Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More Than Just My Browness

Post finished June 6, 2009...

So my organizational skills really stink! I keep swearing that I will blog daily, and I don't. An interesting result of my self-examination has produced two posibilities. First, at the beginning of my academic pursuits a particularly evil and jealous little woman told me that she "didn't care how smart" I was. She declared, "You're an organizational disaster". While that accusation is wholly untrue, there are moments. Second, because I have dedicated this blog to mixed race, it is really not part of my every day in a blogable way. So when life takes over, mothering, marriage, performing and exhaustion; blogging falls by the wayside. I have decided today, that is not a bad thing.

So... I am not new to conversations about wholeness and identity. I get that my race is not my whole identity. But I will say that because my socio-racial location, scholarship, and my job are all wrapped up in race and critical race theory; race often feels central to my identity. I don't think that it is, which is really really interesting to me and a little bit of a relief. When I interviewed from my new job, one of the things I asked the folks in the interview was whether they were hiring me because they thought I had something extraordinary to contribute to the institution or because they have always had a black person in the positon. It was really important to me that I was being hired for me and what I was bringing to the table not because I was black. I am more than a demographic. I am more than a particular race or gender. I am an amazing person.

This is not a new position for me. When I was a young girl, elementary school aged, I tried out for cheerleading with my catholic youth organization team. I made it. On the way out of the gym, elated, I overheard a mother say something like "she only made it because she is black". I was the only black child there so there was no mistaking who she was talking about. I was crushed. Here is the downside to transracial adoptions without cultural support; I had noone to process this moment with. I was ashamed and embarrased and I didn't tell my mother; I dropped off the team instead. I remember an overwhelming sense that I didn't want to be on the team just because I was black and they had to take me. I didn't understand affirmative action. I understood discrimination. I understood being a token. I understood not being seen.

Throughout my life I have avoided what felt like privileged spaces reserved for tolerable blacks. I really don't have an academic articulation or even a position about affirmative action. But, I can tell you what the application of affirmative action feels like on my body. It feels like privilege and maybe in my case it is. I know that without affirmative action initiatives I wouldn't have any access to these spaces, but there is something about my family, friends, and in particular my sister not having access in the same way that makes it feel like privilege. I never understood why I could go to school and receive one kind of aid and she couldn't get any.

My sister and I are 11 months apart. We were raised like twins, I don't know how old we were when my grandmother stopped dressing us alike. Because of that, the differences between us were very very apparant. Until the end of graduate school, with my fellowship which is for underrepresented populations and allegedly not race based, I never took money allocated for black or brown peoples. The way I understand this choice not to take racialized money is that I feel that, in comparison to other black people in America, I have had more access and privilege through my white family. I was raised and nurtured in the dominant codes of this society that are mandatory for mobility and access. I feel like that money and those spaces were reserved for particular experiences that I have not had.

I had a classmate in graduate school who had the same fellowship as I did. She finished her dissertation yesterday! I am so very proud of her!!!! Go Shay!!!!! She actually received her fellowship first. In a conversation, in which she was trying to get me to fight for a fellowship of my own, she revealed to me that her underrepresentation stemmed from her native americanness. I also, allegedly, have a maternal grandmother who was a south west native american who resided on a reservation. My classmate was taking me to task for not using my native americanness to get funding. I refused. I refused because, like my blackness, I felt like I had not had a lived experience that qualified as "native american". I find this a responsible behavior around racialized initiatives. I get a lot of criticism from my feminist and critical race cohort because I keep suggesting that we, the academics, really need to pay attention to our privilege. The conversation goes something like - we are privilieged just by virtue of being in the academy. To which they respond - we are oppressed people of color. Period. I think there is a middle ground, imagine that - I see a middle ground - where we move between those oppressed and privilege spaces. Maybe that will be my next dissertation. Maybe one dissertation will be enough.

I don't know if this is related to my mixed raceness or not. I have no other me to compare the possibilties to. I do know that my socio-racial location is part of me, but not all of me. I will honor that distinction, and live that distinction, for the rest of my life.

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