Trying To Pass

This is from Mat Johnson’s interview on Fresh Air about Loving Day.

But, yeah, I mean, there’s points now – I mean, I don’t actively try to pass, but I know my privilege. You know, all this stuff, like, me, like, dealing with the issues I had of looking the way I did, I mean, they’re nothing compared to issues that many African-Americans have to deal with in this country. You know, I got pulled over by the cops on the way to this interview (laughter) today… Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, it was completely my fault (laughter). I mean, I didn’t update my tags on my car. It was no biggie. It was no – no drunken, you know, car chase, but it was still, you know – it’s always scary, you know? And when that cop came to the window, I did my best Caucasian, you know? My grammar was perfect. I did everything I could in that moment to be nonthreatening. And I know part of that is not, you know, having him perceive me as black ’cause I know that can end up getting me killed. It can, so I have to…

This reminded me of trying to pass for black in west Texas returning from Arizona to not get shipped to Mexico.

But, I do “my best Caucasian” when a police officer stops me. These are tense, careful moments. Pre-9/11, I only had to deal with Driving While Black, basically stops for no reason. In the few years after 9/11, I also had to deal with Driving While Middle Eastern. I got a couple warnings over broken brake lights, which are fine. I had two cars where a plastic piece sheared making the brake lights not light up three times. But, I also got three stops for no reason. The officer just wanted a closer look and decided there was nothing of interest and cut me loose.

As I got older, these happened less frequently. Since moving to a college town, I have not gotten stopped for no reason. They have always been for something I actually did.

I should use my best African or Caucasian for airline agents so as to not get selected for the extra TSA check.

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Black Enough

As a biracial kid, in order to hang with the black kids I had to be even blacker. My light skin was a liability where to prove my qualifications for membership, I had to act blacker than the blackest kid. My dark skin required me to behave whiter than the whitest kid in order to belong amongst the white cliques.

So, I kind of understand the Rachel Dolezal situation. In order to belong in the social group she chose, she strongly adopted the culture and did whatever she could to belong.

1935818_605476453633_5614386_nDad is much darker than I. He’s on the left. I am on the right. He was raised to operate in middle class white culture, which is how he in turn raised me. Correct pronunciations. No Southern accent. Table manners. Social obligation. The power of clothing on impressions.

By a strict interpretation of my state’s former law, I have knowingly broken it by at times checking “White” on boxes with race. If I produced kids with a Caucasian woman who in turn produced kids with a Caucasian person, then my grandkids could then check the “White” box. I was making a point to society by arbitrarily alternating between checking Black and White boxes when forms forced me to pick just one. When I got a box that was Multi-Racial (and often Other), then I went with that option. I am happiest with the “Pick all that apply” style option.

For me, people should respect how I identify. Whatever I claim to be, respect my choice.

Book Review: Single & Happy: The Party of Ones

Single & Happy: The Party of OnesSingle & Happy: The Party of Ones by J. Victoria Sanders

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back in late 2011, I ran across the Single & Happy blog. WordPress.com had drawn me in, but I started looking at various tags including dating. Lots were people talking about current dates and especially the horror that is online dating web sites. Single & Happy was a better, maturer different.

My only other experiences with blog writers who publish a book is to collect the best blog posts, give them to an editor, maybe expand a bit upon them, and publish the collection. Instead we get an actual book influenced by prior work and so something new and exciting.

While not a single black woman, I am single and almost black. I strongly sympathize with the plight of attempting online dating. The dating stories seem eerily familiar. And the advice Victoria gives on being a friend to yourself is good advice. It happens I a friend posted on Facebook on why she hates the question, “Why are you single?” so I referenced a quote from this book.

Somehow after decades of being single, I think I am happy. Well, happy-ish. There is room for improvement. It is good to know there are others out there working on the same issues willing to talk about the challenges.

View all my reviews

Merge Historically Black Colleges With White?

Retention is one of those numbers higher education leaders tend to review to determine how effectively the faculty reaches the students. Historically black colleges and universities were created because students found it difficult both to get into “neutral” colleges and graduate from them. That latter part sounds like they were created in part to solve a retention issue.

Enter Georgia Senator Seth Harp who suggests a couple HBCUs in Georgia should merge with their neutral neighbors. The idea is to save money by not having more than one college in a town. Are black students as successful at “neutral” colleges as their white counterparts? If not, then the reason these schools exist has yet to be solved.

If we want to eliminate HBCUs, then we should have colleges and unviersities where all students succeed regardless of race (or gender, religion, or other factors).