Race: From an Outsider March 17, 2007Posted by June in Artist Thinker Articles, Blog.
To get myself back into the swing of things, I thought I would take some time to muse over something that has been such a big yet small part of my entire life. It’s big in that it has implications that are not apparent on the surface that must be dealt with, small because the sheer monotony of it all after all these years has rendered it virtually irrelevant.
I’m talking about race.
I can still remember that youthful, ignorant time when none of this mattered at all. I remember singing in Sunday school the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and having no idea what it meant when it said,”…red and yellow, black and white; They are precious in His sight…”
I have a vague memory of asking someone (I can’t remember who.) what it meant and beginning for the first time to grasp the concept of race. I finally recognized white people as white and black people as black (Though, to me, they looked brown, not black; and white people didn’t look that pasty. I could not for the life of me figure out why in the world they called American Indians “red” and Chinese “yellow.”).
Then, I have another separate memory of hearing about these people who have no definite race because they are equally or nearly equally composed of more than one race. I remember wondering what these people looked like. I remember wondering what it was like to have more than one race. Then I remember my parents informing me that I was one of these mixed kids.
I couldn’t believe it, at first. I looked at my parents and couldn’t see any differences at all. I looked at myself and couldn’t see any differences between me and all the other kids. Suddenly, I was conscious of the whispering and staring and pointing that we received whenever we set foot out the door because, at that time, interracial families were extremely rare.
Let’s hit the fast forward button to today. Things have changed a bit in that we are no longer such an oddity, at least, in the South. I’ve heard of odd things from other people who have recently ventured to that “blue” zone of the North, which I have not personally done since I was a little munchkin, or have moved from there. According to numerous personal accounts, the North is not a place where interracial families would want to live. The people up there even in big cities like Chicago still seem to view us as aliens from another planet.
So, for the most part, things are great. I have yet to meet anyone who is overtly racist, except for my aunt’s mother-in-law. Still, even when things are this great, there is still something missing. Most of the time I’m unconscious of it. It’s not something that I think about all that often; but whenever I encounter a “mutt” like myself, I can’t help but feel an extra sense of affinity to that person and a sort of joy at meeting someone who looks like me.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against anyone of any race. It’s just that one can’t help but feel like an outsider, a lone guppy among sharks. Part of the reason why has nothing to do with how people behave towards you. It’s a fact of reality that there are boundaries and cohesion among races. People are just more comfortable around people they look like. Just set foot into a room where you are the only person of your race and are surrounded by people who are of one race; and you will see what I mean. That’s the feeling that I have 24/7. To me, that is normal everyday average ordinary life, which, for the most part, I have gotten used to.
Still, another part of the reason has everything to do with how people behave towards you, whether it’s conscious or not. You do not belong. Most of the time, they know that. So they look at you as a stranger even after knowing each other for a while. This does fade after a good long time, thankfully; but the fact that it is consistent occurance without much of a breather does have an impact.
Sometimes the stranger attitude is more overt and never goes away. For example, if you are a white person looking at a half-black, half-white kid, what do you see? You see a black kid, right? If you are a black person looking at the same kid, what do you see? You see a white kid, right? Some people are quick and consistent in reminding you of this. The black people will refer to you as “white boy”, while white people will call you African American. (These days with the PC stuff around, they would not dare call you a “black boy” to your face.)
Of course, this is all assuming that you are not famous. When a “mutt” becomes famous, watch out! Suddenly, you find yourself in the middle of a great tug-of-war over which race you are. (Look at the battle over Tiger Woods a few years ago.) People on both sides demand that you choose a side and deny your true heritage. Tiger Woods did not give in; but some, such as Barack Obama, do cast one half of themselves aside because it is expedient to do so. It’s pathetic and maddening! Whenever I see this, I feel like spitting on the participants because it is pure hypocrisy. There’s no other way to look at it. (I do have to mention that, in such cases, the white half seems to generally have no claim by default.)
This is why I call myself an outsider. I am not famous. Therefore, I have no claim to my heritage. I do think of myself as being part of these races; but others don’t see it that way. So I have no race. I am a mixed-breed, a “mutt”. So all of us mixed-breeds must band together to form a new race, a race we can call our own, at least, until we become famous. 🙂