This past week we saw a flare-up of racial tensions with the shooting of two African-Americans by cops and the killing of five cops in Dallas. I am going to join the chorus of bloggers to talk about race here in USA, mainly telling my own story.
I am mixed race: my dad is white and my mom black. Although I was raised by my mom, the insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist church I was raised in is a white church. I’ve heard that for African-Americans being in a white church sometimes feels like being in a foreign country (due to cultural differences between the two groups that a lot of white people fail to acknowledge). This means for me it could be compared to being an immigrant kid with African-American culture being “the old country”. My mom told me I’m culturally more white than black, being largely separated from black culture. (The one area of exposure I did experience is that, in addition to the music popular in [white] Christian Culture [TM], I also heard Christian music by African-Americans[like the Winans, Donnie McClurken, Ron Kenoly.)
In USA, anyone with black ancestors, regardless of skin tone, has traditionally been considered ” black”, the so-called “one-drop rule” (put in place to uphold white supremacy). Nevertheless, for African-Americans, the darker your skin, the more racism you’ll face, a legacy of slavery(in which the dark-skinned slaves worked in the fields but the light-skinned ones worked in the house). This less discrimination is called “passing privilege”. This means that, due to having light skin, I can go about my business without facing profiling or other forms of discrimination that African-Americans with dark skin face. However, ” passing privilege” is not the same as “white privilege”, as mixed people have other issues they face.
For example, many mixed people face double rejection in that they are not accepted as white or as whatever non-white ethnicity their parent belongs to. Personally I avoided this. (My mom suggested that the fact that my relatives are of all shades of skin color affected the perception people had of me; and, as I mentioned above, I grew up in a white church.)
Based on the fact I’ve been asked my ethnicity I deduce I’m seen as white when I go about, meaning that I guess white people have ” bestowed” whiteness on me(even though I am labeled as “black”). However, someone once accused me of only defending Oprah because she’s black when I called him out for saying she’s of the devil, because she says and does things Fundamentalists consider offensive. (What I found objectionable was labeling someone as “of the devil” due to a disagreement.) Years later the same guy made the same accusation concerning Mandela, after he heard of someone on a conspiracy show bash Mandela. When I pointed out the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy he accused me of only supporting Mandela due to his being black. (I pointed out the accusation is an ad hominem fallacy .)
The “one-drop rule” is by no means universal: people of mixed race are labeled differently in different parts of the world. In much of Africa light-skinned African-Americans are considered “white”; in Latin America and South Africa, they get their own category. In Cape Verde(an island nation off the Western coast of Africa) racial perception has to do with wealth and education. Personally I choose to identify as mixed to acknowledge that I come from many places and to proclaim that I refuse to choose. Also, I grew up culturally white, but I’m closer to the African-American side of my family and know that African-American history is where I come from. Thus, I don’t think I fit in the racial binary. To take it further I have relatives in Germany, because a relative moved there and had a family. Thus they all have light skin, but they have African-American ancestry. However, they grew up in Germany and had a German cultural experience. (Personally I don’t mind that I don’t fit in the racial binary, as I would like to be global.)