Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 3:47 PM
He said, "Obama's white." I asked why and his response was, "he's just as much white as black, why can't we have him? You guys take all the credit for him."
While his comment had me rollin' I was forced to look deeper: I may have multi-ethnic children and I do not want them to have to choose. I want then to embrace all of themselves.
Historically, white folks didn't want to claim any person with a drop of "black" blood. This was called "the one drop rule." It appeared in written law around 1910 (great-grandparents generation?) but was practiced long before that. This was the case because if you were not considered black and were considered white you were able to access all kinds of rights, freedoms, and privilege (i.e. right to vote, ownership, education, shopping at certain markets/ seats on public transportation, etc.). Keeping in mind that African and African descendants were enslaved from 1619-1865 (a few grandparents ago) here in North America, you may be able to understand why European-Americans were not trying to have that! It meant recognizing those with black African lineage as full citizens in this country and granting them access to power. You may also be able to understand why then, many black folks tried to pass (especially those of mixed ethnicities): to access the power/ privilege that existed with being white. It was actually written in law in some states that “free people of mixed race could have up to one-eighth or one-quarter African ancestry and be considered legally white.” It was that serious! Also, consider looking up the pencil test that was used to differentiate “races.” Additionally, also remember that white and black folk were not legally allowed to mix and marry… I live in the northwest. I am sure that there are places my partner and I can travel today (in 2011) and safe.
Regarding your initial question: You make a good point. I wonder how President Obama’s mother feels when the public omits her contribution to her son. Being honest here, it will break my heart (I think) to hear my child not embrace my contribution and his or her African lineage.
Mr. Baby and I frequently talk about what our child may look like. We both are verbal about our hopes and that his and/ or her phonotype (observable characteristics) represents our own. While one may consider this unnecessary or ignorant even, the reality is that we both acknowledge that the implications or consequences of “race” or skin color in America and abroad are real. While speaking these feelings may be irrational, they are real.
Want to know what I also think about? I think about whom my potentially multi-ethnic children will select as partners. I actually think about and even fear that who they select as their partner may result in the loss of me. I’m serious and I’m not lying! I’m scared. And if you think about it, this conflict or tension is greater than white/ black, we can find it is all cultures, tribes, sects, immigrant communities, across classes and religions. It’s kind of a big deal. Perhaps it has something to do with preserving ourselves, our desire to live on after death (i.e. legacy), why we wish to procreate, and explains why people will die for their peoples.
If and when I have children with Mr. Baby, it is my intention to raise our children to embrace their many heritages/ ethnicities, each being potential sources of pride and fuel. In America we tend to call those of European decent just white. In doing that we normalize white and other-ize non-white ethnicities. This leads to the perpetuation privilege and causes us to lose out on the great diversity amongst peoples. Our (Mr. B and I) children will be German, Irish, Italian, and African (as I missing anything babe?). Because I do not have information about my country of origin (yet) I am generalizing my African lineage here (i.e. I am African American).
It has been my experience that many people (including descendants of Europe) know about their ancestry. I find the fact that many people know about their ancestry (countries versus continents of origin, culture, tradition, etc.) quite awesome and inspiring. And I am so jealous.
Finally, remember that race is a social construct. It is my belief that there is only one amongst humans - human. Ethnicity however, such as Ghanaian, Eritrean, Nigerian, Polish, Russian, etc., describes c common cultural tradition or customs and links us to our roots and ought to be celebrated, learned from, and embraced.