Friday, October 17, 2014

Identity Matters

Identity Matters.  My friend and Brother in the faith, Omar Reyes, tagged me in an article in which an African –American mother became shocked to learn that after a lifetime of solid teaching and living geared to raise her biracial children as racially secure young Christians, she discovered that her son had a situation arise at school where his identity was questioned and he felt compelled to deny any ties at all to his African heritage. It’s amazing that the steps our society has taken to defang racism and racialization seem to have instead given it a new bite. In one sense, when the generation to which I belong lived our childhood years, ethnic identification was much easier - the one drop rule was in full swing. It mattered not which parent was black or how far back one's blackness could be traced. If one had ANY discernable black heritage, one was black - period! Then the Tiger Wood generation began to make rather reasonable stands related to its desire to embrace all of the heritages that might be found in their respective DNA. "Caublinasian" was the term Mr. Woods employed. Such attempts at self-identity work well, as long as one tows the line of expectations regarding thought, inclinations, behaviors and success. When one steps out of line in one of these regards, one's self-identity options become limited. Tiger Woods may have been Caublinasian to himself and the majority culture at the apex of his success, but he became unquestionably Black after the revelation of his failures. And so it goes. The unshakeable stigma of failures and anomalies somehow stand immoveable as conspicuous identifiers of blackness. These identifiers are never spoken of publicly and are not acceptable, but somewhere, they're being discussed and they are amazingly understood by most of us – especially “old school” blacks, and youngsters. Some are so acutely aware of the persistent stigmas associated with blackness, that there are almost no limits to what means will be employed to gain acceptance by others, including self-denial. This is not a new phenomenon. People have attempted to "pass" for being non-black for as long as there have been interactions between Europeans and Africans. It is simply stunning and disheartening to think that stigmas related to blackness would exist after 50 years of civil rights legislation and change – yet they do. Somehow, people are countering all of the public resources, all the teaching and all of the preparation towards better relations, and perpetuating fear, stereotypes and racial exclusivity. The result is, those individuals who are just not strong enough to stand in the reality of who they are, cave under the pressure to be accepted to the point of denying a significant part of who they are. There have been plenty of indicators via high profile court cases that much work towards racial understanding remains to be done. Many had hoped the next generation was ready to live out a new reality in a new day. Unfortunately, it seems that today’s reality is simply a recycled version of yesterday’s and our troubles remain.

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