Black White Man

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

Archive for November, 2010

The ironic validation of a racist dog

Way back when I was in high school, one of my good friends was a white guy from Zimbabwe. We had a lot of fun with each other; we would, for example, argue about which of us had more claim to the term “African American”. He had a very old dog, a hand-me-down from one of his older relatives back in Africa. As it turns out, the dog didn’t like Black people (perhaps by training?). And every time I came over, he’d get all worked up growling. I think my friend was a bit embarrassed by this, understandably. It was definitely an exposure of the darker parts of his family’s heritage (no pun intended). But, I found it strangely validating. When so many people will argue with me about my ethnicity, it’s nice that a racist dog at least knows what I am.

Massively Multiplayer Racism

I play a lot of games online with strangers, over Microsoft’s X-box Live (XBL) network. One of the things I’ve been continuously shocked by is the amount of extremely hostile racism I’ve encountered while in this forum. Perhaps because I’m light skinned, perhaps because of my generation (I missed everything previous to the 1970s), I’m not generally accustomed to overt slurs. I’ve definitely been called out explicitly, but only a handful of times in my whole life. But, while online I’ve heard tons of crazy racist shit like “I’m shooting Black people!” and “You’re just on crack, nigger.” I think that the anonymity of XBL, combined with the directness of being able to share voice communication makes it easier for this stuff to come out. I also think that a lot of people on the XBL network are in their early teens, and there’s a pretty large segment that get a big kick out of being as shocking and offensive as possible. But, the really disturbing part is that this contributes to what I perceive as a lot of self-segregation on the XBL network. At its best, the Internet helps us to connect casually with people from all over the world. I can kill zombies with someone in London one minute, and then karaoke with someone from Tennessee the next. But, along racial lines, it seems to me, that to a great extent Black people are playing with other Black people. That I find to be very depressing.

Comics as the last great bastion of 70s style Blaxploitation

I started reading comics in the middle to late 80s, way after all of my favorite Blaxploitation films (Bruce Leroy: the Last Dragon, Shaft Goes to Africa, even Brother from Another Planet) were done and gone.   But, there was still a great bevy of fun, proud heroes which were built in the Blaxploitation tradition.   Black Lightning.   Power Man.    And, of course, all of the wonderful characters that were part of the Milestone Comics line.

I’m sure a lot of people have complained about these characters and those like them, that in being so overtly Black, they are nothing more than mockeries of our culture, not much better than the shuck-and-jive types from previous generations.   But, I vastly prefer these types of characters to the type who “just happens to be Black”, which more often than not is a translation for a character, like Storm from the X-men, whose race is treated unrealistically and superficially (Storm, for example, has a thin nose and blue eyes… if you read the X-men in black and white you’d have little reason to think she wasn’t Anglo).

All of this came up for me again recently when I started reading about a great character called Freedom Beast on an equally great website all about Black Superheroes — a web site I’ll have to do a lot more exploring on!

We movin’ on up — into wine-tasting!

I’m not much a wine connoisseur.  In fast, I was at a wine tasting a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t tell you the difference between the wines I drinking (which, I understand to be hundreds of dollars for a bottle) and box wine from Target.    But, I ran across this interesting article talking about how the wine tasting community (at least in the US) is increasingly multi-cultural.

“Mixed Race” Jewish kids

Reading this fascinating post about “mixed-race” Jewish kids has got me thinking about the Jewish model on defining race, and how it differs from the other models defining race in this country.    Traditionally, in Judaism, you are considered Jewish if your mother is Jewish.   So, the girl mentioned in the article, whose father is Chinese, and whose mother’s father is Chinese, is considered fully Jewish (at least in theory), not half-Jewish, or a quarter Jewish or “multi-racial” in the sense that it’s often used.

There are a lot of things I like about this construction.   Emotionally, it resonates with me, in the sense that I don’t consider myself “half” of anything.   I think that’s a bizarre idea when you think about it closely.   My training as a computer programmer likes that it draws a clear line, and that iterates nicely from generation to generation.    In fact, it’s the only set-up I can think that has that feature.   Most racial constructs begin to get extremely foggy when you start talking about third generation descendants (whether it be “octoroons” or “sansei”).

Obviously it also has its downsides.   On the one hand, a more common paradigm filters through in cases like the one that this article talks about, where non-White Jews are often not considered “really” Jewish, despite having an indisputable claim according to tradition.   But, even if you take the tradition at face value, it can do some weird things.  Jewish friends of mine who are men have gotten a lot more pressure from their parents about marrying Jewish women (over other races), because the parents want their grandchildren raised inside the faith.   Of course, a non-Jewish woman can convert (which I’ve also seen among my circle of friends), but it’s an extra consideration which doesn’t apply to a Jewish woman marrying a non-Jewish man.   And, I have several friends whose non-Jewish mother decided not to convert leaving children with a Jewish father who are, traditionally, not at all Jewish themselves, which is kind of odd.

All in all, it’s a system.   And while systems for dealing with race are necessary, they’re all problematic in one way or another.