My Ghost’s Midnight Manifesto:
My “white” essence speaks, my “black” body listens
by Valerie A. Wilkins-Godbee
Originally published in
Harmony People Sentential, ISSN: 1068-8226
On my ethnicity: “Who of you can touch my ethnicity?” I was born a child of “mixed” blended heritage. Ameurofian is what I’ve called myself. But, am an American first. I created this name after musings about a visceral incident I faced while filing out an application for a part time job in 1989. Out of sheer frustration I decided to check off all three (3) boxes that applied to my racial background. I did not know then what I later learned that the person receiving the application would exercise hypodescent and classify me as “black”, this was because the government had a “Check One Mandate” in progress as law. A visual inspection, we in the interracial community call the “eyeball test”, was administered to figure out what racial box to pigeon-hole me, the applicant. The name was created in 1989, but it was not until much later that I actually brought it to the public. And, in 1994 the Ameurofian Heritage Group was formed. Finally, we changed the groups’ name to the Ameurofian Heritage Foundation. Addressing the needs of North American’s with Native/European/W.African heritages. More importantly, the nations multiracial leaders and abolitionists of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB), dehumanizing Directive 15: along with the support of the interracial community abolished the perverse “Check One Mandate,” back in 1997. And, in par excellence fashion, the United States 2000 Census forms were officially and forever changed, in behalf of all civilized human beings, and especially for our family and children.
There are times I have actually felt a spiritual touch with a perfect stranger, who traditionally-speaking, would be considered of my “race”, “black”, simply in passing. Not a religious experience, but one that is profound, and our energies seem to collide for a brief moment. Suddenly, I’d feel a sense of kinship, ethnic-knowing, a commonality. And, more often than not, I see a friendly face in passers-by. Judgements I tend to avoid, like the plague, and leave this out of the mix, for humanness reasoning. On numerous occasions, though, I am left knowing in my heart and mind that ethnicity is skin deep, too. To look on the outside only, is often the problem with our society. One has to be, I think, less spiritually connected. Spiritually conscious and more prone to materialism. Worldly and baseless, and more prone to fleshy things. Emphasis primarily focusing on the outside. I believe this kind of outlook hardens the heart, and corrupts the inner beauty.
The decaying carries a stench that permeates everything surrounding it. Including the person or persons involved in this type racial classification of our fellowman and woman. I must say, though, that we should also respect truly what one professes or claims to be kin with with respect to ethnically and culturally. Even if it is an ethnic group, for instance, that at first sight you would have guessed this person would not appear to be a part of or kin to; an ethnic group entirely different traditionally-speaking, from outward appearances. Hence, the opposite is just as true, too. If that person claims to be kin with African Americans, and they have swarthy-toned skin, and this is what typically we’ve been taught to identify this particular skin tone/color with a certain ethnic group predominately, African Americans, or “black”, then who are we to argue or judge differently? And, the same holds true for all of the other ethnic groupings of peoples in our society. For example, if a person looks “black” in the traditional-sense, or A.A. (African American), and that is how they feel inherently then that too should be embraced, unchallenged and respected by all.
On Culture and Interracial Marriage: If you were to take a child from the U.S., raise that child, who’s skin is dark brown complexioned; with round eyes, categorize as a “black” American or A.A., from birth in an Asian household complete with our usual racial divisiveness, I wonder would this child claim an Asian-identity? Although, this child’s sum total life experience up until that time is primarily Asian cultured the next question I would like to pose is would that child later on as an adult be able to connect with their traditionally-speaking “black” American or AA heritage, and completely connect with that ethnicity and be accepted as a “black” AA aside from skin color? The answer, I believe, is a resounding yes! And, the same holds true for a “white” American child, the outcome being they identified with the “black” heritage experience; again, minus skin-tone or color. Yes, intrinsically no one can tear away my (a persons’) persona and spiritual connection with the traditional “racial” type segments of our diverse community, i.e., “black” or “white” simply because I (they) look like the opposite of what we have been taught. Or what it means traditionally-speaking, without destroying my (that persons’) sense of well being, and community.
Like the foster child(ren) and the orphaned child(ren), need family-structure, a sense of belonging, so too an individual need to be complete about their heritage. Nevertheless, without this a person can survive , despite the enormous odds. As the spirits tiny flickering flame can’t be so easily extinguished. But, they will most likely go through most of this lifetime with a sense of symbolic identity-starvation. A falsehood to the core of ones being. Certainly an identity-crises. Restless and perhaps ego-driven existence. Potentially, even so far as lashing out at the very community, traditionally outward-appearing, predominantly, held ethnic group which that person is inherently kin with. Or one could just as easily stay seated within a traditionally outward-appearing, predominantly held ethnic group largely because of the benefits derived from holding the honors of what that kinship delivers. The flip side is a person that despite the tangible benefits obvious to that persons’ acknowledging their true and intrinsic ethos-connectedness, to some degree, they shun it, instead. Which would reduce the person to demonstrate its own symbolic identity-assassination or politely termination. No doubt and identity crippling. A death-defying blow to the core of one’s being. Bitterness and self-loathing might ensue. Possibly to the point of excessively “Pro” of the ethos-connectedness of an ethnic group they feel a need to protect, and/or support against their true kin. To the extent the naked eye can see.
Most probably would not notice, in either case. For the first case, the person holding on tightly with honors to what appears on the outside to be their kinship, the birthright of someone else, in a matter of speaking, will suffer from an isolation that is profound. Self-loathing could be the effect, as the traditionally outwardly-held identity ethnic group who may not have the societal conforms, perks if you will, whether tangible or intangible might be their shallow and base reasoning for not embracing more fully their own ethnic group which they would consider less fortunate then their own pseudo ethnic belonging. The second case scenario, the person refusing to embrace their full ancestry, and allowing the side of their intrinsic ethos-connectedness to be more fully born and thrive will suffer from a kind of segregated-mentality. That is quite disturbing. Self-aggrandisement could potentially be the end game as the traditionally outwardly-appearing held ethnic identity (note: this explanation phrase, at times will be inter-changed), who maintains most of the controls in that society whether tangible and/or intangible might be ones’ ultimate way of controlling at the head of the fold, the ethos-connectedness of another. Thereby shunning ones’ own true ethos-identity and usurping from those that they believe should be accepting, i.e., Pro-black; while making constant efforts to condemn the very true ethos-id that they consider to be too controlling or dominant force.
On a more positive note, one could live a fulfilling life and very much be consumed in their true ethos-connectedness identity without ever being able to fully acknowledge it more profoundly, and remain completely unaware that they are in connection. Or, not living their truest ethos, because of various unintentional factors and feel a deep and abiding sense of disconnect and utter crazed-like frustration. Due in large part, to a man-made construct and societal constraints of racial categorization of its fellow citizens. The U.S. governments’, perverse ‘One Check Mandate’, officially known as Directive 15; is an example of classic cubby-holing. Sustenance and covering is given to this false notion, all the way from our schools; officials; university administrators; religious and civic leaders: who are the gatekeepers of a slave master’s definition. I will touch on this again. A kind of racial-straight jacket. That myself and several multiracial leaders and abolitionists’ around the country tore off of America in 1997.
There are folks who claim to be “black” who look like they are “white”, speaking again from the traditional way, their phenotype for one. It is politely called “passing”. As A.D. Powell, the intellectual genius behind the “movement”, would remind us. So, this nonsense that your “authentic” on-the-census-record, “white” folk which has been proclaimed from the roof-tops “wouldn’t trade places with black people…” the wealthy “black” comedian, who shall remain nameless, his words, is heretic kind of thinking. Used for inflammatory and intimidation, “Pro” “one drop rule” thought process. I heard just the opposite, the other day. Or was it a few years ago, that if they, “whites'” had to be “black”, they would need to have the superfluous wealth of Oprah. So, now, my question is where is the beef? The truth? I gather it lies somewhere in between. I am “white”, but then again, I will not likely acquire one red-cent for it. My “outing”. The 1924 Racial Integrity Act was the first mandated hideous ‘one drop’ of black blood rule, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in Lovings vs. Civil Rights, (See, Loving v. Virginia), in 1967.
I’d like to turn back to me, for a moment, as this is my ultimate challenge, I believe. My magum opus. As a “white” woman born with a “black” body. The above may not be scientific. Although, this “outing” is a remedy/cure that will likely not be explained by social scientists. But, so far, what the proverbial physician has prescribed to date, in the 21st Century, going back at least 200 plus years, in American history, has not publicly cured our ills on the race question. They have made some peripheral attempts at examining race, and its “isms”. And, that race is not biological. But, the debate seems to get cold. And, the Census forms stayed the same for decades… So, I will be called many things, and adjectives I won’t mention, and raked over with a fine-tooth-comb. But, that will be “good news”, for I will have once again opened up another proverbial Pandora’s ‘Race’ Box. Not since the phraseology Ameurofian-American. And, it will not alter one iota my being a “colored” “Negro” “black” African-American, “black” American woman and my inherently “white” outing.
Could I be predisposed to the “black” American cultural experience? And, is it possible to reshape a persons identity?
Transracial Adoption: i.e. Transracial Adoption? The argument by some groups in the 1990’s was that if an African American child was placed for adoption into a “white” family’s home, even after they have taken the child(ren) in as foster child(ren), this would be, according to the National Association of Black Social Workers, (NABSW), tantamount to African American cultural genocide. Perhaps their argument is possible? That we are not predisposed racially or otherwise based solely on physical attributes, and could be re-formed? Re-shaped, re-conditioned culturally-speaking, thus effecting the child’s “natural” inclinations or “natural” ethos-connectedness, or allegiance for that matter to that child/persons’ assumed, at-home, culture “race” or ethnic group, perhaps for some children. However, not for those that are strong willed psychologically-speaking, (I am not a psychologist/physician/social scientist). But, I think this might apply for a brief period, if you please. Temporarily, this may be the case. Nonetheless, it is my belief, my “outing” theory, with a small “t”, that this claim of cultural genocide could actually happen, in a country where most are interconnected, is not possible, on an alarming scale. Not when you have conditions that allow for millions of us to live together…. Steve and Ruth Bryant White, of A Place For Us/National, with myself, another director from our headquarters in Little Rock, AK and former Senator Howard Metzenbaum, (D-OH) fought this long hard battle and won! We were excited to learn that President Bill Clinton signed the Multiethnic Placement Act in 1994! A major victory for transracial adoptive parents and children. A letter for Steve Forbes of FORBES magazine to commend me for handling a similar case in Brooklyn, NY was transforming. He believed the foster care system was a complete failure on the children and the economy.
So, no, I suppose to me there is no concrete sweeping evidence of cultural genocide with African-Americans in the foster care system, today. This doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen; that a child could not be “brainwashed”. If the conditions are conducive, I suppose it could happen for some people. But, their true ethos would remain albeit as a tiny flicker of flame. Waiting to touchdown. Like my own. With both parents (born in the north-eastern states), who considered themselves in the 1960’s as Negroes. Then as “blacks”. And, also my complexion being likened to cafe au lait, I realize it will be difficult for most to believe I, seriously, considered “outing” myself as “white”. Probably thinking that I am a lunatic. Nevertheless, both my grandmothers where “white”; my maternal one was of Pennsylvania Dutch and her father was a “white” Native American from a mountain tribe; my paternal one’ father was American Irish and with a “mixed” mother. Both of my grandfathers were a blend of “black”, Native American, and “white”. A bit more later, on my heritage…
If the parents’ are teaching their adopted child the cursory parts of the child’s assumed ethnic-identity, based on solely the traditional way we identity each other, i.e., civil rights leaders from the 1950′ and 60’s, then this same person intrinsically will grasp those tiny morsels, and some day the hunger will be so overwhelming inside to explore further their, “black” American heritage, if indeed that is what it potentially is. And, could very well be, that they will gravitate to and seek out people, places, history and related things that afford them a bountiful meal to feast on. If they feel the freedom to do so. It could take them to places outside of their comfort zone to foreign lands. Or to a local Native American reservation right here at home in the states. Even more socially closed countries there are ways to study vis a vis travel temporarily visit to learn more about these cultures: Student Exchange programs to a personal computer via the internet and simply the local library.
Unfortunately, some have extended their open arms and made it safe for people who look different, and say for instance, they are different racially-speaking, into their homes, i.e. an interracial relationship, and embraced that person, fed them even clothed them and allowed them to become like them, now their ethos to own, while sadly some have done just the opposite to some intimate extent. With the same or similar scenario. An “b&w” interracial couple and how each family treats the mate that is the opposite of their ethnicity or “race”.
Succinctly put, by a lady whom I’ve never met but have spoken with many times,( both of us interracial leaders, she with an adoption mediation center), “…I can understand why biracial people side with the “black” family, it is because the “white” family hasn’t been exactly inviting to them, allowing them to be a significant part of their family.” Easier said than done, I gathered from her musings, when a biracial child truly wishes to acknowledge their dual heritage. This embarrassment isn’t true or speaks to all biracial “b&w” children, and their “white” kin. That their not having embraced these children of blended heritage, as one of their own. Hence, it may be easier for the biracial child to live comfortably among the traditionally-speaking “black” side of the family verses the “white” side, in some cases. This is true still today. I couldn’t disagree completely. Nor argue the point. More to the point, though, we have come a very long distance in bettering the plight and recognition for biracial children, in the Interracial Movement! However, if you’ve been told for generations that part of your blended heritage gets cancelled out because of a ‘slave masters’ definition the dichotomised ‘One Drop Rule’, and you are inundated with the baseless fact that “white” blood lineage is “pure”, a tight euphemism for “weak”, reactions will be visceral. Therefore, people with “white” bloodlines who have for instance, a “black” Native American root, somewhere buried, wouldn’t be pure, you are living based on falsehoods. Namely, the ‘one drop rule’. “Black” people not outraged by this, and accepting this definition too often leaves an eerie silence on this subject and this leaves enough room to blame for the definition still being applied today. Notwithstanding, the point of origin of the definition. If a person, on the other hand, believes their bloodline was inherently and overwhelmingly “weak” to the Darwinian-thought, and extent that they and their progeny could be extinguished obviously this is a subterranean and frightening supposition to have to contend with.
Then that is an unsettling concept to have to keep deep down embedded in ones’ inner belief system. And, I do understand how this myth found fertile ground. The myths conduciveness lies in ones’ tendency towards the very nature of self-preservation, I would say. Not in some sinister plot to destroy others. Ultimately, to keep the culture and customs of a people pure. Not the “race”, per se. This doesn’t speak to all cases. Like ethnic-cleansing. As I have felt this way almost to a fault. Not because I hate “black” people. But, if they knew what I believe to be genuinely the truth that neither folk are owning up to the fact which is: The myth of the “All Powerful Herculean Blood”, of “black” people vis a vis the “All Pure Saintly Blood” of “white” folk. Once a person , I think, can get from under this inane racial thinking, then one can begin to heal. One first thoughtful step is a quiet yet dramatic philosophical shift, I believe is “white” people could begin to understand their own sense of uniqueness and ethnicity. Then accept the fact they have a mixed heritage, and embrace it all, and celebrate it. And, if intrinsically they find they gravitate to a great grandfather, i.e., Native American side, with reddish-browned skin tone/color, than have a feast and own that. Share that you are Native American. Forgetting looks! Or if you have a keen and strong dominant urge and appreciation of the AA “black” cultural heritage experience, study it, live it, eat it, drink it, and find your truest self there. Understanding this great American tri-culture and its riches, too.
This doesn’t truncate your “white” experiences nor your blended heritage, nor that of your folks and ancestors, who may have identified exclusively and felt at home and at peace in the “white” American experience and heritage. The question I’d ponder, though, is “Did they on some level understand they had a choice in the matter?”. I wouldn’t recommend “outing” a relative that has passed on, unless you are 99.9% certain. This is not to be taken casually. Now, back to the rhetorical question my colleague posed to me. About it has been the case historically-speaking, that “black” people found it easier to embrace a “white” relative through an interracial union thus their offspring from the marriage. The biracial child(ren). Nevertheless, the embracing developed into a little more intrusiveness.
And, the definition of the ‘one drop rule’, took a mythical stronghold in the American psyche, and stranglehold in the “black” AA household. I, sincerely, think if they had challenged this earlier on, at the turn of the Century, I can just imagine how further “black” Americans, all people in this nation, would have been with the insidious race question that still begs to haunt us. And, ultimately, of who’s “black” and who’s “white”, in America. But, instead they took it and made it their song. And, those in their intimate surroundings and domain were made to them partake of the same ill-fruitage. The lie about race. Their hospitality went a step further; with those who may have been searching for their true identity on a subconscious level. Wrestling with it vaguely in seemingly safe kitchen-table talk with family or friends. Force-feeding is what their hospitality baked into. It shouldn’t be allowed in nursing homes, let alone, on people of a blended heritage that can decide what is ultimately right for themselves. This is not only wrong but morally wrong. The race-patrol, many interracial leaders call it, have not let up since. If they are champions of the civil rights of others’, then they should not feel, think, or believe they individually or collectively have the moral superiority or right to defer ones’ true ethos-connectedness identity. Biracial and multiracial Americans should state the question, “Who left you guardian?”
On the “white” side of the equation; On the other hand, “white” folk wouldn’t accept “black” folk unless it were safe to do so. Like at work, in school, in travelling at the local supermarket, et cetera. Notice I did not say in church. I am told Sunday is the most racial bifurcation of the week in American life, next to Monday night football. Giving you a taste of their inner circle, or some might say their “Ivory Tower” scenario, and then put you expeditiously, in your cubby-hole, your “natural” place. With an ever so subtle hence profound maneuver. Based upon their inane fear (although, true fear with respect to watering down a culture is completely different, more on that later), you might just get silly and ‘rub-off’ in terms of your mannerisms. And, what will the neighbors think? Who are, along with them, the upholders of the myth of “white” racial weakness. Cultural integrity is another thing. Racial purity is ridiculous. It is likened to a child getting soiled before mom and dad arrive home, you had better get cleaned up.
Both are at fault. One gave us the what I coined the “open and extended” arms policy, and then proceeded to force feed us the ‘one drop rule’ chicken fricassees. While the other one showed us all this delicious food (delicious looking), this feast, smorgasbord of delicacies, and then after you have salivated and began to sample the appetizers got your mouth watered for the real grub the meat and potatoes the table was yanked away. Truth be told, I don’t wish to be at either table. To be force fed and become toast, or to be given a sampling and then get hunger pains. Both are detrimental mentally and emotionally on some level. To most of us. What I want is my right, as a free moral agent, and freedom to express my true ethos. If you want to “fake” it that is your prerogative. In 2000, a bill called H.R. 4085 authored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was introduced in order to force the government to use the Census for it’s true purpose – enumeration. The bill would have stripped away invasive racial and other classifications from the Census. Racial designations are a somewhat private matter, unless we’re are speaking in terms of medical issues. That is where ethnic knowledge comes to play a key role in ones’ health, and for hereditary type illnesses’ purpose.
On honesty: Dan Rather, news anchorman said during an interview on Fox 5, sometime in May 2001, that the former President Bill Clinton is “…honest to the core.” There are people in the AA community that have stated rather passionately that he is/was the First Black President in history! And, he hasn’t exactly shied away from this powerful statement. Not to my knowledge. He has spoken passionately, though, about his European Irish roots! He has said he has always loved jazz, et cetera. (an American music with African and Irish roots), and has “…felt a kinship…”. Being true to oneself is powerful. I believe, think and feel the only way we are to get from under the construction of the insanity of race-thinking is to re-think it, and be willing to take an uncomfortable step. For some this may mean allowing your vulnerabilities to be exposed. As has been said, to “march to the beat of a different drummer.” Perhaps to go so far as to lose friends and family in that enlightening process.
Racial Purity is a false notion: Trying to keep this going, could light up half of Arkansas, and only takes away from one’s life-giving enertia. It is draining spiritually-speaking, is my guess. Spiritually-bankrupting. Sapping away one’s life’s energy. Keeping myths alive! I can almost hear the Reverend, now. No pun intended. This takes a great deal of internal working. This myth.
Racial Power is a false notion: Trying to keep surpressing, and needless to say, neglecting parts of one’s bountiful heritage. Like cutting off a limb, is an affront and an abridge to one’s truest inner beauty. And, it too is morally decaying. Believing that you are able to cancel out ancestors at will is destructive morally. Making one eat the bread of laziness. Not exploring this rich bouquet of ones heritage is harmful to all.
Anti-miscegenation loving fools is what an ancestor would whisper to all who are adding and subtracting from their gene pool, from the grave when one tries desperately to aim and pour libations into the burial ground for only some of their heritage’s’ roots. To even attempt to see the character of an individual is too much work for so many. It is easier to lump people into one parochial separate racial box. “Those” people. The “others'”. But, the boxes are changing, and thanks to the “multiracial” movement (Multiracial Solidarity March – July 1996), it is coming unglued. The U.S. Census 2000 — it is going to get much more difficult for us to keep track and tally up; with 63 combinations and 100 boxes when you fold in ethnicity. Now what do we do? Try Canada? Already some traditional civil rights leaders, some self-appointed, who assume to speak for multiracial Americans, have suggested to the social engineering club elite, and the OMB to put “them” back into the “black”/AA box. The ‘one drop rule’ reigns, in the hearts and minds of so many. Some will be hard pressed to resurrect the old archaic ways of thinking on the matter of race in America. And, hopefully, it will be past lunchtime. Too late to put in reverse.
On Color: It has been said, that it is going to take a “black” woman to take us to that place of human tolerance and compassion. Whereby we accept people based on their inner selves. Content of ones character, as Dr. Martin L. King preached so eloquently. And, less on the outside. As she would be considered the one lesser. On the totem pole of life? This could be possible. Again, how do we define what this “black” woman is to look like in terms of skin tone and color? That could present a whole debate for some folk. Too light-complexioned, or too dark?
As a “white” woman in a “black” body, who understands the “black” experience well, to due what I have coined the “blind phase process”, more on this soon, can say for a certainty the complexion of this “black” woman might pose an issue with some. There is an organization in located in New York City, called The Descendants of Ham and wrote to my publication Harmony People Sentential in 1993 to say that people with the complexion of Muhammad Ali, cafe au lait, are not “black”, not dark enough. Jet black. Race, color;, are equally too often surprisingly used in a prejudiced manner in the AA family for centuries. Many were to have exclaimed that “…after the multiracial leaders get their “multiracial” box when all is said and done they’ll still be “black”!” At least where color prejudice is concerned. There is a very informative book on the subject of color titled the “The Color Complex”, co-authored by, Russell, Hall and Wilson.
It looks like color is lumped in with race? And, this is part of why if we are to dismantle race as we know it and use it today, we will need to take a “new” look at the color complex. Probably, not here. To complex. I am of the opinion, that my magnum opus, and other like-minded people, will work to raze most of its complex structure – used to racialize, with one huge blow. And, in collective principle these hypothesis will continue to support the free moral agent right to self expression with out intimidation.
Blind Phase Process: In 2 Corinthians 3: 1-3; Paul speaks about a degree or ‘Letter of Recommendation’. It is not a literal letter, but one that is inherent or intrinsic. Inscribed on the symbolic heart of the man. Something more profound. More reaching than the physical. Perhaps, looking deeper, then what the naked eye can see, would be in the end, infinitely more forging, healing and enlightening.
After speaking with a friend, who married inter-ethnically, about the kind of torment her mother had endured in the 1950’s due to her skin coloring, I learned how insidious this issue manifests itself. She was born in Italy. Her complexion was an olive toned, and she tanned rather darkly during the summer months. I told her about the book the Color Complex, and that this was a dirty little secret in the AA “black” community. And, the book shades light on a subject that most of America were unaware of for decades. This is something the “black” community wanted kept secret, and away from the general public.
This brings me back to one thing. The intrinsic part of ourselves. Although, you may have been born with certain physical features and skin tones, which enabled you to live, learn, discover and perhaps enjoy another culture and ethos, where it was assumed for centuries that the physical appearance you were gift wrapped in had to match up exactly a certain way, shape or form, with that of a particular “race” or ethnic group to belong to that particular ethnic group, you were actually in what I believe to be the “blind phase”. The “blind phase” does not necessarily mean you were subliminally oblivious. I think people that are so intuitive that they seek out their own true ethos-connectedness despite the intimidation that is so prevalent in our race-thinking society. And, simply continued to categorize themselves accordingly, with the general consensus. Or, didn’t bother, at all, to fill out the forms race question. Unfortunately, ignoring it was a nice try. The ‘eyeball’ test and hypodescent was rudely applied and recorded for you. This should inspire. One should considered themselves blessed. Fortunate, though due to many constraints, man-made of course, and factors that could hinder you potentially to fully blossom. This is ultimately more life affirming, and appreciating, indeed.
On Sounds: Any sounds for me, personally, needs to have structure. Loud sounds, per se, are not necessarily where I’m getting at. Sounds are better understood, enjoyed, appreciated when it is subtler. If the equanimity is present it is certainly more penetrable. Like sitting on a row boat and finding you are somewhere else. In the short span of time, which seems to move synchronically and effortlessly, find you are on a different part of the lake. Still safe and with soundness of mind and emotionally spirited. Das its ein gut musik. Good for the soul. Infiltrated by the sheer universal beauty. Music that carry me to an amazingly wondrous place in my heart and mind and exclaims all the details before arriving to that special place is irritating. Lacks a certain mystery.
An enchanting mode needed to keep the child-like in me wondering, curious in a sense. Not a cacophony. How music transcends and penetrates is a wondrous miracle. And, I must say, with caution, this is not about the vocals of singers. Some of the most spellbinding voices I have heard have orginated out of the AA community. I speak more about a certain pitch, presentation, lingo, tone, and attitude. Not necessarily good or bad. Maybe it has to do with the region a culture was formed. Mountainous regions and colder climates are possibly something’s’ to consider in the idea of the way people adjust to sound in that part of the region?
Body language: The nuances of body language I have understood more profoundly and with much more intimacy with those who wear the unbiological racial label of “white”. With the “black” experience the body language I have felt distressed excitement. An extremely uncomfortable sensation. Even in settings where one would least expect. Not a hazy consternation. Not to a degree of unsafety for my person. I really don’t know how else to share this except to say it has a strong presence. Although, I find that their are those with a grace in their stride, I can remember as a child, the “bop” type walk, when I am in a somewhat festive atmosphere it is quite wonderful to behold. Nevertheless, perhaps, this is, in whole or in part, due to body-rhythms in the culture, customs within our ethos-cultural experience that is submerged and deeply embedded in our cultural-ethos psyche. The subtleties I strain to find a commonality. I must admit, though, that there are rare times I do. But, it is only when in an urgent or high stressed situation. And, sadly even at this juncture of mutuality, I rarely feel a real lasting connection. It is quite cursory in comparison to what I believe is my “intrinsic” connections with some or most of my “white” brethren. And, I must emphasize there are those I do connect with in the “black” folks and experience, and surprisingly, “white” folks I don’t connect with in this case. Albeit in rare cases. When it happens with a “black” woman, in particular, I try to forge a bond and befriend her. And, I have noticed similarities, like we have no compunction in dating “white” men for example. Noticeably, they are although few, in the interracial experience and circles in large measure. And, quite balanced emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Over the past two decades, we would hedge when we began to discuss the peripherals of my “outing”, and at some point the conversation peters out. I sense, though, a kinship there. But, fear of the unknown, I think, has compelled us to move away from the core of our need to unearth these incredibly sensual, visceral and enlightening aspects of our truest intrinsic selves. And, at times, a certain giving in to the peddlers of race-baiting seemingly ensues in our mind at every avenue of our longing to explore; around the most unlikely corners. From friends and family to total strangers.
On American Culture: America’s cultural foundation was so inspired by those great men, mostly from European lands. America culture is the culmination of decades of study, social engineering, securing liberty, equality and respect for life, religious freedom, from a collective focused effort to produce the most sacred, finest, most nourishing, ever-expanding, living holy writ ever documented in world history. Charity; import; freedoms; and theology come to mind when I muse of her humble greatness. If we were to sift diligently through, with a mind-set firmly in place for disgraced things, throughout our nations history, at our kitchen tables, we would for a certainty find imperfections. This was already considered centuries ago. Our Founding Father President Thomas Jefferson so purely, and with god-like insight, wrote in the American Declaration of Independence, “…a more perfect union.”
A little “black” girl: Case in point. During the time I was having this dilemma about my tri-heritage, and why I had these sometimes totally alienating feelings, while in the presence of some AA “black” people, and among a hand full in my own family, I was working at a local Department of Social Services, in the late 1980’s. There were several “black” women that were my co-workers. At lunch time, a few of us remained indoors to eat, one wintry chilly afternoon.
The conversation grew rather disturbing. We were discussing television sit-coms. One lady in her mid-forties, said that America’s Dad on the “The Cosby Show” was not the way “…real black people lived!”. Even I was shocked. Not a pro-black urge. But, my “white” ethos, and sense of fairness could not be contained. I looked around to see if anyone else would say something to correct her. I think we were all slightly afraid of an argument that might ensue, with a person that may win based on her fortitude to use emotional and guilt-ridden upheaval. And, lunch looked a heck of lot better, along with the magazine. The only “black” woman, in the traditional sense, sitting in the midst of this heaviness, in the office that infamous afternoon was myself and the lady herself, an AA who made this ridiculous comment. I was dumbfounded. I knew I couldn’t just leave this one hanging in the air. So, I politely replied, “I grew up witnessing this very lifestyle. My mom was in the medical field and had lots of physician friends. I stayed on at a farmhouse one summer, and visited doctor, my American Native family doctor who birthed me and named me one of his children, named “TL”…” And, further, I went on to say, “Actually, they do live that way!”. I was so sheepish about it, though, I don’t think she even absorbed it. She mumbled something and went back to her lunch. The three (3) “white” women co-workers looked horrified with disbelief. And, we just stopped conversing after that. It got real quiet. I felt it was my “duty” to defend the “black” community, as I saw no reason why anyone should truly believe such non-sense, especially these days. At times, I just find it difficult to respond to such “racial” slings and arrows. It is too painful, I suppose. And, I don’t like to get into conversations about race. Unless, I am in a controlled setting. Then I feel more open to talk about “it”. Less fearful someone will lose control. I have always, though, enjoyed a good debate. Politics, religion, the environment, women’s issues, et cetera. I am truly an activist.
But, one morning, on a crisp cool April, an interesting thing happened to me. The same job. It was like an submerged epiphany a couple of months later. A lady co-worker, “black”, brought her little girl into work. She, the mother, was medium to light brown complexioned with hazel eyes. Her hair was medium warm brown, and from what looked to me it was permed (the kind to straighten, ladies). Her little girl about 3 or 4 years old, looked almost like a spitting image of her mother. Cute as a button. It was about 10 am when she came in. She had plans to be at work for half a day. It may have been her daughters’ birthday. As she walked around the office and our desks, she introduced her to the ladies in the office. At which time, she came over to my desk, the one conspicuously tucked away in the corner in the back, where I felt more cozy, and introduced me to her little girl.
Surprised at what she confessed immediately after her rounds is an understatement. And, I must preface this by saying, I had similar sensations, and I never quite felt the same again. I never felt more kin to her daughter than I was just about to this fateful morning in April 1988. She whispered, “Valerie, out of all the “black” people in the office, you’re the only one my daughter wasn’t afraid of. She usually runs away when a “black” person a stranger comes near her!? Ugh? And, I don’t know what makes her so afraid to be near people who look like you and me?! There’s nothing in the world I’ve done to this child to make her this way, honestly. I have a BA in sociology, I’m a good caseworker, this is nuts! IT embarrasses me, you just don’t know…. She was fine with the “white” workers and she kept playing with you at your desks’. You’re the first “black” person she was instantly playful and fearless of. I am so shocked, but pleased.” I didn’t say anything. I had a half-hearted smile, and replied something like, “…You’re kidding?!”, as she continued to share this phenomenon. She, I’m sure, felt a sigh of relief that maybe there was a ray of hope. That at least she gravitated to me. A “black” woman. I dismissed it. Until alone at my desk and knew something clicked even deeper. I just never had a person who I didn’t know that intimately share something so profound. Until alone at home. That is when I fully understood the kinship I shared with her daughter. Babes are very honest almost to a fault. I never revealed my “white” ethos-connectedness identity to her. My secret identity lay dormant, and I remained tragically in the closet for many more years. Although, with most of my family I was safe and secure in mannerisms, thoughts and feelings, on every human level. Without telling them I felt a kinship in either direction, be it “black”, “white” or Native American. Label-less was fine, for the moment.
My upbringing: My life and upbringing I won’t deny has, obviously, had a huge influence on me. That’s a no brainer. And, how I look at race in my beloved country. Possibly, indoctrination occurred in my “b&w” social and religious life (Protestant, Lutheran Methodist). Giving me a taste of both sides of the proverbial heritage isle. Very little connection with my Native side. Although when it surfaced it was very clear to me. My maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch and Ahoskie Native American. My maternal great grandmother was a blend of English and German her husband was Ahoskie Native. My maternal great great grandmother was WASP and her husband also WASP and word is he was a landowner with indentured servants. My maternal grandfather’s lineage is not completely known, although Negro American is what he identified as, and it was said he had Native heritage. My paternal grandfather identified as Negro American, with German and Native lineage. And, his wife, my grandmother was “mixed” with Irish American and “black/white”, Native. My paternal great grandparents were Irish and German, and “mixed” race, “black”, “Native” and “white”. Paternal step grandfather “white” Scott-Irish. One maternal step grandfather was “black” mixed-race, and one with, “brown-complexioned-skin” was a chef for the elite, from Bermuda. My fathers’ second and last wife, was “white” (see step-grands’ lineage). Maternal step grandmother was “white” with Irish and Italian background. One paternal step grandmother was Negro with Native lineage. All tribal knowledge has, unfortunately, been largely and officially, unrecorded.
Note, my maternal grandmother’s phenotype was neutral looking. Although, her fair-skin and blue eye coloring and light hair her ethos id comfort zone was within the AA community. She loved the culture/music and the art. Their ethos was inherently hers, too. She was adamant about expressing her “black” heritage grasping her Native lineage. And, my paternal grandmother had jet black straight hair dark eyes, milky-cream complexion skin coloring. She too found her ethos id comfort zone within the “black” community. Although, not her entire family. Most married “white” Americans. Or, people that where extremely comfortable associating with “white” people. And, quite patriotic. But, the question will remain, for me, did they have a choice? The grandfathers were seemingly neutral. However, none exhibited any “pro” Afro-American ideologies. And, all served in the armed forces. And, were very patriotic American males. They were from fair-skinned with blue eyes or light eyes and hair to dark brown chocolate complexioned with dark brown/reddish hair and shades of brown eye coloring.
My family tree, what little is known to me, is very diverse. Culturally, though, we were all staunch Americans. And, wanted nothing more than to assimilate into the dominant culture, however, bring what we could to the table which had to be palatable and blend in. Otherwise, you brought it out at home, or in celebration. Some day I will do a family tree. Nonetheless, I didn’t believe that it was needed when discussing my “outing”, as being inherently and inborn a “white” woman in a “black” woman’s body. To discuss all of my family tree and all its ideologies and intricacies has little to do with what I believe is more telling than ones’ outward appearances, and rearing. I only wanted you to have some idea of some of my immediate blended heritage. Some day I shall explore it through the U.S. Census — preferably, through oral history, dossiers, and photographs passed down.
I have touched on and expressed my feelings, thoughts, and my beliefs on my “outing” for you to take from it what you will to aid in your own self-discovery and “outing”. Or, perhaps you may criticize and exclaim that this is not a scholarly piece of work or composition. Well, frankly, it wasn’t meant to be. This is for me. My magnum opus. I wanted to share it with the public. And, this is, principally, about my “whiteness” and “blackness”, that is how I identified for years. It is vital to my life. Being true to myself has been an intimate life affirming and enriching coming to that inner knowing. I shall not take the conciliatory stance, ever again. To appease no one. No matter who thinks I should. To live a submerged truth for the case of a slave masters definition of who’s “white” and who’s “black” in American life was a daunting task. It would certainly be troubling if my manifesto were absent of a principled approach. This is an honest and steadfast coming of my ethos. The anthropologist; scholar; researcher; social scientist will have a field day. But, that is what they do. That is their job. To dissect the metaphysical blueprint I think I and several abolitionists’ have shared is to some degree to be expected of an exegesis.
Remembering that whatever they call me, afterwards is of little or no concern to me. A student at Marist College; I studied liberal arts and philosophy; later government & community services through SUNY at Buffalo – FDR years and the U.S. Government and Welfare; a former theologian student with a major in biblical Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek/Christian philosophy – minor in ancient history; and elected to be an auxiliary pioneer minister, (renounced position). Balanced with my brief stint as a former “Playboy Bunny” waitress, until my father at my mothers’ blessings, rudely, yanked me out of the “sex” industry. I was shipped out to a small coal mining town outside of Philadelphia, to stay on a campus at Robert Morris College (now Robert Morris University), and attend Wilma Boyd Careers School, Inc. I believe I have a thoroughly balanced view of life. An interracial activist for over a decade, and rose from member in 1991 to become a deputy chief national director with A Place for Us/National, and later forming my own grassroots groups. Wrote for several publications; Interrace Magazine and was a staff writer for New People Magazine, both on newsstands nation-wide in the early 1990’s. Now on the web.
And, top that off with a occupational studies in culinary arts degree, in 1996. I am just fine with my “outing”. I am very demonstrative, but practical, too. Sure, I’ll whence and may even shade tears…. When I have the good fortune to read, overhear, view writings, via the internet, et cetera. But, only, for a moment. Compared to a lifetime of hiding my true inborn “white” ethos-connectedness It will all be just fine. I will take to heart, once again, what Frederick Douglass shared over a hundred years ago, “…without agitation there can be no progress…”. Lobbying the OMB, and having an historical seat in the sub-committee hearings at the U.S. Capitol, along with several dedicated leaders in the multiracial movement, was a decades’ long and hard fought battle. A war! And, we won!!! (See – New People eMagazine — Dr. Francis Wardle’s commentary, of 2001 We won, We won, We won!). With a celebration with the national leadership on March 30, 2000 — in Washington, D.C., titled “The Multiracial Leadership Roundtable 2000 Census: A discourse on our choices. The following day, on April 1, 2000, President Clinton’s radio address reminded us of the enumerators coming to visit. We got our nation, for the first time in U.S. Census history, to literally re-think how we look at race, and record it, in America the beautiful!
Noam Chomsky once said that if you repeat a cliché, few people will contradict you. Nor challenge you. If you make a true statement that is almost never discussed in public, you can expect to be constantly challenged. So, reflecting back to the subcommittee hearings at the U.S. Capitol, and witnessing our enemies fight us to the death which finally shade a brilliant light on many AA “black’s” indifference to the “mixed” race community, family and person; was in the end not only telling but strengthening of our convictions. While amazed at such great institutions were unsympathetic to such a noble and moral cause and right. Despite the backlash we continued building the edifice of color-blind society. Still some will no doubt remain in a vitriolic stupor and propitiatory ethos like suicide mode, at their own peril. From the state, church, civil rights groups, media and surprisingly Hollywood and other gatekeepers of the infamous ‘one drop rule’ der mythus des 20 Jahrhunderts, myths of the 20th Century, have intimidated us into conformity. A new conception of our humanness is needed to rouse us from this dehumanizing slumber we are still immobilized in.
One drop rule: In my opinion, and interracial activists’ in America, and perhaps everywhere, would agree, that the ‘one drop rule’, definition is fuelled by fear, ignorance and survives by intimidation. White racial “purity” is fuelled in my opinion, by a kind of subjugation and an orphan-type creating circle of certain citizens, less fortunate, amongst our society. The slave masters’ definition for AA that some “black” people hold so near and dear is pathetic. And, some are gaining politically from it. I understood how this could be used to aid in self-discovery, at some point, but now I am not clear why. Today, though, men appointed to govern time honored civil rights organizations with its vast colorful array of America’s citizens have begun to nauseatingly use “race-baiting” as an opportunity to enrich themselves and their progeny, leaving behind destitute millions. Is it symbolic abuse? I shutter to think.
There are those in the AA community that profess we are all Africans. That we are all “black”. I do find somewhat of an authenticity in the possibility that presumably life began there. But after migration, after the catastrophic deluge, that every civilization has attested to, brought about several major and distinctly different cultures. Hence, our various rich ethnic lineage. With the richness that comes so significantly from these other lands we must honor their people. Yes, we are one HUMAN family. One race. Further, we cannot denigrate, in good conscience, the ethnic and cultural mosaic of other people. So, here is where I think I can offer common ground. A place for all of us, intrinsic-ethos passed down from our forebears, our fore-sires. Not cancelling out; no camouflage, nor embellishing this intrinsic, already its own beauty, this intrinsic kinship, but to embrace it, holistically, along with all of its outward beauty and diversity. Whether that be long wavy hair and feeling closer to the Chinese, or beautiful dark cocoa complexioned skin and feeling a kin with Scandinavians, or fair skin and eye coloring and feelings, longings and thoughts for the Congo. While on the inside you felt and where taught you had to submit to an identity that was ridgid, I am offering you a bright “new” way of thinking and embracing.
The inside is yours to define, own and celebrate. The outside is simply icing on the ‘Birthright cake’! And, I proclaim, you can have your ‘Birthright cake’ and eat it too! It is non-negotiable. I promise. Try it you will love it! Like Forrest Gump said so plainly, “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”. With respect to one’s intrinsic ethos-connectedness, I’d go a step further, “Life is a box of chocolates, you always know what you’re gonna give!”. Think of it in a “new” way, the saying “Ignorance is bliss.”, I like to say, “Blindness is bliss.”
At birth though, I would ascribe the newborns’ identity to that of the mother as she is the primary giver. The natural, maternal, one (even in adoption) should, no doubt in my mind, inherit this supreme ethos-identity giving position and organization in the cyclical sphere of the innocent. When the child is mature and understands culture, ethos-connectedness, and their inborn identity revisits, a ghosts’ midnight rise, they are then free to either continue on in the id of their birth mother and father or caregiver; or express their own self-identity, if it turns out it is different from what was given to them at birth.
I noticed, as I got to be in my late 30’s a few years ago, my “white” ethos began to get more insidious in its ever frequent emboldened appearances. And, one fateful evening in the Spring 2001, a blink past midnight, it dawned on me it was past time. To once and for all, listen to this overwhelming inner knowing. My “white” essence. Fortunately, I have not become hardened of heart by decades of hiding my true ethos. As, I am sure some have experienced. The difference with me is the unspoken and fluid ease, and the ethnic diversity within my familial life that was with great fortune blessed for me. The experiences I have encountered have been many, too numerous to mentioni. And, surprisingly, with consistency are this daily happenings. A dream I had, recently, after publishing the excerpt portion on TAE. While grocery shopping with my mother, a strange thing occurred where I experienced an out-of-body releasing. I looked at my person (myself), in front of me, with the traditional associated “white” person’s fair-skinned complexion. This race and color coding is quite deeply embedded in our early childhood memory bank. And, psyche, I suppose. People of color, includes, all people of color, and that my friends includes everyone.
The one thing I would like to share is of a great philosopher, who I had not been able to study, but had heard of him years ago. Friederich Nietzsche. I stumbled upon his writings after a columnist quoted him in the paper regarding “truth”. And, a few weeks later during the labor of love, my manifesto, I read something profound. It was on a cold night this January when I felt I had no more strength to complete these writings. And, felt a melancholy I haven’t felt since post-pregnancy. It was frightening this particular wintry night. A librarian clerk handed me something to read. When I read it I felt transformed and a weight lifted off of my chest. Before I share this with you I wanted to say too that on a program I rarely ever have watched, more than twice, was on. Called “Oh, Drama!“, and Mary J. Blige was the guest. She spoke eloquently about being depressed and even talked of suicide. And, how this is from a negative force. Finally, this combined was so amazing. And, especially what Nietzsche wrote over a hundred years ago…
“Wie man wird, was man ist.” “How one becomes, what one is.” I speak a little Dutch and have studied basic German language. I will be a follower of Nietzsche for many years to come. God bless, and God Bless America!
Copyright © Valerie A. Wilkins-Godbee, My Ghosts’ Midnight Manifesto
– copyrighted/all rights reserved HPS – ISSN: 1068-8226.