for me, a big change from the viewpoints I'm exposed to most.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Mnemosyne, I don't know "what" she "is," to tell you the truth. I feel like I'm on a quiz show about someone else's ethnic identification. PS: I also don't know what "IIRC" means! Sorry.

I suppose your friend is whatever she says she is, feels she is. You know, the right to self-identify and all that. And don't worry about "arguing." It's such a personal experience I write of, there's no way I could really "argue" any of it.

I don't know if it is an "opposite" situat9ion...but it definitely is different, and yet has parallels. Given the differences you mention, it seems the effect would be very different than what I went through. But I do'nt know. I am not speaking to her. And even as a thought exercise, you do not mention in what society she has grown up in, what culture. Also, I have no idea how she feels about it, or if she experienced the loss I did, or what it meant to her to not have a (part)German last name in whatever society that was.

I hope I have not misinterpreted your question "So what is she?" But I don't think I have an answer. :)

--

Thanks for sharing your experience, Luis.

--

Thanks, Ill Do Chay. I appreciate your story and thoughts on the "tan" aesthetic. And I'm glad you can groove on the White Lens series. I appreciate the description.


Mnemosyne dijo:

GRVTR

(IIRC is "if I recall correctly" ... assuming I'm recalling it correctly. ;-)

I am not speaking to her. And even as a thought exercise, you do not mention in what society she has grown up in, what culture. Also, I have no idea how she feels about it, or if she experienced the loss I did, or what it meant to her to not have a (part)German last name in whatever society that was.

It was small-town Northern California (a, um, famous garlic place, if you know what I mean). I think that part of her acceptance of her "new" ethnicity is that she loves her stepfather, more than her natural mother, with whom she has a lot of conflicts. She still has a good relationship with him even though her parents are now divorced, and she kept the name he gave her even when she got married.


Mnemosyne dijo:

GRVTR

And to go onto a slightly different topic:

I'm starting to become more sensitive to this topic, because I now have a biracial nephew and niece (by blood, my husband's niece and nephew, now my niece and nephew by marriage). My nephew can't "pass" as white, any more than Obama can "pass" because of his hair and skintone. But when I look at him, I can see my husband and his brother and my father-in-law very clearly in my nephew's face; they all have the same eyes, chin and cheekbones.

But he's got a hard road to walk, because he'll never be trusted by white people (he's obviously not "white") and simultaneously will always be distrusted by black people, because he's biracial. They'll always be suspicious that he'll side with the (white) family who raised him. And my fear is, as he gets older, that he'll feel more and more pressure to "be black" and act out in the ways that are coded "black" in our society, especially drug use. He's severely ADHD and bipolar to boot (hospitalized twice for depression before the age of 13), so a little dabbling in drugs that would be no big deal for most people will have major, major repercussions to boot.

I guess what's making me sad here is realizing that there's absolutely nothing I can do as a white person to make him more comfortable in this society, and that his sister will face exactly the same problems (including the mental illness that they've both inherited from their father), and there's nothing I can do for her, either. Because they have to reject me, or be rejected by the people they resemble more than they resemble me.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Mnemosyne, you're so wrong about the dynamics within communities of color.

Rejecting a white relative wins no credit in communities of color whatsoever and I think it's sad that you think this. It's white folks who hold onto the one drop rule and who will treat your nephew and niece with racism. People of color largely accept that almost all of us have mixed blood and ethnic backgrounds; people of color are generally adept and comfortable at dealing with multiple cultural contexts.

I won't even get into your ideas about drugs, which are frankly racist not to mention factually wrong.

Also it's not true that "there's nothing you can do": demonstrate your love by becoming a serious anti-racist, work to oppose racism and white supremacy in our society, wherever you see it, within yourself or others, individual or systemic. That's the best thing you can do for people of color, whether related to you or simply your fellow citizens.


Ill Do Chay dijo:

GRVTR

I was thinking on this some more last night. Part of the problem (maybe the whole problem) is that the structure of our society is White(tm). With only minor exceptions*, success is permitted according to how White(tm) you are. I get the benefit of being white, so I'm "in with the 'in' crowd" already. But if your culture is too colorful, you cannot be White(tm) unless you shed much of that culture. I suppose that is what Nezua was describing above, that shedding of culture. It's more than merely fitting in, it requires adoption of a false identity.

Frankly, I don't know where this thought goes from here. I can only change my behavior, and I think Murka has a built in bias. Fit that mold or be considered rabble. So how can that societal bias be changed? /snarky/ Pass a law? LOL, like the Voting Rights Act, that eliminated all racism, right?

Mnemosyne, it isn't totally about genetics and resemblance. Some POCs do quite well as White(tm). Obama seems pretty close (he sure is getting the WHITELOVE from some pundits). As I said above, Condi Rice and Abu Gonzalez are White(tm). I am ignorant of POC community dynamics, but I think your expectations are likewise ignorant, and tainted by bias. I recommend learning more about it before fretting so.


*I'm thinking sports and entertainment. Not really positions of power.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Mnemosyne, you give an interesting comment. I'm beginning to understand that you are not the Mnemosyne that I already have linked. :) Confusing, those doubled nicks, eh?

I'm glad you are "beginning to become sensitive" to this issue, given your family situation. Keep reading, please, keep thinking on it all, keep talking. I'm betting you can learn a lot from the community here that will help you.

and i've learned to beware any sentence passing my own lips that contains "always" or "never." at least projected forward. just my experience. not words for humans. conceptually, we have no idea of what they even mean. we are too finite. its too easy to write our destiny with a casual phrase and then consider it truth not to be examined further.


MrSoul dijo:

GRVTR

Your post is so fascinating to me, especially about the mirrors.

I am white, American with Irish Catholic roots, but for several years in my youth (I'm 50 now), I successfully passed as someone without cerebral palsy. Not as a nondisabled person (impossible), but as someone WITHOUT those dreaded, heart-stopping, constricting words applied to me. (And it was right out of IMITATION OF LIFE; I had to stop talking to my mother for part of that time, for fear she would out me.)

I was amazed at how different people regarded me, and how much more capable and intelligent they assumed I was, just because I omitted those words in my biography. I was admitted to social circles I otherwise wouldn't have been.

And of course, like you, I couldn't fool everyone. I had some random person come up to me on the street in DC and ask me if I'd had a tendonotomy, like her son had. A what? Huh? (Answer: Yes, I have.) It was terrifying. I was always making excuses for my right hand (which tends to curl up in cold or wet weather)--I must have leaned too hard on my crutch, must have banged it, damn, ouch.

I was very good at passing--if I was willing to pay the price, I probably still could. But you know, it starts as a few lies, and finally swallows you whole. And the interesting thing is, for some of us, nothing will radicalize you faster. And then you can't go back! I guess you already figured that out, though! :)

Such wonderful writing, I have sent the link to some friends.


Lioness dijo:

GRVTR

Tu blog me encanta, de verdad. Gracias! (Y hola de Portugal.)

Your finger analogy reminded me of something. There's a lady called Joan Elliot who made a documentary called "Blue-eyed". I watched it, and it was one of the scariest, most disheartening things I ever saw. She took a group of adults (she's done the same with children), black and white, and divided them into two groups, brown eyes and blue eyes. She then shared some new "research" with them, i.e., scientists had discovered that blue-eyed people are actually thicker than the rest. What was immediately frightening was how, in minutes, some had remembered people they knew who proved this discovery, and adjusted to it in seconds it seemed. Instant and effective life revision. The rest of the exercise was heartbreaking, especially because, though it came as a shock to the whites, who all of a sudden felt attacked from all sides and could be seen bursting into tears in absolute desperation, it was a fact of life for all the blacks. They had been treated differently, for the worse, every single day of their lives. I could not have done what she did, I'd have gone a bit batty, but I dare say those white women and men, especially the blue-eyed ones, found new understanding of what it feels to be discriminated against for no good reason (skin colour? Really? REALLY?) and how easy it is to be a racist at times and not even know it.

Kudos to you, how fortunate that you did not lose yourself. You're a very powerful writer.


Kai dijo:

GRVTR

Mnemosyne, coincidentally Rachel has just posted something relevant to your comment, in which she writes:

Throughout American history the rule of hypodescent and the tragic mulatto image have shaped views of biracial children. Hypodescent involved a set of laws and rules that defined anyone with as little as "one drop of black blood" to be Black; thus, the children of interracial unions were almost exclusively defined as Black (Wright 1993; Dalmage 2000; Moran 2001). The tragic mulatto ideology portrays Black/White biracial people as poor, lost souls caught in between two worlds and accepted by no group. According to this ideology, their mere existence was tragic, and they were destined to lead a life of sorrow because of their social ambiguity (Spickard 1989). Both these views are reiterated by relatives of interracial couples, especially White relatives.

You may want to check out the whole post, and Rachel's research and writings in general, which I find to be very valuable and which you may find helpful.

Peace.


Manuela dijo:

GRVTR

Wow.

What a spectacularly moving and articulate post. Thank you so incredibly much for your willingness to share so much of your journey with us.

I am as Lilly-white as a Lilly-white adoptee can get, yet I often get into heated discussions with adoptive parents about issues relating to trans-racial adoption. I'm grateful to read what you write here, and I will most definitely be sending these adoptive parents your way. There's only so much credibility I can lend to the importance of respecting, acknowledging, and supporting the race and culture of an adoptee, when I myself am so white.

If these people absorb even the merest fraction of what you share of yourself, their attitudes towards the heritage and blood of their adopted children will be changed forever.

I, for one, will be digesting your words for days and weeks to come. Thank you.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

MrSoul, that is fascinating. thank you for telling that story. amazing how experience can overlap in such seemingly different situations.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Mnemosyne...your comment has me thinking a lot. I know a few people told you you are wrong in your thinking, and right away. I'm not saying that they were wrong in that, but I do wonder if you are confused. Perhaps you read that I was so lost in my identity and you related to your own situation and how you were helpless to change things for your child. So maybe it would be confusing for you to hear how you are wrong.

I think what I would underline is that a lot of our thinking on race and things like this is very affected by forces we may not be aware of, societal inertia to keep things as they are, thoughts in place that are what they are to bolster images of ourself...etc. It's what I mean when I talk about us all being brainwashed in this culture with White Supremacy thought. It's such a strange and mysterious area when you begin exploring it, peeling away the layers.

So I would for myself say keep your thinking flexible. Remember that you may come to realizations that challenge what you thought you already knew. As long as you can keep that flexibility there, you will do well, I think. I've had to nurture this in myself. Keep it flexible about what you project on him and expect him to not fit into, etc. You may be right some of the time. But he may live a new experience that teaches you things, too....I think it's good that you are thinking of it, though. Aware that awareness on your part will be needed. That's very good, heartening to hear.

On my own story, and in how you relate it, well. There are a lot of factors that may play into my experience. I don't know what would happen were one to be altered. So I would be careful, too, about reading too much in and applying it to someone else. It's one thing for a person to read and connect with their own experience. But it becomes tricky to assume for someone else's.

In the end, as I said, I'm glad you are becoming thoughtful about it, thinking, talking. And that you can take pieces from here to help you. See ya around.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Manuela, that means a lot. Thank you.

--

and Lioness, ¡bienvenida! ¡hola a portugal! what an interesting sounding piece.


Keliava dijo:

GRVTR

I'm glad Mr. Soul posted before me, otherwise I doubt I'd have the nerve. I'm white, don't have cerebral palsy, wasn't adopted, but as an adolescent I went through an experience similar to yours, Nezua, in that I was pressured to eradicate essential parts of my psyche/identity. I finally caved in, to a large degree, after having a nervous breakdown. I've spent almost 20 years figuring out what happened, and why, and learning to not just accept, but love, those parts of me I denied for so long.

Thank you for sharing your story.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

Thanks for having the nerve, Keliava. There are other readers here who are not of Mexican descent, or any other "Brown" people, or disabled. Please comment any time. The key to commenting worth here is respect and honesty. If that is forfeited by a commenter, all bets are off. Otherwise, I hope readers can feel comfortable sharing their truth.

Your experience here only adds to what we are talking about. Because some of this is about the dominant culture. Some of it is about adoption. Some of it is about racism. But at the core? It's all about being true to who you are. So your comment is both utterly relevant and inarguably valuabe. Thanks again.


rozele dijo:

GRVTR

just wanted to post a link that seemed related to the insightful comments from Luis Martinez amd MrSoul...

http://nobodypasses.blogspot.com is the blog connected to mattilda/matt bernstein sycamore's latest anthology, which is about passing of all kinds - around gender and sexuality as a starting point, but also race, culture, language, disability, and onwards...

as one of those massachusetts european-descended folks from a family that only became fully 'white' in the 20th century, i also wanted to put in a word for the dangers of the process Luis Martinez described. i see a danger in the efforts of some (conservative in other ways as well) latin@ and asian folks to expand whiteness(TM) - drawing the line between, say, light-skinned mestizos and criollos and darker-skinned indigenous folks: to gain access to white privilege rather than trying to dismantle the category itself.

as families like mine (ashkenazi jewish from southeastern europe) have learned over the past few generations, winning that game (as we did, along with italians, armenians, and other formerly not-quite-white folks) means losing our languages, cultures and much of the sense of history that makes solidarity with other communities possible. now, i spend too much of my time struggling within jewish communities to think that 'preserving our cultures' is always a good thing. but trading them in for whiteness means we cannot help them change in the ways we'd like to see.

thanks for the eloquence, nezua and commentators...


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:

GRVTR

thank you, rozele. you have said some great stuff, and i'm sorry i missed your comment for so long.


Terabanitoss dijo:

GRVTR

Hello
You are The Best!!!
G'night