Since the events surrounding Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and the protests in Ferguson and beyond, I’ve written…a lot. But try as I might, many emotions have kept me from saying what I want to say in the way I wanted to, or closing posts out in a way that seems…finished. The events, my feelings, this chapter in our history-it is ongoing, ever-evolving, and may not conclude in my lifetime. It is for this reason I am choosing to post my raw, unedited thoughts from the drafts folder, unfinished and all, once a week. This first post is almost a year old. Hopefully these unfinished posts will spark some discussion, or at the very least, personal reflection. Thanks for reading.***
All my life, people have told me “what” I am.
I have always found this amusing, as usually the declaration followed the question, “what are you?” Seemingly unsatisfied with whatever my response was at the time, I would first be told I didn’t “look” like it, and I would then be corrected with what I “really” was.
Which was sorta fair, because what I “was” constantly changed.
See, I am one of those blissful “new America” examples-a product of the melting pot of combined race and ethnicity, a bilingual 1st generation mish-mash of awesome. Which is great…until you try to find a lunch table at school and realize you aren’t “enough” of anything to have a seat. And, after enough lunches in the bathroom, what you end up doing is floating from one extreme to another in search of a place to belong. And float I did.
There was the phase where I wore the flag of my mother’s culture everywhere I went, hanging it on doors and using it as window curtains. There was the militant phase. The “all my ancestors were born free”-phase (don’t ask). The blue-haired outsider theater-geek phase. And I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t fall into the extra-angry gangster-phase, or the uh.. “Gamma Rays”-phase. But try as I might, I could never fit in well enough to join the club. So somewhere between the blue-hair and the natural hair phase I settled on just being..me. “I” was my identifier, not race, not ethnicity, not a food, music genre or movie collection. I stopped measuring my authenticity by other people’s standards. I know what I am, no matter how many times you attempt to correct me or take my [insert race/ethnicity] card away for some thing I was supposed to know or do. I’m not in your club? Fine, I’m in mine. Prosper and be great.
Part of my process to get to my current level of contentment was writing. I wrote about race…a lot. Won a few awards for it, too. But as I brought my “unique” views to the public forefront I found out I had many more detractors than supporters. While it was comforting to learn I was not alone and find my audience, a hard fact began to emerge. See, in a world where everybody wanna be a n*gga but don’t nobody wanna be a n*gga, unsurprisingly few really want to hear about the n*gga that wasn’t n*gga enough.
Which brings me to the Pharrell’s and the Saldana’s of the world. Because of our shared experiences with cultural invisibility, I understand every word they’re saying about getting “past” race. I even agree to some extent.
Sure Pharrell can decide to “transcend race” and become the “new Black”. Yes, Saldana can declare she’s “past race” and has bigger fish to fry…but what about the Lupita Nyon’go’s of the world that can’t? What good is a movement if you can’t bring everybody with you?