Black White Man

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

Archive for October, 2012

One guy’s humble insight into why Obama and Romney hate each other so much.

Watching these past few presidential debates, I am struck mainly by the visceral hatred that, it seems, the candidates have for one another. There’s always a great gulf in policy and style between Democrats and Republicans. But, I never got the impression that Obama and McCain didn’t get along personally, nor Bush and Kerry or Bush and Gore. All of these guys seemed, to me, to be guys who might share a drink after all the dust settled down.

Not so with Romney and Obama. Something about this campaign has really ticked each other off. They at times seem to be seething at each other, just holding back from coming to blows. As a multiracial guy who was raised religiously, I think I have some of a reason why.

Like Obama, I was raised by multiracial parents, trotting all over the globe as I grew up. Being raised multiracial and Black automatically gives you something to prove. Because of centuries of slave culture, which pitted Black people against each other, modern Black culture is rife with all sorts of images of race traitors — either because you are light skinned or affluent. “House negro”, “hill negro”, “high yellow”, “passing”, and a whole slew of other monikers can be used against you. At some point, you start to internalize these images, and most people I’ve met in our position work hard to avoid them. When you are actually affluent, growing up in other countries and attending Ivy League schools, then it becomes harder work to avoid these images.

I think that the most effective way to get under most people’s skin quickly is to present them with an image of whom they are most afraid to be. Strong, honorable men hate bullies. Fashionistas hate shallow women. Doctors had bad doctors and so forth.

So, I think, when you’ve been told your whole life not to think you’re better than working class Black folk because of your white ancestry, jet setting, and Harvard education, one type of person that tends to get on your nerves quite a bit are white, jet-setting, Harvard elites … like Mitt Romney. Many of my friends have noticed this in my personality, and call it my reverse snobbery.

Like Mitt Romney, I was raised very religiously in a smaller and more obscure faith, founded in the 19th century (in my case, the Baha’i Faith, which is outwardly very different than Mormonism, but has a lot of similarities on closer inspection. But that’s a story for another time.). One of the things that I find often comes up in religious folk, is a sense of self-assuredness or moral confidence. I don’t think this a bad thing in particular. I wouldn’t call it “arrogance”, for example. But, I think that when you live your life by certain prescribed rules, it’s easier to think of oneself as a basically good person. When you’re raised in a religious community, that sense of inherent goodness can become a pronounced character trait. And then, if you are raised in wealth and privilege, and go on to successful academic and professional careers, this can become a kind of basic tenet to ones internal dialogue. I think that this helps explain the defensiveness that the Romney family has shown during the campaign cycle. They not only believe that they have something to offer this country in the Presidency (obviously, every candidate does), but they seem shocked and offended that other people don’t agree. And I think somehow Obama has become a kind of poster child for that perceived ingratitude, which is really psychic dissonance on the part of the Romneys.

Anyway, obviously I’m not an expert. Both of these men are quite a bit older, and way more experienced and talented than I am. So, Dear Reader, you should certainly take my armchair psychology for just that. But, I did have an unusual upbringing, which I think bears some insight into each other these men in its own way.

Haircut travails — Interracial hair

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I got a hair cut for the first time in several years. I go few and far between with hair cuts for a couple of reasons. First of all, I feel like I generally have to explain myself less when my hair is long. I’m very fair skinned. But, I have thick, black, curly hair. So, when my hair is long, and it comes up in conversation that I’m Black, people’s reaction is generally, “that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that.” When my hair is short, people’s reaction is generally, “No way! I don’t believe you!”

But the other reason is that I find it very hard to find a barber who knows how to cut my hair. My hair looks very different wet than dry. Most barbers make the mistake of cutting for the wet look, which is much less frizzy and more curly. This time I walked out looking like a very well coiffed Italian guy. But, when my hair dried, I looked like Kid, from Kid ‘n Play, after being electrocuted!

A lot of my (mostly White) friends have suggested that I find a Black barber, but they have just as little clue as White barbers do. I find that Hispanic barbers get it right most often. So, this time I confidently walked into a well-reviewed barber near my house, named “Mario’s”. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until halfway through the cut that Mario and his whole staff are Arabs. Nothing against Arab barbers, you understand. It’s just that Arabs have very different hair than I do.

Oh well. I’ll look like Electro-Kid for a few months, and then try to find a new barber. Any inter-racial people in Chicago have suggestions for me?