Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oreos and Banana Splits

Yesterday I did a residence hall diversity training. We did an exercise where we wrote out our names and shared where we came from and what the history of our name is. I always start at Baby Girl and work through my marriage. I offer Mom, Bird, and Professor for nicknames. As we made our way around the room, a young woman of color ended her sharing by saying one of her nicknames is Oreo. Later in the training we shared one unique thing about ourselves. This same young woman shared that she was unique because she had a black father and a white mother. This student wore her mixed raceness like a heavy, wet sweater; wet to the point that the sleeves had come down over her hands and she could not move. This student's mixed raceness was not a blessing to her, she wasn't invoking it as her identity as much as succumbing to it. I spend a lot of time talking about mixed race identity as a liberating political, emotional and intimate choice; but there are individuals who feel put upon by their mixed raceness and it plagues them for the rest of their lives. My sense of it is that the way mixed race is subordinated, as well as the mixed race person, is what makes mixed race a prison for some. Often the community of color that helped produce a mixed race individual subordinates that person, othering and often isolating them. Mine and my children's experience with this could be summed up as never being “black enough”.

The positioning of mixed race is not and should not be a subordinate position. I am not only arguing that mixed race is a separate identity, lived experience, and intimate reality; I am arguing that mixed race is an equally weighted identity to those considered mono-racial. I am suggesting that mixed race is not half this, and half that. Mixed race is not a by-product or derivative of mono-race. Mixed-race has substance and weight of its own and must be ordered as a whole identity which pushes against the recipe narrative (1/2 this, 1/4 that, 1/16 the other) articulation of mixed race most commonly understood. Kip Fulbeck's 1991 video "Banana Splits" is a well produced articulation of the mixed race subordination my student was expressing. In "Banana Splits" Fulbeck pokes some fun at a system of racial subordination and racial understanding that would allow a person to be called or considered an oreo or a twinkie. I have given this student some reading, Fulbeck's "Hapa..." among them to help her understand that she is not having a singular experience. Mixed raceness and mixed race subordination is not restricted to her or to the african american mixed race person.

Of one thing I am certian, I prefer my Oreos to remain cookies ... not people.

No comments:

Post a Comment