radical votes

I Voted

Two days ago, I voted early in Bloomington, Indiana. It took me around forty minutes and was a pretty great experience. I want to encourage everyone who is registered to vote, to do so, but even if you aren’t registered to vote, can’t vote, or choose not to, please go to a polling place on an early voting day, or election day, just to see what it looks like. For me, the early voting location in Bloomington provided me with a great vision for what I want the things that I do to look like. For all its limitations, the electoral process, for a moment, had engaged a multiracial, multigenerational group of people who spanned classes and backgrounds, thus involving a far more complicated mixture of people than my community’s power structure and the cultural and political projects that I am a part of. I want the things I do to involve and be accountable to people in this broad and complicated way.

I voted for Barack Obama in the presidential race and for a number of other candidates in state and local races who I believed reflected my ideas and values in a way that was substantially stronger than their opponents. I ask you to do the same. If you are registered to vote, please take the time this week to vote for Barack Obama and any other candidates who might create a better context for the cultural and political work that many of us are doing. If you are registered to vote, but are not convinced that you should take the time to vote, please read on.

I am under no illusion that this election, or any election, can bring the kind of radical societal change that I ultimately want to see. Moreover, I see how the electoral process can oversimplify, distort, and silence a vibrant set of beliefs and proposals and reduce them to vague generalizations or culture war. I shudder at the way in which the candidates change their ideas to appeal, not to the needs and concerns of real people, but to amorphous demographics. Watching the presidential race, I cringe every time Senator Obama talks about hunting down and killing Osama Bin Laden or changing the focus of U.S. military intervention from Iraq to Afghanistan. Even more, I am sickened by the way that Senator McCain has changed his rhetoric and selected a running mate to appeal to a bigoted and narrow-perspectived brand of conservative that was once his adversary. And, even though I am glad that Senator Obama’s fundraising might help him win the presidency, I am disgusted when I think of what could have been done with that money other than winning an election. Despite all of this, I feel good about voting for Barack Obama for president, as one part of all the commitments I hope to make towards building a different world. I can’t pretend to believe that I can convince anyone about why *they* should vote as I have. All I can do is try to explain why I have chosen to vote in the hopes that some of these things may resonate with some of the things that those reading this are feeling.

Context Matters

Radical community organizing, making independent art and music, direct action – these strategies of change happen in a cultural context that plays a huge role in the success or failure of these pursuits. As I stated earlier, I do not believe that any president can bring about the kind of change that I want to see, but I do feel like Barack Obama would, as president, set a powerful and positive context for my work towards that change. I see this election, not as a battle of competing policies, but as a referendum on very different views of the world and how one can engage in it.

What is Experience?

I think grassroots community organizing is extremely important. I think it can bring about the kind of changes in communities that politicians can’t. My vote for Barack Obama is an affirmation of this. His work as a community organizer in Chicago has obviously informed his politics and vision. I want to express that this kind of work, and not just military service or a political career, commands power and respect. Moreover, the Obama campaign itself is an affirmation of grassroots organizing. In the past, I advised people to vote, but not to let the campaign distract them from the work they were already doing. I now question the soundness of this advice. I have heard so many stories of people, working on the ground for the Obama campaign, having the really tough, soul-wrenching conversations in their communities about race and class that are so needed everywhere. In trying to convince others of something, they have had to think, and really think, about why they are themselves so committed. This is in stark contrast to the dangerous tendency I see in myself and many of my friends to settle with being right about something rather than engaging others to actually change things. For many, it is the first political movement to which they have ever given sweat or monetary resources. If the unpaid work and small monetary donations of so many can win an election, I can’t wait to see what else it can do. I hope that those who committed themselves to this one type of political involvement will continue to apply their passion and resources throughout their lives, regardless of the outcome of the election, but I feel that an Obama victory would do much to ensure this.

Experience with Race

During the election season, NPR has had a great series of stories where they talked to voters in York, Pennsylvania (not too far from where I grew up!) about race and the election. What NPR got very, very right is that they framed the conversation, not in terms of the race of the candidates, but in how the voters’ *experiences* with race affected their perspective on the election. To me, what is most paradigm shifting about Barack Obama’s candidacy is not the fact that he is multiracial, but that he has been able to reflect on and articulate how his complicated experience with race has shaped his life and informs his worldview and political ideas. In the NPR stories, a white woman said that she didn’t have much experience with race. As a multiracial person, I find this sentiment to be one of the most offensive and harmful examples of white privilege. It is, I believe, the reason I have heard, over and over, the misconception that people of color cannot be themselves racist, or that some white people fear reprisal if a black man is elected president. The United States is a multiracial country with an often shameful multiracial history. The assumption that only people who are not white have experiences with race is simply not true.

John McCain has experience with race. He is the adoptive father of a child who is not white. In fact, this was the subject of an ugly rumor, designed to hurt his chances in a Republican primary, that his daughter was actually his child from an affair with a non-white woman. The way that John McCain is perceived and the expectations, prejudices, and way of moving through the world that he has experienced will be profoundly different from his daughter. This is a challenge that many cross-cultural adoptive parents must struggle with, but McCain’s experience with this has not been part of the campaign. John McCain fought in a war that pitted him against people of a different race. He was captured, and tortured by some of them. In the not-so-distant past, McCain continued to refer to some groups of Asian people with the derogatory term “gook.” Again, coming to terms with the racism, xenophobia, and dehumanization that comes with war is a part of many peoples’, in particular soldiers’ experiences. Yet, the loudest commentary on race that has come from the McCain campaign has been from a small number of his most bigoted supporters.

If we, as a society, are going to get real about ending racism, if we are going to get real about coming to terms with the reality of a multi-racial United States – past, present, and future, then we need to be able to reflect on, and talk about our experiences with race. This needs to happen in our neighborhoods, and among the most visible representatives of our culture.

Culture Wars

I grew up in a part of Pennsylvania that is getting a lot of news coverage as the election comes to a close. John McCain believes it to be a stronghold of the kind of conservative base that will allow him to win the state, and the election. Right now, I live in Bloomington, Indiana where, just outside of the city limits, many would believe the same unyielding conservatism is represented. If there is one thing that has been disappointing about Obama supporters, it is that so many are willing to accept the line in the sand between cosmopolitan liberals and “ignorant rednecks.” I think this perspective is offensive and narrow. Many studies suggest that the rural vote is every bit as divided as most other places. As I drove, this past weekend, from Bloomington through the countryside to another town, I saw as many Obama signs as McCain ones. Growing up in a staunchly conservative area, I know that these beliefs are powerful. I know that bigotry is real. I know that these things come with the weight of history, traditions, and culture. But I also know that there are some, who come from those same places, from the same culture, through the same history, who come to very different conclusions in their life. Belief that we are born into red states or blue states, enlightenment or ignorance sells us all short. It absolves us from the responsibility of examining who we are and where we come from. I think that Barack Obama’s candidacy has consistently challenged this. John McCain, and especially his running mate Sarah Palin, are, quite cynically, suggesting that people should vote their race, class, and geography rather than their ideas, beliefs, hopes, and vision.

There are many other reasons why I felt good voting for Barack Obama, but the ones I’ve mentioned: that context matters and that we need to fundamentally challenge our ideas about where power comes from, how we think about race, and whether we view our world as a set of clashing monolithic blocks or a confluence of people with complicated interests and experiences, are the ones that mean the most. For the first time in my political life, they have made voting feel radical, in the original sense of the word, in the Ella Baker sense of the word, because I feel like, through this election, we could be that much closer to getting at the root causes of all the things in this world that we will change.


reason #4 to vote: the myth of America vs. the reality

I’ve been posting on the Defiance, Ohio website about why I’m voting for Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election and why I think that people who connect with the content of Defiance, Ohio songs should vote, and vote for Obama.  I think there are limits to the power of voting, but I think punk people’s aversion to voting represents “a chilling disconnect from reality” and I want punk to be something that is connected, accountable, and malleable to as much of the whole world as possible.  I’m writing here about some more reasons why I’ve found myself feeling so invested in this election.

This article in Time about Obama, Palin, and American myth and reality is pretty amazing.  In his article, Joe Klein says:

The Democrats have no myth to counter this powerful Republican fantasy. They had to spend their convention on the biographical defensive: Barack Obama really is “one of us,” speaker after speaker insisted. Really. Democrats do have the facts in their favor. Polls show that Americans agree with them on the issues. The Bush Administration has been a disaster on many fronts. The McCain campaign has provided only the sketchiest policy proposals; it has spent most of its time trying to divert the national conversation away from matters of substance. But Americans like stories more than issues. Policy proposals are useful in the theater of presidential politics only inasmuch as they illuminate character: far more people are aware of the fact that Palin put the state jet on eBay than know that she imposed a windfall-profits tax on oil companies as governor and was a porkaholic as mayor of Wasilla.

So Obama faces an uphill struggle between now and Nov. 4. He has no personal anecdotes to match Palin’s mooseburgers. His story of a boy whose father came from Kenya and mother from Kansas takes place in an America not yet mythologized, a country that is struggling to be born — a multiracial country whose greatest cultural and economic strength is its diversity. It is the country where our children already live and that our parents will never really know, a country with a much greater potential for justice and creativity — and perhaps even prosperity — than the sepia-tinted version of Main Street America. But that vision is not sellable right now to a critical mass of Americans. They live in a place, not unlike C. Vann Woodward’s South, where myths are more potent than the hope of getting past the dour realities they face each day.

I grew up in a community very invested in the Republican party’s mythology of America that  Klein describes.  As a multiracial person growing up at the time that I have,  I didn’t feel too much of the overt racism, harassment, and blatant discriminaton that my father faced (and many others still face), but I felt strongly that there was no place for me at the forefront of the mythical America that my community loved and longed for.  That America, regardless of the power of its myth, is dead, and the myth will die too, though I suspect its demise will be a more painful, destructive affair.  I feel like, in the space of the election, and the work that we can do in its wake, there is a possibility to try to change the structures of power in America to reflect a reality that includes me, and Barack Obama, and immigrants, and people of color, and women, and even those that huddle beside the death bead of “Main Street America.”  Otherwise, I fear that we will see an ugly transition from one mythic America to another and I fear that while this new myth, its heroes, and villains will be very, very  different than the old, and hopefully a myth that I find it easier to believe in, and envision myself in, but that its existence will be hard-fought enough that it will be written with the exclusion of so many others.


race and the election

I heard this awesome piece, Does Race Matter In ’08? The View From York, Pa., on NPR yesterday afternoon and I want to write more about it, but don’ have time right now.  Still, I wanted to through it out there because I think the people profiled say some very awesome and very scary things, but they’re all very real in a way that I rarely see the media create space for discussions about race.  I think that people said the things that they did because the reporters framed race in precisely the right way, asking about race not just as who you are, but as what you’ve experienced:

Most voters say they won’t decide between Barack Obama and John McCain on the basis of race. But, in a question that is more subtle than the standard questions in a poll, can a decision be based on the racial experience of the voter?


Reported from the Defiance, Ohio site:

Two nights ago, at our show in Bloomington, I talked about why I’m voting in this election and why I’m frustrated that many of my punk and activist friends feel like not voting somehow changes all the things that are wrong in our world and all the things that are problematic about electoral politics. As usual, I didn’t feel like I articulated myself as well as I wanted to, but instead of trying to explain at greater length why I’m voting for Barack Obama in November especially in the presidential race, despite realizing all the problems with many of Obama’s policies and rhetoric and the shortcomings of electoral politics in general, I’d like to quote from Adrienne Marie Brown (who works with projects like the Ruckus Society, League of Pissed Off Voters, and Allied Media Projects) from her post i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, but.. because she says it really well:

… i feel like two people watching this.one sees this strategic, dynamic, mixed race man, skillfully touching all the bases on his way home to the white house. that self drinks the kool-aid as much as a cynic can, i am impressed by his grasp and execution of community organizing and mobilization, how he has crafted himself as king and kennedy and more. he seems to have been made for this moment, even for skeptics and community organizers. i lean in when he speaks, trying to disguise my own smiles at some of the lovely lines that slip in between the ones that hurt me, or disappoint me.

the other side sees the parts i disagree with, the special interests, the effects of a broken and at this point actively stupid and elitist, capitalist, empire-protecting system. i see how he has to say things that are morally reprehensible if he wants to consider being elected to this position, and god knows which of his values will have to be compromised once he’s in office, that place most distant from the people of the nation. i believe that we would need 50,000 baracks or people more radical than him running at the local level to experience any changes based on leadership like his. and yet…

what the rest of world will understand with this shift!

i am not on a fence between republican or democrat, i am not tempted by green at the federal level. i want a multi-party system with permanent records of voting (paper ballots), same day registration, a vote for anyone paying taxes, and proportional representation, but i don’t think the path to get there is by placing us in john mccain’s fragile, feeble, maverick hands by splitting the progressive vote. i specifically want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, in spite of all my doubts and cynicisms and fears. i like how he splits the difference on the hardest issues, i like his (or his speechwriter’s) ability to find a common sense middle ground, and i like that he is passionate and visionary at a time when the easiest space to occupy is debilitating and isolating anger.

and because it scares me to feel even slightly authentic in my excitement about a candidate, understanding what i do about the history of candidate failures, disappointments, flip-flopping or sheer incompetence, the broken system, the inherent flaws of humanity that makes us desire hierarchy so…i will not hit the streets stumping for obama, i will not start a little fundraising page for him that spirits more money away from the projects i work on 365 days a year election or not. i will continue to pour my energy into election protection, and raise money to support grassroots organizations who make sure candidates who are willing to listen have organized bodies to hear from.

but behind a closed door, rereading the transcript of his speech on race, delving into his organizing analysis from his early years in chicago, seeing parts of my story in his own, and wanting to debate him about those issues on which i deeply disagree with him, i confess: i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states.

I urge everyone to read the post in its entirety. What I love about it is that it shows that political engagement is not about a singular decision or moment, it is not about investing oneself fully in the promises or rhethoric of a candidate (or a grassroots movement for that matter). To me, politics have always been about the constant process of questioning and requestioning both the external and internal messages. It has always been about reconciling hope, fear, anger, cynicism, and accountability to my history, my family, my loved ones, my community, and the social work that I do.

MED on Obama, Rev. Jeremiah Write

I’ve been interested in Michael Eric Dyson since seeing him speak at IU over the winter.  An NPR news blog wrote this about a recent interview where MED linked Obama and his pastor with the different phases of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life:

Obama is the pre-1965 King. The one the holiday is named for, said Dyson. The King who spoke of brotherhood and non-violence. The one who doesn’t scare white people, who they could incorporate into their world view.

Wright is the post-’65 King. The one Americans know little about. The King who spoke out against the war in Vietnam. The King who said that most whites in America were racists. The King who spoke out against social and economic injustice in America. People remember that King was murdered in Memphis, Dyson says. But they often forget why he was there – not to promote equality, but to help lead a strike of garbage workers in the city.

Dyson said that people forget that when King gave his “seminal” anti-Vietnam speech on April 4, 1967 at New York’s Riverside Church, he was condemned by many white – and even black – pundits and church leaders for “going too far.”

more meta blogging about Stuff White People Like

This is a response to Patrick’s response to my posting of this analysis of the Stuff White People Like blog.

I think that the language in the blog post is strong and frustrated and I’ll grant that the statements about the heftiness of the book deal probably don’t have much statistical support. Still, I think the analysis that’s important is not that the publishing industry is racist, but the idea about what is culturally popular or possible and how race plays into that. I suspect that the publishing industry, like most industries, is mainly interested in what is profitable and likely to be popular. Despite a certain frustration in the blogger’s tone, I think that this is what resonates with me about her argument. The authors got a hefty book deal, not because publishers are racist, necessarily, but because there is much more interest in white people glibly poking fun at some aspects of white culture than other critiques of race and culture, coming from both white people and people of color. The Stuff White People Like blog is popular because it provides the pretense of a critique about race and culture without requiring any change or even thinking about change. People generally seem smart enough to know that it’s not just white people who like the things mentioned on the blog, that these things aren’t a part of the life of many white people, and that abandoning these things that have been culturally assigned as white would do nothing to change the way race plays out in our culture. So, it might make people uncomfortable, make them laugh, or put the idea of race into the spotlight, but on face it doesn’t question how the things on the blog became associated with whiteness, push for changes in the cultural space that these things define, or any other change in the way multiple races are simultaneously or relatively understood.

I wouldn’t say that this phenomenon of expressing race without calling for change is inherently problematic. I recently read a book called Building Diaspora which is about people navigating their ethnic and national identity (in particular , Filipinoness) over the Internet. The book mentioned multiple instances of the importance of “You might be Filipino if …” type posts on the newsgroup and their popularity. She said that the posts were not taken to rigidly define Filipino culture or identity, but instead contained enough references that would be understood by people with connections to aspects of Filipino culture or identity that it helped satisfy part of people’s need to have some definition to Filipinoness and their own identity and for a definition of a broader Filipino community. Yesterday, I interviewed my friend as the first of a series of interviews about being multiracial. He said that for him, joking with other Asian people about Asian stereotypes or racist remarks was really important to him. So for him, humor gave him an opportunity to explore his racial identity in terms of how it was framed in his life, not in terms of Filipino delicacies, facial communication, or the practice of carry gift laden cardboard boxes through international airports as it was in the newsgroup posts studied in Building Diaspora, but in terms of his experience with racism as a perceivably non-white person growing up in a small town in Indiana. So, people coming from a lot of different cultural identities use humor to play with or think about their notion of whatever they are. This is the context in which Stuff White People Like seems to make the most sense to me. It is not a critique of whiteness or racism but a way for white people to think about one possible whiteness. In this case, unlike Samhita, the Feministing blogger, I’m not surprised at all that the Stuff White People Like blogger is white. Clearly there is a need for people in general, even white people, to examine their cultural identity using humor. I don’t think that it does the work for social justice and eliminating racism any good to view white culture as just a default (despite very apparent differences in cultural mobility and capital as deliniated by race), or to view it as monolithic or static. Still, this kind of conversation remains an assertion or question of what race is but doesn’t in itself transform the injustices of the past and present that are tied to race. Ultimately this is something that I want to see, whether it’s provided by a blog, through activism, the market, or anywhere.

I also want to address a subtext that I read into the Feministing blog post and this has to do with the mobility that is afforded to poking fun at white culture. I think that a Stuff Black People Like blog would be much less popular and much more controversial not because Black people are more easily offended but because there are just fewer negative stereotypes (and consequences) for assigning things to a white identity. I will stand strongly corrected if someone can tell me otherwise, but I would suspect that a white person has never been passed over for a job because their employer told them, “I’m sorry, your resume is great but I’m just worried that you people spend too much time eating expensive sandwiches, drinking bottled water and riding your Segway.” Cultural stereotypes are simplified, limiting, and not completely truthful regardless of which culture they represent. However, there is a big difference between stereotypes of middle to upper class white people in the U.S. and stereotypes of many other cultural groups in whether those stereotypes can be linked to fundamental beliefs about the superiority of one race over another. Comedians such as Dave Chapelle or Margaret Cho, who poke fun at the racial groups they identify with navigate difficult territory because they really satisfy the need for people to use humor to define their identity and community, but they also run the risk of perpetuating racist beliefs when those same stereotypes are identified by others as markers of inferiority. I don’t see Stuff White People Like as having to navigate around this challenge and I think that contributes to its popularity and success.

Finally, I want to address the idea of backing analysis about race with statistical evidence. While I think the proposed research strategy about race and the publishing industry could probably tell us some interesting things about both race and publishing, the amount of resources and time to compile this information is pretty significant. I would estimate maybe a month of full time work just to make the calls and compile the data, and much more time to make the connections necessary to have access to this information or to make people willing to respond (even quasi-truthfully) to questions. While this particular issue isn’t a good example, I think the idea of compiling potent statistical data about “touchy” subjects like race or gender can be problematic because if you are disadvantaged by prejudice, you could likely have fewer resources with which to conduct this research. If statistical data is taken as the only metric of credibility, it essentially requires that people with fewer resources receive the aid and attention of those with more resources. Then, there is still the factor of someone’s experience, even represented statistically, being filtered through the experience and perspective of someone who has a different experience and interests than the people being statistically represented. This could be a very good or a very bad thing. Ultimately, I think that the cause of a lack of statistical data about issues such as race needs to be examined and if access to resources is one of the factors leading to this dearth, we must ask “how do you tell the truth without statistics?”

This is a good question to ask in general, whether the resources are available to compile the statistics or not because the way that people perceive truth is a complicated thing. Hard data and analysis of that data plays into people’s decision making, for sure, but so do experiences, culture, and prejudice. Certainly, these things effect whether people perceive statistics as valid, even if there is an available criteria for evaluating statistics objectively. So, there is a value in representing things through experience or culture since that plays an important role in anyone’s decision making. A friend recently gave me a good example of this. New York City, in planning public network infrastructure projects, wanted to find out how people used the Internet. They decided, in part, to evaluate this through an online survey. Unfortunately, this format left out people who didn’t have Internet access but may have wanted it and who should be represented in the city’s infrastructure planning, especially as bridging the “digital divide” continues to be an objective of many public cyberinfrastructure projects. This strategy for information gathering could also have left out people who view Internet use as important but have such limited access that they have to prioritize their Internet tasks in such a way that completing an online survey would be difficult. So, in response to this, a community group decided to talk to various communities in NYC and to nonprofits, grassroots organizations and other groups that had a varied constituency about how the Internet and technology was being used in the city. The group conducting this research then decided that they would present their findings not as a report or collection of statistics but in youth-produced audio documentaries. I argue that this approach is not better or worse, more or less truthful than a statistical approach but that it resonates in ways that statistics cannot and can reveal truths that are obfuscated by statistics. Ultimately, I find it to be an exciting example of representing a reality with the purpose of affecting policy.

Race in America III

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.

(not) liking Stuff White People Like

Chiara pointed me at this great analysis (via the Feministing blog) of the Stuff White People Like blog:

For me, despite the humor (and yes, I see the humor and LMAO to different entries all the time) I don’t see how marrying the concept of white-ness to the concept of material is actually helping us get to a new place. And as a friend of mine pointed out, the opposite effect of this is that the underlying assumption of stuff white people like is that the stuff they like is not cool, so then is everything that people of color do totally cool? Does that mean that we should look to people of color for what is cool (insert “wow you are such a good dancer!”)? So in a way it is perpetuating that same thing we are trying to get away from. A hyper fascination with the things that white people like.

What sealed the deal for me was when I heard the author got a $300,000 dollar book deal. That is fucking crazy. If he had been a person of color he would have never gotten so much attention or such a hefty book deal. People would have said, omg, that is racist! They wouldn’t have given it so much cred. My point being, there are a lot of people that call out racism and whiteness, but they don’t get huge book deals for it because they are not white. So despite the potential transformative nature of calling out whiteness for what it is, the author is still getting rewarded for being white, even though he is making fun of white people. And let’s not forget, white people also get paid for making fun of people of color. And what exactly do people of color get paid to do. . . ? To also make fun of people of color or to create characters that fit into white people’s comfort levels of what is acceptable people of colorness. Because as the blog points out subtly, white people have the most capital to be the biggest consumers of everything, so all the images we see are tailored to their sensibilities.

This may be a total stretch, but this is where I am at with the whole thing and just had to put it out there. I see how many people LOVE this blog and how many people of color love it. And I see how uncomfortable it makes white people, which I also think is good. Being uncomfortable can often motivate you to think outside yourself. But is it really leading to this transformative conversation for a racially just world or is it perpetuating our assumed differences, realigning them with a gaze on what is considered white?

scary times, exciting times

This morning, it was storming in Bloomington, with the thunder long and booming, so it sounded like bombs.  A few booms were followed by the sounds of sirens, and even though I knew it was just coincidence, the sense of danger, destruction, and things ending did not seem impossible.  I read in the New York Times that the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s; when I called my father, he told me that he tells the men in his prison job skills class that the suggestions he has for them are not as good as the ones he could have given last year, and in this comment, about the difficulties one family is facing with healthcare, even in light of increased government support in Indiana.  I can’t escape a sense of nervousness on everyone’s faces, whether it’s my friends or people at the grocery store.

Still, I read this article about Barak Obama and mixed-race identity in the New York Times and it made me excited.  From the article:

“I think Barack Obama is going to bring these deeply American stories to the forefront,” said Esther John, 56, an administrator at Northwest Indian College in Washington, who identifies herself as African-American, American Indian and white.

“Maybe we’ll get a little bit further in the dialogue on race,” Ms. John said. “The guilt factor may be lowered a little bit because Obama made it right to be white and still love your black relatives, and to be black and still love your white relatives: to love despite another person’s racial appearance.”

Americans of mixed race say that questions about whether Mr. Obama, with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, is “too black” or “not black enough,” as the candidate himself brought up in his speech on March 18, show the extent to which the nation is still fixated on old categories.

“There’s this notion that there’s an authentic race and you must fit it,” said Ms. Bratter, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston who researches interracial families. “We’re confronted with the lack of fit.”

I’m sure that for myself, and for many other people who identify as multi-racial, that we don’t need the New York Times or Barak Obama to validate the stories that are our stories, but I have to say that it is exciting to hear them repeated so publically and personally. I hope, that with every telling, whether it is at a crowded political event, in the national media, amongst friends, or in a fiery confrontation on the street, that this is the first warmth of a burning consciousness that race, like so many things in our world, is something that cannot be ignored, that is complicated, subtle and brutal, that is painful and beautiful and something that we define our collective humanity because of, and not in spite of.