Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mixed Reflections

In the past week there were two events that critically impacted my life and my thinking both as a leader of color; and as a mixed race person in an interracial marriage.

Let's start with the negative event first. Really it would be hysterical if it weren't so damn tragic. Let's talk about Louisianna! "Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long".( And based on this deep rigorous research and statistical data, our friend Keith has been denying interracial couples the right to marry for about 30 years. Bardwell appeared on CBS's The Early Show this morning and proudly announced that he did tell this couple where to get married "so I don't know what the problem is". Bardwell shared his "concern for the offspring" and then admitted that he also recuses himself from marrying drunk people..."who can come back when they sober up" - mixed race couples cannot.

When I teach my mixed race class, one of the very first things we talk about is that when my husband and I got married in 1999 it was still illegal in Alabama. Even though the federal government had repealed the anti-miscegenation laws that outlawed the marriage of interracial couples, many states took nearly 30 years to do so (and in Bardwell's world...still counting). These laws were not just an American phenomenon; they existed in Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa as well. These laws often banned not only marriage between people of different races, but they also banned living together and intercourse.

It makes me wonder, what are people afraid of? Are mixed race people taking over the world? Are mixed race people privy to secret knowledge, privilege and power? Are mixed race people depleteing our source of labor? Will mixed race cause our prisions to empty? Will mixed race cause black and white populations to disappear completely? What IS the threat? Could interacial couplings produce offspring capable of running the free world??? Oh, wait...THEY CAN!

Moving on...the really positive thing that happened to me this week was my leadership retreat. My office took 20 "underrepresented students" into the woods for two days. We had workshops, round tables, fires, smores, and adventure challenges. They taught us more than we taught them, and we walked away with a community. The biggest lesson learned is that diversity inside diverse populations is often overlooked and possibily holds the key to solidarity and community building at our campus. My students were shocked to find out how different they were from the participants that looked like them, and came from the same places as them. One young man proclaimed "I have more in common with the lesbians than the other latino kids". Amen.

The point that connects these two moments? Difference is an important and necessary part of moving any multicultural community forward. And in case it is not clear, based on current events, the world is multicultural. Multiculturalism, mixed race, interrace is unavoidable - feel free to embrace it. The recognition of and utilization of difference; as well as the intersections of difference, gives us the tools to respond to a diverse global community. Doing one thing one way only guarantees becoming obsolete. Here is to hoping that people like Bardwell are obsolete. Our student groups have become just that, even though they are seen as "multiculturalism" on campus, this retreat helped them see that being people of color is not the same as being truly diverse.

Congratulations to Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay on their recent marriage. I hope that this experience adds a dynamic of accountability to your community interactions. I also hope that the world community understands what happened here and starts applying the same outrage to issues of equity in marriage for all humans on the planet. Gay marriage, heteronormative marriage, international marriage, and interracial marriage are all connected...we cannot ban one without affecting them all.

More soon...

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