Showing posts with label race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label race. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I've engaged in and overheard several more conversations on Wright this week. I've thought a lot about why Reverend Wright's words aren't only "problematic" and sometimes perhaps "ignorant" but also "threatening" and "scary," why Obama's "faith" in him makes Obama a terrible unknown (though Obama's two books give strong clues), why there's some sort of implication of a "betrayal" to come.

I really think the real fear has little to do with Reverend Wright himself, and little to do with Barack Obama's faith or personal judgment, but plenty to do with perceived racial allegiances and everything to do with Obama's mixed race body.

It's all too familiar -- on some level scenes from D.W.Griffith's Birth of a Nation play on the screens of white American brains. I've read since that the racist subtext of the Clinton 3am commercial and its connection to Griffith's film/primal white American anxieties did not go unnoticed (New York Times 3/11/2008 -- I'm only a bit behind). The Clinton campaign willingly traded anxieties about the ability of a female president to respond to a crisis for more insidious anxieties about the possibility that a black president might betray "us." The suffragists should not have been impressed.

For those whose memory of Griffith's revisionist history of Reconstruction America is dim, Birth of a Nation adapts a novel The Clansman with the titular character and those of his ilk as the original American heroes. After post-Civil War blacks are freed, they take advantage of the misplaced generosity of the North, engaging in debauchery. Worse, a black militia forms and determines to take over the south.

Silas Lynch ("the mulatto"), the mentee of traitor to his race and powerful politician Stoneman, organizes "his people", who not only vote but also gain office. Scenes of whites judged by all-black juries and shoeless black senators ensue (as well as famous attempted rape scenes). The white minority is disempowered and nearly disenfranchised, certainly disheartened. Miscegenation is legalized; the real horror is revealed. Only the newly formed Klan can restore order (once they discover the power of the white sheet to terrorize small children on the beach) . . .

Birth of a Nation and its images linger like a national nightmare hanging vaguely on after awakening.

I've heard the argument that Obama is not "black enough," a charge he dealt with throughout his life and in part by attending Reverend Wright's church as a means of connecting with the African American community from which he had been largely excluded by his upbringing. Now the charge is that, with ties to a Black Liberation Theologist, (explained in a Forbes Q&A with a writer on BLT) he is "too black," that he not only believes in racial equality but also, like the black militia of the Birth of a Nation, believes that black people have not only the same right to walk on the sidewalk as white people but also the right to shove whites off.

I want to talk about the economy, taxes, trillion dollar wars, health care, poverty, education, Clinton, McCain, Obama -- but we can't do that with lingering nightmares from the birth of this nation. (And be honest -- don't you kind of feel like someone is keeping us distracted on purpose?)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Anti-Racist Parent Meme

Judy tagged me for the Anti-Racist Parent Meme, which was a bit hard -- but how could I not do it? The questions are great, and she called me one of her homeys, which honors me.

1. I am:
Norwegian, German, Irish, and English.

2. My kid is/kids are:
Little Bun is Norwegian, German, Irish, English, Italian and Welsh.
Miss I is Kembata (ET).

3. I first started thinking more about race, culture, and identity when:
To be honest, it’s probably all too familiar. It was when I was in kindergarten and I wanted a black doll and a family member in an older generation said that was not to be – white mommas had white daddies who had white children. But my parents gave me the doll, and in that place and that moment that was revolutionary. Would that it had not been.

Because I lived in a rural white community as a young child, I had few preconceived notions about anybody but rural white people. This combined with my parents’ 60's idealism was strangely protective -- and too much so perhaps -- against racism but also against awareness of race and culture.

My thoughts on race, culture and identity complexified in college as my world opened up, and it became clear the way they are tied to class and material concerns, but it was still largely academic in the way that whiteness allows.

Little Bun was fortunate to be born into our world of that moment -- a racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse working class neighborhood wherein a little blonde boy was in the minority and his playmates would speak Spanish. But it was the planning for Miss I's arrival a couple years out that made us become practical. I wish now we really claimed our position as "anti-racist parents" when we had just one white child.

4. People think my name is:
African American. In New York, when I first met people, they would say “Oh, I thought you’d be black.” They say the same to dh, as we share his last name. This expectation seems almost inexplicable here, where the name is quite common among black and white people. (Here I share the last name with one of my best friends, who is indeed black).

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Loving people you don’t have to love. The boundaries of our family have never been defined genetically, or in any other traditional way, and this has led to an unwieldy network of extended relations that I wouldn’t have any other way.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Multiple Neuroses, but I suspect that this is what I will pass on most.

7. My child’s first word in English was:
Little Bun: Momma, followed shortly by “ball” and “I do it,” but these all followed his word below.
Miss I: “HiMomma,” on the telephone, from Ethiopia. “No,” to Daddy, in Ethiopia.

8. My child’s first non-English word was:
Little Bun: “Agua.” At two, he would give up this word, along with other Spanish words, insisting that because he did not hear them in our new city, they were “baby talk.”
Miss I: I don’t know. I know she said “Machina” and “Ishi” (it’s okay, which she repeated to herself for reassurance until she was sure it really was). Aye-yuh (either an endearment or “I see you,” “I’ve found you”).

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Ishi, ishi (it’s okay). The AmharEnglish combination with most uses is the following: “Ca ca or keum (stop) the po-po.” It’s now our life’s motto here at Chez Bloom and we like to spread the philosophy.

10. One thing I love about being a parent is:
The surprise. I think of myself as someone who hates surprises (no surprise parties, thank you – please tell me what you’ve gotten me for Christmas so I won’t wonder, no spontaneous trips) but my children are all of these things in the best possible way.

11. One thing I hate about being a parent is:
That I am ultimately not in control, though this is also the most beautiful thing. In my moments of clarity I am aware that I am blessed to watch the unfolding of these extraordinary little lives, which will become big lives that will take journeys I could never have imagined.

12. To me, being an anti-racist parent means:

My daughter likes to play “Matchy Match,” which she also calls the “Compare Game,” identifying things that are the same according to mostly random qualities. This is something that comes out of preschool card matching games and Memory, I’m sure, but it took a turn that should not have seemed unusual yet took me by surprise anyway. She looked at her skin. “I brown. No, I no brown. You no brown, I no brown. You pink, I pink. We ‘matchy match.’” Then she thought for a moment and frowned, “I brown,” she said. Then she flipped her palms up, and gestured for me to do the same. “Matchy Match!” she screamed happily.

I was nonplussed, part of me felt defeated by her strong desire for matchy-match. But being an anti-racist parent means to me striking a balance between matchy-match and difference, surrounding my children with a community full of vibrant difference, and recognizing that the rights of all people are dependent on the protection of those rights for others – in short, teaching my children that all of our interests are intertwined without resorting to a color-blind and a too na├»ve universality.

I tagged Erin, and she accepted the challenge. Check out her thoughtful responses -- and great stories about being the mother of two amazing little boys, at Holding Still.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Celebrate a girl like her

Dawn gives a heads up from Carmen who gave a heads up that Kiri Davis's film A Girl Like Me could win her a $10,000 scholarship from cosmogirl.
In her powerful short film, Davis repeats an old experiment in which young black children demonstrated a preference for white dolls, with painful results. When I first saw it, I cried. And then I sent a link to everyone I know.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Once upon a time is upon us

You've probably read this news elsewhere, but Disney's first black princess is finally in the works. (The Lion King's Nala did not count.) I like to think it's because of my Rant of the Week and the complaints we lodged during our Disney trip, but instead it's just about d*mn time. I'm delighted the time is coming, even if it is 2009, but "voodoo spells?"

Friday, February 23, 2007

Miss I's new love

Snap n Style Tamara, how we love you. You have as many shoes as Miss I., and some of them even sparkle. You have a bigger wardrobe than either Miss I or me. And it mixes and matches so delightfully! And your friends look like our friends (we have and love them all, but Linh, who will be arriving for Easter). We spend hours dressing you -- if only there were more time in the day!
We only have one complaint. The brush included with your package gets helplessly entangled with your beautiful, dense curls. Please, f-p, a comb for Tamara, a brush for Elena. That's all we're asking.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Adoption Awareness?

I'm a little hesitant about "Adoption Awareness Month." I'm not sure exactly what it means: awareness that there are families like mine ("awareness" being about as useful as "tolerance"), promotion of adoption or placement for adoption, or advocacy for adoption reform. Maybe all of these things? It isn't exactly like Transplant or Breast Cancer Awareness . . .

But I do want to thank Sesame Street for making me cry this morning. Word on the Street is that Gina is bringing Marco home from Guatemala tomorrow, and so far it was handled quite sensitively, and she couldn't live in a better neighborhood for a multicultural family and for finding great role models for her son.

--
In my real RantotheWeek (which is a bit inaccurate, as I think they're more like Q3 or 4) I'll post about Disney and Disney Princesses (and the history behind the exclusion of black princesses later.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dear McDonalds,
Please stop making us say "two boy toys, please."
Please stop making anyone say "boy toy" just to get a toy with playability value.
And please stop using images of happy black employees all the while making skinny white girls a prize.
Sincerely,
The Blooms

Note to self: No way, no matter how much she loves her nuggets.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

We're not all Black

I've been reading "birth project" just for a short while, so I've been trying to go back and catch up. I'm going to need some time to really focus and respond in a more direct way to this post
While I mull, I really want you to read it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're All Black

The "I am African" ad campaign has some people (lots of people, really) fired up. Maybe I just can't get fired up about anything right now -- afterall, my only response to the racially segregated Survivor season is that our family won't participate in anything where we can't be on the same team (which in the end has more radical consequences than any complaint I could make - the networks have stopped reading my hate mail).

Maybe it's just ineffective, too close to the ONE campaign, or just downright patronizing as all uses of celebrity utimately are or seem. Maybe they are really racist, suggesting that Africa should matter because of our (whites') primal origins, and not on its own terms.

Maybe it is confounding and confusing, just as we are in our household: when ds had to mix his skin color and name it in school yesterday as part of a unit on self-awareness and family, he painted a warm shade, tested the patch on his skin (a close match, if a little darker) and named it (and himself) "chocolate chip," despite having shared at home that he thinks Miss I. is chocolate and he's cinammon ice cream.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Oh no they didn't.

Maybe I already blogged about this, but if I did, it's appropriate, since it's about a rerun.
Tonight NBC actually reran the Law and Order SVU episode in which a white couple adopts a black child in order to have him killed for the insurance money.
Oh yes they did.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Now for something completely different

I'm working on a post about our new notariety, but in the meantime:
An aa woman in her late twenties, early thirties approached me at the grocery store and asked, pointing to babe in hip carrier, "Where did you get that?"
Stunned silence from me.
She continued. "I love it. My daughter's about the same size. Does it take the pressure of your back?"
"Oh, the hip carrier!" Tremendous relief and embarrasment. "Yes we love it. I think it's from Babies r Us online."
"Well, it looks like it'd be great." Warm smile.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

La Famiglia

I missed Five Ingredients Friday again.
Actually, I missed Friday. I have no idea where it went.
As I looked through my recipes at 5 to midnight (I was up, so why not), I was reminded of all the things I'll never have the time or free hands to cook again. This includes anything from vegetable fajitas with papaya salsa to anything in the Death By Chocolate cookbook. A long time ago I had hoped to go to culinary school. Now the closest I get is Hell's Kitchen, and we eat out of cans, boxes and yogurt containers.

---

But the family reunion:
We took ds and Miss I to the dh's family reunion today - a very large annual gathering of very Italian Americans. (Does it count as a reunion if it happens every year?)

Last year we thought we were attending our last, and today we were pleasantly surprised.

Years ago when I was first dating dh, the reunion's long-running rituals were still in place: the men of the oldest generation in attendance (excepting of course, the non-Italian men who had married into the family), would gather at tables while the women prepared dinner, the younger men played bocce, and the children played. Anyone who wasn't a bit Italian felt a bit out of place, no matter how welcome, but it was always fun and strange and anachronistic, and the food was wonderful (this is not a stereotype, people).

Last year, however, we were waiting for our second child (whom we were still expecting through a transracial domestic adoption) and while we (dh and I) had never placed much importance on "blood ties" (and to be honest, we went to the reunions nearly annually more out of my curiosity than dh's interest) we were more than usually struck by how strange it was that a little bit of shared dna rated an invitation to a picnic. Family, to our minds, was so much a matter of choice. So we could just as happily have gone to that family picnic as to the aa family birthday celebration at the shelter beside. We teased that the next year, we'd be just as welcome there and would likely have more fun.

This year, though, we realized that while family is indeed a matter of choice, mil and fil chose this family every year. Plus I'm still pretty curious.

The new joke was that Miss I. would not be welcome given Ethiopia's on-going celebration of their defeat of occupying Italians (and the Ethiopians have plenty to celebrate - while once occupied, Ethiopia managed never to be controlled by Western imperialists). But we were proud of Miss I. She didn't mention the Ethiopian/Italian conflict, Mussolini or Haile Silassie once. Instead she smiled at everyone from the safety of the hip carrier and later as she tried to join the still exclusively (now older) men's bocce game.

And we were proud of them.

Certainly things have changed now that a new generation is the oldest (ggma is the only one of hers still healthy enough to attend). But we weren't sure how they would take to the newest Bloom or the idea of adoption at all (we are not close enough for them to have known of our plans in advance, and except for this one skippable day per year it never really would have mattered).

We arrived late, and mil had gone armed with pictures, so most everyone had had time to process. Still we heard nothing but praise for her beautiful dimples, hearty congratulations to her grandparents, and "She has our curly hair," in contradistinction to myself and ds, as we have the straightest, blondest hair of anyone "in" the family. No one was unenthusiastic, and no one was over-enthusiastic (which to be honest sometimes feels worse). Strangely, it seemed as though they found us very normal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

We're not poster children/parents

So we've traded our anonymity in for our opportunity to parent Miss I. - anonymity I never even realized I liked so much, but would still give several times over for this little girl.

Yes, we were prepared for attention, both positive and negative (and the negative-positive attention I've read called the "I'm down wit dat" attitude), as we'd read just about every good book or article (and on-line class) pertaining to transracial parenting and conspicuousness. What I hadn't prepared for was the mismatch in sociability: Where I am inclined to shyness and homebodiness, and my husband and son are more social than I but still reserved, my daughter (while clinging to me, and only while clinging to me - otherwise, she's very shy and anxious right now) is inclined to catch and keep the eye of every stranger we would otherwise pass but are now forced to meet. Some of this is cultural and some of it constitutional. (A friend tells me, wisely, that I and I. both needed the other's influence for balance.)

But all of those strangers we meet have opinions about us - expressed and unexpressed - that they wouldn't have about a single-race family. Because the world is full of same race families - and who has time to judge them all?

And those opinions will affect how they view every other multiracial (particularly transracial adoptive) family they come into contact with. A tantrum in front of an aa family can make me feel like I am showing aa families that white parents are incompetent at parenting black children. A tantrum in front of an old white woman confirms for that old white woman every negative thought she's ever had about unruly black children.

This feeling is not entirely unfamiliar - we were relatively poor by American standards when ds was born, and I always felt like I had to keep him cleaner, calmer, quieter than if we'd had money (ridiculous now) - but the stakes are higher now. A snotty nose, a tear-stained cheek, her (temporarily) dry scalp - all these things call into question my competence or her value --

-- but this I was prepared for.

In truth, it's the positive interactions with strangers that are getting to me. Even these positive interactions,where I. holds onto me tightly and just beams at a stranger who beams back, seems to mean something more than a smiling child in her mother's arms ought to. And a couple of days ago that was enough to make me cry.

But then, it's only been a week and a half, and I'm a little more than a little tired.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Black and white and brown and pink

Ds was thinking today about the fact that I. will be the only brown person (so far) in our family. He loves that she will be brown. He thinks brown is beautiful. But he thinks it would have been easier for her if Daddy had been born brown, so we'd have two browns and two "white" (he says hesitantly, trying on someone else's word, before replacing it with the more intuitive "pink") people in our family.
It's been so interesting to see his thoughts about race, and what it means for I., evolve.