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Wednesday
Jun172015

Hey, let's all talk about race. Wait, where are you going?

With Mat Johnson and Marie Mutsuki Mockett. Amazing how many halves can make us whole.I was at Mixed Remixed in LA this past weekend, a festival celebrating the mixed race experience in film, literature, music, and art. While at the same time the general public was reacting to the whole Rachel Dolezal thing. Yowza. What a cultural confluence. 

I'm going to err on the side of positivity here and say that Mixed Remixed was, and I believe I'm using the scientific term here: UTTERLY AMAZEBALLS. 

As a kid who grew up never feeling Chinese enough (because I didn't speak Cantonese like my dad) and never feeling white enough (because I ate stuff like chicken feet and dried cuttlefish that freaked out my Caucasian friends), Mixed Remixed was like Camelot. It was magical. Everyone had gone through their own weird, bi-racial journey. It was a giant, collective, beautiful validation. When author Mat Johnson said, "I am a racial optical illusion," we all said YES. When Fresno's Poet Laureate, James Tyner said, "I would walk with my people if I could find them," many of us shed tears.

I won the 2015 Storytellers Prize for Literature. The Daily Show's Al Madrigal won for Film & Television.But then circling the whole thing like a fanboy at a Star Trek convention was the spectre of Rachel Dolezal. The white/black elephant in the room.

I just feel sorry for her. I don't sense malice in her actions. Just a desperate (albeit deceptive) clawing for a comfortable place in the world. I understand that.

And I get the outrage. But Internet outrage is all pitchforks and pumped shotguns. It's like locking someone in an old stockade and letting villagers pelt them with rotten fruit. The act itself is ugly and tragic and is the opposite of healing.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a big-hearted take on the matter. And attendees at Mixed Remixed definitely weighed in. Meanwhile I'm still looking at this spray-tanned train-wreck and looking for the love. What do you think?

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Reader Comments (6)

First of all, congratulations on winning the storyteller award. More than deserved. Second of all I must admit that I didn't know what people were talking about when they referenced the Rachel Dolezal outrage so thank you for linking to the Today show postings and apologies in advance if there's anything I missed.

I must admit, I don't understand Rachel Dolezal's actions... I kind of do. Let me explain. I grew up in a neighborhood in which I was one of the only caucasian kids. Most of my friends were of mixed race, Hispanic, Asian, or African American. I remember a friend's mom tried to braid my hair but it kept falling out of the braids because my hair was not coarse enough.

I envied my friends who had cool parents and ate interesting foods. I spent a lot of time at a Korean friend's home because her mom and dad were interesting and they fed me awesome stuff like Kimchi and noodle soup and they let me go to Buddhist temple with them. My best friend was biracial and whenever we went to the mall, we were stopped to be told how gorgeous she was and how she should take up modeling. I grew up feeling awkward and nerdy and an outcast.

All of this said, I never once thought of lying about my race. I never felt the need to reinvent myself in "that way". Did I dream about somehow fitting in? Sure. Did I pray that others would accept me? Of course. But then I grew up and realized that I needed to accept myself and all of my weirdness.

Not sure if that really addresses your question but right now that's what I got.
June 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
While working at a clinic in Tanzania, my wife who is a nurse (and a red-headed Irish lass) was taken by the other nurses to a hair place and they all gave her braids. It was a way of saying, "We love you...you are one of us now." It was hilarious and cool.

Then poor Rachel Dolezal does it to herself, so to speak. Lying to get her job is one thing and bad enough. Lying about her ethnicity is so sad on so many levels. :(
June 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
I agree. Lying about your race is sad. It's not just denying who you are, your background, your personal history, but your family, your siblings, and all that makes up who you are.

I'm more so amazed that she reached such upper echelons of the NAACP and no one knew that she had lied for most of her life about her race. I mean, didn't someone before now think, "Some of what she's saying seems odd. Maybe I should look into that?"
June 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
First of all, I love that there's a mixed race arts festival, and I definitely need to go someday!

Second, yeeeeaaahhh... I'm still trying to sort out all my thoughts and feelings about the Dolezal situation. Not that MY thoughts and feelings matter all that much. But I think it's important for people to understand and digest these kinds of issues for ourselves. For our own personal growth and enlightenment.

Anyway, I also think part of the problem is that this IS such a complicated situation, and it's unfolding in a world that prefers quick and easy (and witty) soundbites. Thanks for sharing the links, and for sharing that it's a process for you too. I think that's just as valuable as declaring a conclusion. (If not more so.)
June 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKristan
At least we now have a spectrum of cultural appropriation. On a scale of 1-10, a 1 would be a tribal/kanji tattoo, and a 10 would be Dolezal. ;)
June 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
I have been thinking about this a lot and I have a hard time separating my own struggles at being 'hapa' from my reasoning on the problem with Rachel Dolezal.

For me, there is a level of dishonesty with her case that frustrates me and that dishonesty seems to belittle the struggles that people endure because of their race. Furthermore, her decision to,identify herself as black somehow feels like a cheat - like she is trying to get something she didn't earn.
June 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRey

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