Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Placing People Outside Boxes

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Yesterday I was breezing through a forum that I sometimes go to when I happened upon a debate about how to categorize an actor’s children.  The kids were beautiful but upon first glance you wouldn’t necessarily label them as African American.  Probably not upon second or third look either.  But many adherents of the sould patrol insisted that the children be labeled black because their mother was black (although many argued she was possibly biracial herself) and that a drop of black blood hands your soul over to the black community.  Some argued that they were possibly call themselves biracial or, the dreaded terms mixed or mulatto, but most held that the children were black and only black although their father was obviously white.

Its interesting that although a lot of white constituents want to hold that Barack Obama is biracial many African Americans will debate that he is black, although not African American, and seemed somewhat gleeful that recently he obtained bodyguards, thus underlining their point.  They contended that only a black man would need security this early in the game.

I wonder if any other racial group has problems trying to figure out what call people or how to include or exclude them?  Keanu Reeves is of Asian/White parentage but most people just call him white.  I think Keanu just calls himself white.  Perhaps its because he looks white.  On the other hand Russell Wong has played mostly Asian roles but he doesn’t deny he has a white mother.  Whereas most non Asians look at Russell and think, wow that’s a handsome Asian man a lot of Asians think, “That hapa man is fine.”

Its like we are on the playground and picking up sides for dodgeball as we try to decide who is on our racial team or not.  Everybody of color wants Tiger Woods.  My husband and I debate over is he more black or is he more Asian although Tiger tried to mess us up with calling himself Cablinasian, as if we can triangulate him.  Everyone else seems kind of easy: Halle Berry is black, Dean Cain with the Korean grandfather still looks Asian so he goes with them,  and Christina Aguilara is Latina.

Since race is a social construct the question begs when will we dismantle this wall?  No one knows, we’ve been building it up for so long and its afforded us some comfort (although some disconnection) that we can’t seem to let it go yet.  Although I love Halle Berry I often find it hard to hold her up as the example of black beauty.  At best she is but one model of the array of loveliness the black race has to show but its hard to dismiss that its a melding of the features of her white mother and black father that helped to create her.  But a lot of blacks would like to discount the fact that she has a white mother, although she was the one who was ever present in her life as opposed to her father.  Her mother is the one who raised her so why does her mother’s race have to take a backseat to who she is as a woman?

Although others might have problems with being bicultural in the melting pot of American I believe those who are black/white might have it the worst depending on how you look.  If you look black then its easier to just acclimate but for those who look racially ambiguous like the actors children have a harder time.  People are constantly asking what are you and if the black kids know “what” you are they may accuse you of passing.  Its basically accusing someone of being a sellout although they may not have necessarily bought in.  And why would they if they don’t look black?  People might argue that the police wouldn’t find it hard to distinguish Obama from a white man but what about Wentworth Miller

New writer David Matthew discusses passing in the late 20th century in his book Ace of Spade.  In an excerpt from the book that was printed in NYT, Matthew talks about how he went over to the white side.

Lunch tray in hand, I made a final and (at least I like to tell myself) psychologically logical choice, one I would live with, and wrestle with, for a full decade to come: I headed toward the kids who looked most like me. Goofy bell-bottoms and matching Garanimals? Check. Seventies mop-top? Check. Then a ruddy boy with blond bangs lopped off at the eyebrows looked up from his Fantastic Four comic book, caught my eye across the cafeteria, scooched over in his seat and nodded me over.

~David Matthews

Black people like to think that whites can tell between what is real and what is fake but then what was the point of laws that discouraged misecegenation and intermarrying with mulattos, quadroons, and octaroons if they could? 

Scientists love to say that there are no racial markers for race although current genetic tests can trace your heritage back to specific continents.  So what if you look black but most of your genetic markers show that most of your ancestry comes from some place other than Africa?  That is exactly what happened with scholar Henry Louis Gates.  On the PBS special “African American Lives” he took a genetic test to hopefully trace back his lineage to Africa and following the matrilineal and patrilineal line it showed both were rooted in Europe.  They also told him he was 60% European.  This is a man with two black parents but gentically we might consider him more white than black.   He’s also married to a white female and they have two children.  Should their children consider themselves more black than white?

Perhaps its time we let the one drop  rule go as well as other racial categories that do nothing but help to keep us seperated.  Why should there be modifiers in front of the word American if we are all one country?

In the debate on what to categorize the children one black mother of a biracial child weighed in.  “Why do we have to call them anything?  Why can’t they just decide for themselves?”

(edited on 8July07 at 8:56am)


Written by rentec

7 June, 2007 at 12:43 am

One Response

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  1. Dean Cain’s grandfather is Japanese!


    11 September, 2010 at 4:56 am

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