Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2001 10:15:00 -0800 (PST)
From: “Ted Hill” email@example.com
Subject: Letter to the Editor
This was my first reading of editorials from this site. I have had it on my homepage for many months, and haven’t opened it because I feared my sisters and brothers here, would engage in the same type of “preaching, bitching and moaning” that I have found on other list-servers. I was pleasantly surprised to find a minimal amount of that here. However, as with most complex issues (and being “mixed” is a very complex issue) we have a tendency to do with this issue what many here report being done with ethnicity we compartmentalize our thinking about it into discrete camps, i.e., either you are hiding your Blackness or flaunting what little you have your either feeling inferior because of it or hate that part of yourself. This tendency to compartmentalize our cognitions into “neat packages” is embedded in the human condition. It is the way cognitive processing works, so no one should feel criticized by this observation. However, I have found that God has placed within each of us a piece of Himself to guide us, which, if allowed, will break the log=jam of mental categorization and allow us glimpses of reality.
Everyone who takes the time to write to this forum, has something “legitimate” to say, if based in their experience. It may not sound like what you would say, or what you have experienced, and it may easily fit within one of “your” theoretical categories, and thus dismissed. What we each have that is of supreme value to one another is our differing experiences, lived by us alone, as a “mixed” person (I use “mixed” because I try to keep things simple and avoid the ever expansive politically correct terminology that fluctuates with time). That experience cannot be taken from us, devalued by rhetoric, changed by differential conceptualizations of how we must have interpreted that experience or made any more “acceptable” if understood (usually by the person who lived it) in the “correct” (usually defined by someone “judging” it) manner. We are our experience good or bad, correct or incorrect (if there is such a thing). It is our most valuable possession.
When I originally saved this site on my homepage I was hoping that a sharing of our different experiences was what I would find, fully realizing that, as with mental categorization, promoting “our” understanding of things is a process of the human condition, too. It makes us feel secure and safe (like we have the “right” handle on life, when actually there is no handle at all). I find a lot of “promoting” on this forum, with an incredible amount of judgement being freely dispersed. Let me see if I can model what I am suggesting.
I was born a Black man in America, who happened to have a white mother. I internalized this understanding (initially) because in the early 1950s, both my parents and society taught me that I would be identified, and hence treated, as a Black man in America. Why did my Blackness become the predominent core of my identity formation? Because my parents taught me that that’s what I was, and when I became old enough to begin deciding for myself, two things were obvious. One, I was proud of my people. Black people. Any group of people that can endure what has/is being done to Black folks in this country (and around the world, by this country and others) and maintain their sense of integrity, spirituality, goodness, is worthy of pride (not to mention Jazz, blues, “American” music in general, the contributions of people like W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelo, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Gordon Parks, Huey P. Newton). Two, society responded to me as a Black man in America. My hair is straight, my skin light. Most people identify me as Hispanic, Iranian, Mid-Eastern (or whoever the US happens to be bombing). But the powers that be, schools, police, courts, employers responded to me as a Black man. Black men know what I mean, i.e., not being able to drive on an interstate without getting pulled over…judges talking about burying you under the jail for a minor offense…schools tracking you on anything BUT a college bound tract…employers not even offering an application.
I must, however, own my end of it. I was raised for the first 11 years in the projects of a small New Jersey town. I ran the streets of Harlem for many years during late adolescence and early adulthood. I was a member of the Black Panther Party in 1969-70. I carry myself like I am at odds with the predominant culture, and that gets read as much as my racial appearance. [Let me share an aside about the projects. I saw a young ladies story in this forum about mixed folks having anymosity towards Blacks for being treated badly by them…and then a gentlemen’s reply comparing what Black people could have done to her vs the white powers that be. My mom was the only white person in the projects. In my elementary school, there was one white kid. He caught hell, and next in line was…me. I have two older brothers, and they taught me how to fight because they knew the time would come that I too would be greeted by my young classmates wanting to beat up on the mixed kid. We fought regularly, were chased home frequently by crowds of kids, got beat and did some beating. On the other hand, I had very good friends that have left rich memories of fantastic times we had together, in the projects. There was good…there was bad. I think we call that life. But believe me, white folks do not have a monopoly on viciousness or meanness. And, the sister that wrote this, was simply sharing “her” experience. If you think Black folks can’t precipitate sufficient personal agony to warrant anymosity, you haven’t lived with us.]
I could go on (and reserve the right to in the future), but this little story is not a story. It was/is my life. Can it be judged? If you get something out of doing that. It won’t change anything. Can my motives or internal psychological workings be questioned and judged? Yea, if you get something out of that. It doesn’t change a thing. My point is threefold. One, my life was my life and how I experienced it was my experience. Two, life is a process, hopefully a growing process, where we change, adjust, let go of the old and embrace the new. I tell people today, when asked, that “I am mixed, Black and white” (I know that still means I am a Black man in America). And three, we are all God’s children…or none of us are! Rejoice in the sharing of our different experiences, which can best be done simply by investing the time to listen. When personal judgment/evaluation steps in, listening stops and sharing is lost. I have one supreme thing of value and that is the life God has walked me through. Sharing that may help someone, possibly make someone feel less alone, less alienated. Sharing that may bring me closer to someone, and that is the name of the game…relationships. Not too many people on their death bed…(as a psychologist I know) not too many suicidal people, consider anything BUT the relationships they are either currently involved in, or have been. Share yourself…without fear of judgment…I, for one, am thirsting for it. God bless.