Race in America III

April 16th, 2008  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

I finally found this article that I read in the Indiana Daily Student last week about a talk that I didn’t get to attend by  Cathy Bao Bean, a Chinese American author.  I found the quoted comments pretty frustrating.

From the article Author encourages people to ‘lighten up’ about multi-culturalism:

Bean said it was difficult for her to choose which culture she wanted to be part of because it was impossible for her to be part of both.

“You don’t have to choose; learn to be pleased with yourself,” Bean said.

Overall, Bean told audience members to embrace as many cultures as they can and have some fun while doing it.

She advised all the students in the crowd to try to study overseas and said it is “a little like not getting a joke when everyone else does.”

Bean said although it is difficult, multi-racial people should not try to limit themselves to just one culture.

“When you have to choose, try to choose the one that will keep the least doors closed,” Bean said.

I hate the idea that issues of race and culture are weighty because of the attitudes of people possessing or considering those identities and that it is their sole responsibility to manage that weight.  Maybe it would be easier to “lighten up” if everyone considered race in our culture and the nuances, subtleties, prejudices, and privileges that go along with it.  I think these comments overlook the fact that someone’s racial identity is often not chosen by that person, but by their community, friends, coworkers, family, the government.  Most importantly I think the idea that trying “to choose the one that will keep the least doors closed” glibly overlooks the fact that many people of color or multiracial people have made this very choice, but that this choice has been painful, confusing, and as a result things have been lost both for individuals and for the culture at large.

Still, it’s scary because I think that replacing difficult and complicated issues with ‘the lighter side’ has such resonance with many people.  I think about this as I remember the punk show last night which was just kind of wild and Dionysian and at breakfast this morning when Chiara told me she felt like Silvio Berlusconi had replaced his most recent campaign to become prime minister of Italy with a series of crude jokes.  I don’t want to leave the things that are troubling behind me, I want to have a feeling that they’re not being considered alone.