(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)
Friday, November 7, 2008
Had my French class today, the 1:1 session. Our time is usually a mélange of conversation and some written grammar work. Today we discussed the Obama election (YAY!) and the ramifications for the country and the world.
We rambled on to the topic of race and I mentioned how this particular election was momentous to my son, who is half black. This led to a conversation regarding 'metisse', a classification the French use for those of mixed heritage or race. ( Interestingly, the literal translation of metisse is mongrel. ergh. )
This led to a further discussion of what was viewed, by her, as a fascinating anomaly in the U.S. Namely, that the majority of mixed race folks who have black heritage identify their race as black. Since many of these mixed race individuals are half-something else, she wondered if this didn't represent a rejection of their entire heritage.
She also pondered why Americans seemingly don't have an official classification for mixed race folks, similar to 'metisse'. I let her know that there are many labels for mixed race people in America.
We chatted at length...I mentioned that much of American documentation doesn't allow for mixed race designation, rather it requires one to make a choice ... Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Black, etc. And that many people, particularly of my son's generation, struggle with what designation to choose ... "officially and unofficially".
My son, as are more and more people...particularly of his generation, is faced with this dilemma. I think it is true that the majority of mixed race people who include black as part of their 'mix', identify as black.
My son, although lighter-skinned, identifies as a black man. He has some features generally accepted as black ... and others that mirror me. Do I take his embrace of 'black man' as a rejection of me? No ... and he readily discusses his mixed heritage.
We discussed (in my lesson) my opinion that we are at a watershed moment. Just as I believe it was a big step forward for black folks who are of mixed heritage, particularly those who could 'pass' as white, to embrace their BLACKNESS versus continuing to try to pass as white as they did in the 40s, 50s and beyond. Now that Obama has achieved the presidency on the merits of his competence ... running as a competent, qualified candidate vs. a black candidate ... our next leap forward might be more unity of ideals, purpose and being ... versus the continued need to segregate ourselves into groups and categories. Obama represents a new generation, a new ideal of hope, achievement, equality ... that can be sought after regardless of race, gender, etc.
Obama set a great example. Instead of continually categorizing or labelling himself, he freely spoke of his entire background. I think more and more, other multicultural people choose that same route. Why should they have to choose when they are all of these histories and more?
The world is hopeful. There is a frisson of excitement and anticipation in the air. It is incumbent upon all of us to maintain that feeling, to work for what could result from the momentum we've created.
The responsibility does not lie solely upon Obama's shoulders. Or the new government-elect. It is with each of us.