Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for October, 2010

Walter White: the most ironically named Black White Man?

Particularly as the father of a blond, blue-eyed boy who has some vague claim to African American heritage, I am very heartened to read about this guy, Walter White.    White was a head of the NAACP, a contributor to the “Harlem Renaissance”, and a graduate from a historically Black university.   He was an African American.   He was also blond and blue-eyed.    From, Wikipedia:

Of mixed race with African and European ancestry, White’s appearance showed his high proportion of European ancestry. He emphasized in his autobiography, A Man Called White (p. 3): “I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.” Five of his great-great-great-grandparents were black and the other 27 were white.

Note that, out of my son’s great-great-great-grandparents, six were Black, one was Cherokee and 25 were white.

I say to you White Americans, “You are not as white as you think!”

One of the reasons I consider myself Black, despite my white skin, is that, as a result of the One Drop policy which ruled this country for hundreds of years, so-called “African Americans” are actually a people of extremely mixed heritage: African, European and Native American.   It may be essentially racist, but our culture is steeped in it.   We are the Hispanics of the USA.

Most have heard (a lot) about the old trope of the White slave master who would go down into the field to spend time with the slave mistress.   And sure, that happened.   And that has something to do with the mixing in the African community here.   But, I like to remind people what I would have done a hundred or two hundred years ago.  I would certainly have moved to a big city somewhere up North and claimed to be some kind of White Mediterranean type, or possibly Jewish.    And I’m sure lots of Black folk did exactly that.   And they took that secret to their grave.   That means that, if you’re White, and if you’re family has been here more than three generations or so, than there’s a pretty fair chance that you’ve got a more colorful ancestry than you might assume.   I think that these injections of African ancestry into the European community here happened at least as often as the other way around.   We’re all a lot more mixed up than we like to believe.

Fifty years later, busing is still a segregation issue.

For the last few months, I’ve been looking at public schools in Chicago for little four-year-old son.   There are a lot of great schools to look at, so it’s been keeping me busy.   Of course, one of the things that’s important to me is diversity in the school.   But, I’m quickly finding that diversity is a difficult, if not impossible, goal to attain.   And, I think the largest part of it involves busing.

Here in Chicago, the “selective” schools — meaning schools which you have to test into — generally speaking have broad districts within which they will bus you to your school.   This means that you can go to whichever schools you are gifted and/or lucky enough to get into.    But, unless you attend one of the schools closest to you, you’ll have to get there yourself.   That’s a huge factor in the practical day-to-day lives of parents — especially for working parents and/or parents with multiple kids.

The twist on my complaint here is that busing laws where generally drafted to allow students from Black neighborhoods to attend schools in White neighborhoods.   My particular problem is the opposite.   I would like to send my son to some schools on the South side of the city, but to do so would be a huge commitment on my part to drive him.    Moreover, there are a lot of schools on the South side which are truly excellent, but have no diversity.   I may be being naive, but I would like to think that those schools would have more diversity if there was a better busing option.   Unfortunately, as it stands, the segregation of Chicago neighborhoods gets projected onto the school system.   Everyone goes to a school somewhat near their home.

I realize that a robust busing system might arguably produce a lot of brain drain, if it meant that kids in Black neighborhoods bussed up to the the White neighborhoods, but not vice versa.    But, like I said, I optimistically hope that wouldn’t be the case.   There are plenty of good schools in South Chicago.   I realize also that if White kids started going to these good, homogenously Black schools, that it might be perceived as some form of gentrification.    But, I still think that it would have to be better than the status quo where the city of Chicago is basically two or more separate cities that simply happen to be adjacent.