I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bill Clinton is blacker than me

I am having this very interesting discussion with my stepmother and sister. My stepmother is the child of a Black serviceman and his Japanese war bride, who loves her some sashimi but is basically a "race woman."

My sister and I are what happens when you let hillbillies and foreigners into your college. Our father is a Jamaican immigrant with Black slaves and Scottish plantation owners and Chinese merchants all in there. Our mother is of many generations of Irish, Germans and Dutch in Appalachia.

I don't know but I imagine my parents related to each other as collegians, as bohemians in a shrinking, post-race world. I think that Black Power happened to them, that it made my father feel that he had a birthright he was neglecting, that our racial identity became a turf issue for them, and that his pursuit of that path eventually killed their marriage.

We were talking about how, even though we both know the politics of standing up and being counted, it feels inauthentic to be as pale as we are and insist on being Black. My sister was saying she felt "limited" in her ability to relate. My stepmother was kind of dismissing it, like oh, we're just people. But everybody knows that's not the half of it.

Black is not a birthright. It's a club. And the shibboleths -- the secret passwords -- change every day. Skin color is only a teensy part of it. I can hang A LITTLE BIT. I have read my Angela Davis and my Toni Morrison and I AM very politically involved and I DO have an extensive network of Black professionals (IF I namecheck my Dad). But even by that calculus, Bill Clinton is Blacker than me.

My sister, who never insisted on a Black identity, always could and still can hang more than me. Could dance, had more Black friends, boyfriends,...

In Columbia, there was enough of a critical mass of iconoclastic Black people, that you could kinda point to them and say, y'know, like that -- I'm Black like them. Plus, everybody knew me.

Anywhere else, it's not my skin color but my behavior that makes people assume I'm white. I could be ebony and I'd still be a Unitarian. I still wouldn't know the catch phrases circulating on the HBC's. I still wouldn't see the relevance of Terry MacMillan or Tyler Perry. I still wouldn't find comedians funny who talk about how their momma used to slap them around. I'd still have a lot of gay friends. I'd still shop at Goodwill.

Well, and I'd still be married to a white guy. Because the other thing I noticed is that a lot of people cared about what my deal was racially when I was "in play." When it's like, are the Black women going to hate me if I date you. Now that I'm married, who cares? That draft is over and I'm under contract.

Interesting race/ gender intersection there. That you could have a maiden racial identity like a maiden name.

1 comment:

Dinosaur Mom said...

Post-modernism. OMG. It turned out to have practical value after all. Kind of.