(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, November 7, 2008

interesting discussion today.

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.


Randal Graves said...

There will always remain a group of cracker knuckleheads, but what'll help is simply the fact of Obama and his family being in the White House, being on teevee all the time to where Joe the Plumber of Tito's Buildings goes "gee, this dude is pretty much like me."

TheLaw26 said...

What an amazing period in American politics. I personally didn’t vote for Obama but am truly inspired by the positivity and global reaction resulting from his election, at least so far. His energy is addicting and his demeanor inspiring. I think Rahm Emanuel will do a phenomenal job as Obama’s chief of staffs. He’s hard nosed, stubborn, and won’t take “no” for an answer.

Obama’s story is truly American. I’d wish to dive into Obama’s mind and discover his motives and internal dialog. To go through a year of campaigning is very difficult, but to go through a year of campaigning and deliver a speech like he did that is truly inspirational. I’m excited about to see how he really attacks global warming and the energy crisis.

What’s also fascinating is looking at the dynamic of who voted, how they voted, and what drove them to vote. Obama’s campaign created a wave of energy that grew bigger and bigger as his campaign moved forward, engulfing (in a good way) each supporter and supercharging them. How did they do this? It all started with a vision. Obama’s vision, planted deep within his mind, began to take root almost 2 years ago today. The power of his vision can teach every American citizen about how to accomplish goals using the powers of visualization and intention.

I looked into this vision questing further and found that many super-successful people have been using vision boards to help focus their mind and accomplish their dreams. A vision board is a collage of images pasted on a board that represent your desired outcomes, your goals, and dreams. By studying your vision board, your brain gains clarity on what is important to your success, the things you MUST accomplish. I found a site www.TheVisionBoardKit.com that allows you to download a free 8-step power plan to creating vision boards. I’d highlight recommend downloading it.

Utah Savage said...

My joy with the Obama victory is dampened a bit with CA's yes vote on Prop 8. What we give with one hand we take away with another. And when asked to identify my demographic or race on any official document I hit the "other" button. We are all mixed race. And we are all a little gay and a little straight.

La Belette Rouge said...

Perhaps Obama will encourage a changing of government forms to include mixed-race. It is shocking that in the mixed culture of the US we don't allow for that. I guess it is a symptom of our black and white thinking. I am holding onto hope that Obama will make paradigm breaking and evolutionary leaps in race issues.

Utah Savage said...

Come see me. I gave you an award.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

RG: I agree, the visual is sometimes a convincing argument in itself. love the visual the term 'cracker knuckleheads' provides, by the way!

Just seeing the Obamas at the White House (oh, the irony) with the Shrubs, no speeches, was a powerful message.

the law: I'm hoping yours was a real comment and not an autobot message or some other such techy term that Mr. 2L's will have to explain to me later.

I think my life experience speaks to the power of a vision and goal planning. I concur.

Utah:this too shall pass. eventually.

Lbr: yes. "Other" just isn't good enough.

US: sigh. coming! you are 2 nice and 2 tortuous at the same time. but I do love you.

bonnie-ann black said...

i have a nephew i love dearly who is mixed race (black and white). and i find myself very conflicted when faced with the "race" checklist on government forms and other documents. on the one hand, i'm not ashamed of being white (my family came here in the 20s) but i'm also disturbed that we're still "quantifying" human beings in some way. my nephew lived with me and when i enrolled him in school, i was furious that the classfied him as a "minority" student and acted as if that automatically made him an "underacheiver". it was a years long fight. i voted not so much for obama as against mccain, but i want to know why obama doesn't mention his white heritage as proudly.

mixed race? mongrel? who isn't? as the evidence of the out of africa theory mounts, it seems none of us are any one thing. i'd like to vote to eliminate labels and tags.

La Framéricaine said...

Keeping in mind the France/America aspect of your blog:

I've always found it interesting that the French approach to the question of ethnicity has been to not allow it to be reflected directly in their census information gathering. Thus, no list of "race" options.

However, when you apply for a job, they insist on age info and photographs of applicants that allow for discrimination in hiring based upon both age and ethnicity.

With respect to the USA...
From Wikipedia:

Despite the one-drop rule being held illegal (ever since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 overturned the Racial Integrity Act of 1924), as recently as 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision by the federal Office for Dispute Resolution to refuse to hear a case attacking Louisiana’s racial classification criteria as applied to Susie Phipps (479 U.S. 1002) (In 1985, the fair-complexioned Phipps had checked "White" on her passport application. It was denied because, decades before on her birth certificate, a midwife had checked "colored" for one of her parents. Phipps sued, testifying that "this classification came as a shock, since she had always thought she was White, had lived as White, had had twice married as White." 479 So. 2d 369). In addition, several authors and journalists have found it very profitable to "out" as black famous historical mulattoes and whites, who were regarded as white in their society, who self-identified as such, and who were culturally European-American, merely because they acknowledged having (often slight) African ancestry (Anatole Broyard, Patrick Francis Healy, Michael Morris Healy, Jr., Sir Peter Ustinov, Calvin Clark Davis, John James Audubon, Mother Henriette Delille — a Louisiana Creole).

Many scholars publishing on this topic today (including Naomi Zack, Neil Gotanda, Michael L. Blakey, Julie C. Lythcott-Haims, Christine Hickman, David A. Hollinger, Thomas E. Skidmore, G. Reginald Daniel, F. James Davis, Joe R. Feagin, Ian F. Haney-Lopez, Barbara Fields, Dinesh D'Souza, Joel Williamson, Mary C. Waters, Debra J. Dickerson) affirm that the one-drop rule is still strong in American popular culture.

It is going to be fascinating to see how popular culture changes regarding notions like the "one drop rule" now that the President of the United States is biracial-- EuroAmerican & African.

francetales.com said...

Well I got tired of hearing from the French over and over Do you think America will really elect a black president? We went to an election night party in Toulouse where there were like 700 people and on the way some French heard us speaking in English and asked us in French that very question. I said, here we are election night, he made it through the primaries, he is ahead in the polls, it is election night, he is expected to win, what could you possibly mean?
I think the French like to think Americans are really just racist to the core, I guess I used to think so too but after having lived here for over a year now I realized that race in the US is much more nuanced. That he is black is not enough of a reason for most Americans to NOT vote for him, that was a revelation, it almost made me proud. Anyway I have been in crisis and overwhelmed with work so I have not been blogging much but I really appreciated reading this.