samedi, août 05, 2006

*For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Jew Boys When the Negroes Ain't Enough*

Danzy Senna begins her 1998 essay "The Mulatto Millenium" as such: "Strange to wake up and realize you're in style". And indeed being bi-racial (or as Senna asserts, being "'fauxlatto': a person impersonating a mulatto. Can be of white, black or other heritage, but for inexplicable reasons claims to be of mixed heritage") is "hot" now, currently being the new exoticism that American pop culture has engendered itself. Its in fact, to a certain extent, advantageous to be biracial or multiracial (or at least appear to be) in Hollywood in the sense that your looks and/or ancestry don't pigeonhole you into one distinct racial category, i.e. Jessica Alba, Vin Diesel, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, etc, allowing you to play role that other "colored" people may not be privy. Take Jennifer Lopez, a Puerto Rican (which is a category of mixed race in and of itself) has played a Mexican, Native American, and Italian among other things. In fact, in a 2002 study performed by UCLA's Jay Phelan, Phelan asserts that bi-racial people are "more attractive"than "uniracial" people across the board based on data that showed biracial people to have more symmetry in their faces. Indeed being bi or multiracial is becoming more and more politicized outside of pop culture, demanding the re-categorization of race in the American landscape. A number of memoirs and novels have made waves in the past decade, chronicling the lives of their biracial authors and/or characters, most notably: **The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother**, Caucasia, Black, White, and Jewish, The Skin Between Us: A Memoir of Race, Beauty, and Belonging, Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial America, On Beauty and The Professor's Daughter. In the fall of 1993 Time Magazine published a cover story entitled "The New Face of America"featuring a woman who is a composite of varying races. The racial categories of the census have also come under scrutiny for their limited racial categorizations. Prominent celebrities such as Kanye West (in a recent Rolling Stone cover story) have expressed their preference for women of mixed race. And the list goes on and on. It is indeed a multiracial millenium in America, a place where racial categorizations have been so stringently enforced for so long.

My youngest sister is always telling me that race doesn't exist; its a false category. And I know this is true but I argue that the false has become very much real, the fantastical has become reality when it comes to issues as broad as access to health care, incarceration rates, roles in Hollywood and ideals of beauty among other things. Perhaps what makes the multiracial movement so threatening to the power structures that be is its potential to disarm carefully crafted racial stratums. But then again, in places like Brazil where a multitude of racial categories exist, racism is extremely virulent and socially exclusive. Thus, is this a sign of inclusivity or another stratum for racial exclusion and preference? How is a person who is multiracial defined? Take for example, African Americans the majority of whom have European and/or Native American ancestry as well. Are we mixed or multiracial? Should we check that on a census? Or is multiracial only confined to first generation mixtures? If so, why? Blackness is, after all, especially in this country, a category of mixture.

I contend that the only progress that will be made in the name of race in this country is the elimination of race in and of itself. As new racial categories become apparent, new hierarchies of power, beauty, and acceptance are being constructed. As this society becomes more and more blended, questions of race will be called into question more and more. If and when people of mixed race become more recognized in society, racism will still exist. It just changes its form to accomodate the society at hand. Decades ago, it was burning crosses, grandfather clauses, and lynchings. Now its rearing its head in varying degrees: averse government policies to Hurricane Katrina. If we are ever to get to the bottom of racism, then intense dialogues and movements surrounding the intricacies of race are needed.

* Courtesy of Danzy Senna's "The Mulatto Millenium"
** Excellent book that I highly recommend, definitely the best in the list above.

prima facie -- adv: 1. At first view; on the first appearance adj:1. True, valid, or adequate at first sight; as it seems at first sight; ostensible.2. Self-evident; obvious.3. (Law) Sufficient to establish a fact or a case unless disproved.

"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make" --- Truman Capote