Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Some Day I Will Write a Book About Blackness

Gary Kamiya, in a Salon article, writes about being biracial and how his own choice to completely eschew a racial identity is different than Obama's choice to embrace a black identity. Kamiya's article is really good at showing how he comes to not question Obama's choice to identify as black, despite being biracial, but really, perhaps, for the first time, recognizing what it means for someone who is biracial to make that choice and how that choice, paradoxically,brings Obama to a place where race is not the chief definer of his identity. Kamiya writes:

"The essence of Obama's politics, his call for reconciliation and unity, is thus deeply grounded in the long and painful creation of his own double identity. It is, almost literally, sealed in blood -- the mixed blood, black and white, that flows through his veins. With Obama, the movement is always toward a double affirmative. Not neither black nor white, which is the way I and many mixed-race people identify ourselves, but both black and something larger."

The other day I was talking to a colleague, a black Latin American woman, and we got to talking about the election (the place where all conversations seem to end these days). And we talked about how we recognized ourselves in Barack Obama, whether or not we wound up voting for him. We recognized in him the experience of being the only black kid in the room, being the first black person to hold this or that postion, accomplish this or that thing, being the black person who makes other people (read: white people) feel good about the possibilities of integration, the black person who stands in as the evidence of someone else's colorblindness. And we recognized in Obama the work that has gone in to fashioning a black identity that can navigate all of that. Because, while blackness is not always a choice for some of us (my colleague and I, because of what we look like, can hardly choose to be anything else within the American racial schema), how we understand and live our blackness requires the same kind of choice Kamiya describes Obama making. This notion, that is so prevalent currently, that blackness is monolithic, that black people identify primarily as black, that blackness is the chief definer of our experience, is so patently untrue as to be laughable to most black people. Every single black person has to figure out what it means to be black, has to figure what relationship they have to the "black community" [side note: in my book, perhaps I will seek out this "black community"--where is it located? do you need a pass to get in?], has to figure where an individual self does and does not share mental and emotional space with a black self. Of course Obama comes to a place where he is "both black and something larger." That's the place where most black people, not just "mixed race" blacks, live and that people continue to fail to recognize that is a testament to how much work around race still needs to be done in this country.

3 comments:

Me said...

Hi Consuela,

I enjoy reading your blog. This particular post could have been written by me...especially these lines: " Every single black person has to figure out what it means to be black, has to figure what relationship they have to the "black community" [side note: in my book, perhaps I will seek out this "black community"--where is it located? do you need a pass to get in?], has to figure where an individual self does and does not share mental and emotional space with a black self.

This has been my journey it seems my whole life. I am a writer so I did write about it. My memoir is called Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain. It debuts on March 4.

Maybe you'll find something familiar in my story.

Peace.

Lori

Carleen Brice said...

I'm with Lori! Loving this blog! So happy to find it!!! And Lori I saw your book in the same issue of Essence mine is in! Great luck with your debut!

Gu said...

Brava.