Black White Man

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

Archive for October, 2014

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, African-American… or African Canadian… or African Canadian American… or?

A lot of people (or at least a lot of WWE fans) know that both The Rock’s parents were also involved in professional wrestling. His dad was “Rocky Johnson”, and his mom was a big deal in women’s wrestling. Indeed, his maternal grandfather was also a professional wrestler. His mother and her family are Polynesian, from Samoa. His father and his family are Black, from Canada. He was born in the United States. So, he’s African American, but the story is a little more complicated than most. Unlike most of the famous people I blog about, as far as I know, he doesn’t actually have much European ancestry, although many people I think mistakenly think he’s Italian or something similar.

That guy at the party

I went to a fundraising party a couple of weeks ago, and had the dubious pleasure of being one of two Black people there — actually both of us were mixed-race Black and White. I was reminded that a lot of White people have a lot of stuff they’d like to talk about, if you only give them half a chance. Two different people approached me with non sequitur racially charged conversations. Both where a little unsettling, but one ended up being a really good fruitful conversation, and the other a heated argument.

The first was about Ferguson. The guy, a friend of mine, just suggested that he thought the cop/shooter may be innocent. We talked about whether the victim’s assault on the convenience store, his crazy-walking down the middle of the street, and/or his massive size where relevant. I don’t think any of that is, but my friend thought it might be. I explained that, this being a gray-area case makes a lot of Black people more upset, not less; because we feel like gray-areas usually swing for White people and against Black people — hence the elation about the OJ Simpson verdict. Anyway, my point is really that I felt my friend was listening when I spoke, I hope he felt I was listening when he spoke, and on my side at least it was a productive “deep” conversation.

Sometime later a total stranger came up and told me she felt it was appropriate for someone to show up at a costume party in Black face. During the course of this conversation she told me that the problems in the Middle East are caused by people being easily offended by things like Black face, and that she knows more about discrimination then anyone because she’s Persian from the South. I couldn’t keep my shit together during this conversation. My lovely wife said she hadn’t ever seen me that upset, and had to come rescue me because she was worried about me.

So, this shows a few things. Some people don’t have enough opportunity to talk about race, and welcome any opportunity that may come up. As a very light-skinned Black person, I think I come across as a safe space to bring up these issues. I think this is a good thing in and of itself. We have to have more of these conversations, generally, and not just bottle it all up and segregate our feelings on race. But, how we deal with the conversations is important. We have to listen, we have to be sensitive, we have to have a sense of humor.