I saw this on Colorlines (the Celebrate Love section is my favourite!) and I had to share! So much API love in this Magnetic North video! Keep an eye out for Yellow Rage, Yuri Kochiyama, DRZZL, Blue Scholars, Bao Phi and many more!
MAD LOVE to Das Racist. This song is amazing. I’d love to hear a Womanist version of it too, any of my WOC down for a remix?
When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid
Remember, there’s so much beauty in the world! Extra hugs if you know where this was filmed!
As any mixed-race-baby can tell you, sometimes, it isn’t easy. Beyond working to understand your own ethnic and cultural identity, you have an entire world of people who just don’t seem to get it. We’re multiracial, it’s really not that confusing, and really none of your business. But for some strange reason, many assume our faces and bodies are public domain, like a pregnant woman’s stomach. I have been in this situation one too many times, and in my hometown, it happens on a daily basis. You’d think I’m exaggerating. Really, you would, I know.
Basically, people love to get all googlemaps up on a mixed baby’s face. They get this inquisitive look, trying to decipher the puzzle that is your FACE. They squint their eyes, move their head at different angles, take a step back even. They take many guesses, upset when they have not figured out what you are. And even if you explain your ethnicity to them, they love to go through all the different ethnicities that you look like, or be extra smart and ask “are you sure you’re not part _____ too?” How informative. Thank you for sharing. You have made my life so much richer by telling me that I look Italian and Egyptian. I also really appreciated hearing about every other mixed person you’ve ever encountered.
I was recently at an event for work, a really powerful-good-for-the-soul panel on interfaith activism. I was sitting in front of an older Indian man, and while we all waited for the panel to begin we started to talk. He asked me where I was from, and after I answered, I waited for the look. And of course, he started the usual interrogation. I began my usual explanation, “My mother is….and my father…” hoping it would just end at that. But this gentleman began analysing the ethnic makeup of my face. “Well I thought you were Indian! Because your eyes, yes your eyes look Indian. But I mean, your nose, I knew it wasn’t Indian. And your hair doesn’t look quite South Asian…” Of course he did not realise how his comments were inappropriate and uncomfortable. Luckily the panel began and so I just smiled awkwardly and interrupted his deciphering with a “nice to meet you!” and turned towards the panellists.
Since I have encountered this situation oh so many times, I’ve developed a few favourite strategies:
a) Politely explain your ethnicity and hope it ends at that. It usually doesn’t however, and that’s where the problem lies with this strategy. It usually turns into an:
- “Oh well that’s an interesting mix!” (I’m not a science experiment)
- “Oh how exotic!” (asshole.)
- “Wait, how did that happen?” (Either no one ever has ever had “the talk” with you, or you were failed by your education system. Also, rude.)
And so if you use this approach and you have to be polite (EG: you’re at an event for work) or don’t feel like going through the excruciating explanation, then find some way to just end the conversation. It’s not worth it sometimes.
b) One of my best friends and I use this strategy often: make up a mix that is clearly not your ethnicity or say something that doesn’t make sense. Granted, this doesn’t work when you are asked by someone you will have to see again, but for that obnoxious passer-byer who just has to know what you are, this one’s my personal favourite.
- “I’m Chinese” (said by my Cameroonian friend).
- “I’m Cameroonian” (said by me)
- “I’m White. I swear. Can I have some white privilege now please?”
- “I’m Asia. And of course, part dragon.”
c) OHMYGOD I DON’T KNOW. WHEN WILL PEOPLE STOP BEING SO OBNOXIOUS?
d) I’ve recently experimented with asking people why they asked me about my ethnicity. Something like:
- “Oh my goooossshhh you look sooooooo different, what are you oh my goooosshhh!?”
- “Why do you ask?”
- “Oh because you know, you look so exotic and I’m just like, you know curious!”
- “That’s not good enough. Give me an honest answer first.”
You’d have to end it at that (and hope your comment makes them think) if you don’t have the time/energy to go through an entire discussion on exotification that will probably be very painful. I’m not sure how effective this is, but I think a big part of learning is asking the right questions/being asked the right questions.
e) When I think of a really powerful, solid way to deconstruct such ignorance, I’ll let you know.
This beautiful poem changed my life, and continues to inspire and motivate me. Thank you, Michelle and Catzie, for sharing your gift and words with us.
And it is within
these splinters along boundaries that teeter-totter with no intention of ceasing their sway/
that my vision is most clear.
As I continue to stretch my borderlands grounds I realise that decolonization is not only a day-to-day practice I must undertake, it is a goal I must set. An unattainable goal, yes. But when has that ever been a legitimate reason to not try? And arguably, it’s my only option.
What does decolonization mean, however, when we are not in our comfort zones? What does it mean to assert communal liberation against systems that do not wish to be dismantled? I don’t think that there is any one tactic, and I don’t believe in doing anything to simply “prove something” to “someone.” I do think that I need to pay attention. I need to engage. I need to assert that my wild tongue will not be cut out, especially as new borderlands spaces develop, ones where I have had no time to get comfortable. I have decided to continue my writing, to document these situations, and to see if I can develop a tool kit for our wild tongues. Perhaps it’s time for some good old trial and error.
“Why am I compelled to write?…Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy…Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.”
— Gloria Anzaldúa