Monday, March 17, 2008

Half-White and High-Yellow Like Me

I'm the product of an act which was illegal at the time it was committed.

OK, first of all, it happened in Pakistan, so I'm sure it was illegal there (sex, that is), but when I finally came out of my birth mother's canal here in the United States, I was literally born illegally.

I am miscegenated.

Just like Barack Obama.

I am a miscegenated bastard out of Detroit.

(Michigan, luckily, repealed its anti-miscegenation laws in 1887 regarding the legal marriage of blacks, not necessarily births. The last anti-miscegenation law was repealed in 1967. I was born in 1964.)

I'm a house Negro. I'm the Master's girl. I'm the Oreo. I'm the toast (white bread, black burn). I'm the outsider.

Just like Barack Obama.

And all I really want is for America to live up to the ideals that it's suppose to believe, that are written in the Constitution.

But sometimes it's not so easy to do so.

At times the anger becomes so great. And my skin attracts that anger. And I understand every freaking drop of it.

And I can step away. Because of my skin.

If, of course, it was 1934 or 1959 or something and the movie was Imitation of Life.

But it's not, and I wouldn't turn my backs on my brothers and sisters for anything in the world.

But others have (and maybe I have at times, too) and so it's not so easy to trust. Anyone.

The other side of my miscegenated self feels all of the freedom in the world. It walks freely to the store, to the good neighborhood, the fancy restaurant, the Hermes store. Humph, who am I fooling? I've never been in a Hermes store. But I have been to Disney World.

There's a lot that my other side likes to do, but mostly it likes to get away from race. It would like to live in peace, above it all, but there's just so many different people in the world who aren't like me.

In America, there is no way to get away from race, no matter how hard you try.

I grew up in an African-American home with my wonderful, pre-Depression Era black parents. They were cotton and tobacco pickers. They were treated like dirt. Not poor dirt, but poor, Black dirt. They raised themselves up from nothing and obtained more things than either of them thought possible. They found dignity among their people, and were always wary of white people. And through it all, they did not hate white people, but they never could learn to trust them. And can you blame them?

I have heard everything from AIDs was a manufactured disease to OJ was innocent to God Damn America. And I have shaken my head and thought, how could anyone believe any of that?

Well, it's easy if you've been lied to time and again and you try to find some reason why bad things keep happening to you. It's easy if you try everything within your power to become fully human and you aren't allowed to. In fact, after a while you don't give a damn anymore and you stay within your community and say "fuck you."

But really, that's crass and boring. So crass, so boring. And it's a model that doesn't work anymore.

My other side has a model, too. Prior to Geraldine Ferraro's words recently, I never wanted to believe what I've read and heard regarding white liberals: they only care about you when you are poor and on the bottom. Once you reach a certain nadir, then it's time for them to put you back into your place. I know this is not the full truth, but if a black man who has obvious qualifications for the presidency of the United States (Harvard Law School, Harvard Law Review, State and U.S. Senator) is just lucky to be black and in the position of frontrunner to the presidency, then you've got to wonder about what you've heard all of these years.

I live in an incredibly poor neighborhood in the Bronx. It's not dissimilar to my hometown of Detroit. Here are some things I have wondered. I have often wondered why there is trash in the streets, why there are loud talking and rude children, why the houses are falling down and why it seems like no one is trying to pick themselves us.

I lived in Philadelphia for a few years. I have wondered why the Badlands are worse than portions of Detroit and the Bronx combined. I was in New Orleans the week before Hurricane Katrina blew into town. And I screamed at the teevee for five days after that Sunday and wondered why thousands of people were stranded in the hot, humid, flooded streets of downtown New Orleans.

And I realize that there are answers to these questions that are both false and true. And I don't know what to do about it. There almost seems to be no answer. No relief. No justice. No peace.


You all just crack me up, America. You really do.

First he was a radical Muslim. Now he's a radical Black Nationalist Christian. Nevermind the Harvard. The career. The carriage. The words. Some people just think he's a house Negro. I'll leave it up to you to figure out who thinks that last one.

Yes, America, through it all, you do make me laugh.

When Obama gives his speech today regarding race in America, it's going to make one hell of a talking point for several days. But I wonder, will we finally laugh together? If we cannot heal this most deep and festering of wounds, how are we going to get through all of the other problems that face us?

I just wonder at it all.

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