Merrily Going ‘Round

I am arguing endlessly with my youngest brother on the topic of race and I want to give up. I want to say:

Dear C., While I know you are a mixed Creole, and I know you want everyone to recognize you as such, I also know that where you are living, most people do not know about mixed Creoles and will just see you as African-American. I cannot really fault them for that, nor can I blame African-Americans from around the country who may feel that your identity as a mixed Creole is a mere affectation or an effort to flee from Blackness. There are historical reasons for their reaction. Let them be. Love, Z.

That is a very simple message but of course it is not so simple. I think we are arguing about race because really we are arguing about something else but we do not know its name.


He also thinks that a national education system, as they have in parts of Europe, would cure American ignorance. I say that NCLB is the tenor of any national education system we could get, that the use of metrics for assessment and the proliferation of high stakes exit examinations is already increasing, and that if we got more of one it probably would not be allowed to teach the theory of evolution. I further say that it is not the education system which is the root problem, there are many roots, as in a Deleuzian rhizome, and they include capitalism, slavery and post-slavery, xenophobia, and the corporate media. I cannot say these things to him because I can argue better than he can, and it will become oppressive. So I am talking back here.


16 thoughts on “Merrily Going ‘Round

  1. That, in part. I also don’t want to enable this anti- Black thing. Creole culture and history are interesting but this Creoles Against Blackness thing is pernicious and also antiquated. I’m against it politically, for obvious reasons. Also, I’m not a psychologist but I think this, in this person, involves the projection of a not quite repressed memory. As a child our friend was abused by a Black person, and he has unresolved issues as a result of this, which he’s getting weirder and weirder about, and I think the anti-Black thing is a way of saying something like “I’m OK, and I’m not you, and you are a jerk.” Which is exactly the right thing to say to or think about that person. But it would also involve or lead to having to look at some ways in which he is still affected by what happened way back when, which in my theory and in that of our smart aunt is what he is trying to avoid. I don’t know what to do and may have pushed too hard already on the politics: but it was through the conversation on politics that I figured out what might really be going on.

  2. “I’m OK, and I’m not you, and you are a jerk.”

    I’d say this must be a common reaction. I think it is quite intelligent to attempt to generalise from the particular instance of abuse and its identitifying features in order to try to avoid abuse in the future. I know I’ve done this. I think it requires a lot of gentleness to get beyond this stage, otherwise it just seems as if somebody else if abusing you on behalf of the abusive crowd. It confirms your prejudices and suspicions.

  3. Yes but the old tired white thing to do is say I was once robbed by a Black person so they are all robbers.

    That’s a very different thing, which has to do with the complacent perpetuation of cliches, rather than with an actual strategy (no matter how mistaken) to prevent oneself from being traumatised again.

  4. Yes. I’d be much more comfortable if this friend of mine would say he was freaked out by Black men with xyz other characteristics, because he has this association, etc. But it would be a *huge* step for him to do this and it isn’t one I’d dare suggest myself – he’d need expert support to handle whatever came up for him. There’s also a blogger who is like this, although the issues are different and configured differently. People have commented saying where they think the issue lies, but he reacts very badly to that … so I am figuring it means he’s not ready to deal, he’ll have to do it on his own time. In the case of my friend, I hope it’s before he freaks out or something.

  5. …of course, if I’m right. I’m not a psychologist and I feel intrusive speculating. But for me at least it’s too hard to listen to the anti-Black screed … I associate it with mean people and I just can’t handle putting up with it, even if what is meant is something else.

  6. But for me at least it’s too hard to listen to the anti-Black screed

    Yeah, it is hard to listen to prejudice and bias — not only because it is unfair but because it reveals unrigorous thinking.

    Stewart tells me that 34 Zimbabweans have been killed in South Africa, because they are unwanted there and seen to be taking local jobs. Some of them have been burnt alive.

  7. “…but because it reveals unrigorous thinking”

    Yes, this is key, and/but it is why I find conceptions of race so interesting … there is every logical error known to mankind.

    South Africa, yes, I saw the news. Very bad.

  8. I don’t know what we can do about the South Africa situation. It seems that many are under the impression that Mbeki says Zimbabwe is just fine, and that the Zimbabweans ought to go back to their fine country and stop making out that there’s a problem with that.

  9. OK,

    I do not have time to read all the parts to this thread. I have to hop on a train and head out to Central Jersey to see my father with a good female friend who will probably be construed by my father as a possible marriage candidate . . . the bottle of rum and large pork sausage for the grill that I give him will surely calm him down. . . but he requested it so it is not really evil.

    As you know I come from a family situation on the Gulf. Z. I want to know what you think about “reclaiming” Creole culture . . . and where does the fine line between identity formation and the reclamation or professing oneself as Creole “with a big ‘c'” need to be drawn.

    I have an answer for you . . . but you first.

  10. OK,

    I read it all now.

    I apologize to everyone for jumping the gun on the topic before reading your thread in its entirety . . . but I see that such discussions as the one I wanted to propose are based more on the disappearance of a “Creole world” and my need to mobilize some sort of connection to it, or transform it. But my story is pretty long and loopy.

    I agree, the way I structure the ideas of Creole identity in the previous post are antiquated concerning the whole “good and bad hair thang” — light or dark or blue vein thang — my great — granddaddy was Zulu, Cherokee, French merchant from Nancy thang. But in terms of “blackness” and “unity” black folk need to think about culture more . . . I do believe. And thinking of race in those terms really plugs me into the “Creole Project”

    Your brother’s issues have helped to remind me that very personal issue traumas can get caught up in the politic and narrative of a nation of people and vice versa – trauma that my mother experience in Alabama has a direct effect on her politics now, as well as how my sister and I were raised. It does take time to unravel . . . but isn’t that maturity . . . us unraveling?

    Race in theory and life in practice intertwine a bit too much. Maybe there is a positive to linking up, rethinking and posing the right questions. But we all have to make that step. I am making mine now, as I deal with my family’s past . . . and I am not talking about ancestors . . . I am talking about my parents who walk among us now. And how that has effected how I see them – the whole; and, who I am – the sum.

    — Unbeached

    The French population knows very little about the world 500 years of colonialism has produced . . . as a whole. And that can be applied to other populations of Europe.

    The education systems of Europe are good . . . but I don’t know if they are a salve.

  11. Often there is a political player waiting to gain behind various socially censurious ideas of race set adrift in the community. In the following Marechera extract, we can see how Fatboy plays the racial card to his advantage by sowing seeds of hatred and revenge (long after the actual war is over), in order to sit back and reap the benefits of what he has sown.

    This is from “The Zimbabwean Children’s Liberation Festival”:

    “Fatboy says those who take the gap are cowards.”
    “Fatboy says Smith and Walls should have been hanged.”
    “Fatboy says reconciliation only works when justice is seen to be done.

    Otherwise all whites are lumped with the killers.”

    Fatboy by the fountain fought down a great yawn.
    The blistering sun sucked bitter sunlight from his fatty brawn.

    Little Farai had his can-opener head stuck fast between the rails.

    BOOM BOOM Lulu detonated again and again.

    Bootsie sang:

    I got nothing to tell you
    That’s not skin off my back.
    I got every
    little thing to hide
    And win respect a mile wide.
    But I don’t do nothing
    for nobody
    ‘Cos nobody does nothing for me.

    The cat, furious, screeched demented arrows at the

    vanished moon.

    Prefects like hyenas drooled and drew nearer.
    The rat in teacher’s beak squealed expressionist poems.
    Alice bleeding from the smashed looking glass bit her lip.
    She thought the Zimbabwe Festival “very curious”.
    Three staffroom typewriters chattered in tune
    Thought Fatboy a future minister or bloated monster
    Deemed Farai a prick and Lulu too fargone
    And declared the Festival a resounding disaster.

  12. Hi Unbeached!

    My brother/my friend thinks European education is better because Europeans are more likely to accept the claim of Creole Not Black (they say ‘whatever’ or ‘OK’).

    I am in favor of reclaiming Creole culture and language and reviving them.

    But I see why African-Americans / non Creole Black people would say: wait a second … having slaves and liking it … lording it over people who can’t pass the paper bag test … no, no, and no.

    Jenn – yes, this is why I want my T-frere to go back to school and study this stuff, since he wants to say he’s an expert in it. There is so much cool stuff to read on it – as that Marechera excerpt shows!

  13. Creoles!
    Black folk (Creoles) from Louisiana are always asking my mom and grandma if they are from Lousiana and if they are creol. When my grandma and mom say “no” offense is often taken by the questioner.

    I’ve never separated black folk who identify themselves as Creole from the general Afro American community. I understand the history of these brothers and sisters living in Louisiana is “colorful” because of a strong affection for things French. I can understand wanting to keep their French heritage alive, but to deny being Afro American is disturbing. It is creating a divisive caste based on traits most Afro Americans share regardless of their “ethnic” and racial cornucopia of blood. It shouldn’t matter that the physical features of some Afro American folk are sometimes different when the blood is the same in diversity (or even when the blood is somehow mono-racial for that matter).

    I come from a family–like many black Creoles–where light skin was passed from one generation to the next because the prejudices of light skin folk wedding other light skin folk–as many black Creoles did. No one in my immediate family evere tried to “pass” or separate themselves from their other brothers and sisters. My great-great grandpa looked as white as George Bush yet sat at the back of the bus with his other brothers and sisters rather than attempt to pass or play the divisive blood game.

    I know that in New Orleans, the colorline was once strong among Afro American folks, perhaps even more than those in Washington D.C. and Atlanta. Creoles occupied the top tier of intra-prejudice within the Afro American community living in Louisiana. I know that light-skinned whores back in the day were highly valued (as a fetish) by white men in New Orleans. I know that a number of white folk today continue to make distinctions among general Afro American folk today based on skin color etc.

    Some Afro American folk acquiese to such intra-prejudices and divisions, others FIGHT IT!!!!

    I hope I wasn’t out of bounds with anything I said. Forgive me if I was.

  14. O good, sanity! “…to deny being Afro American is disturbing. It is creating a divisive caste …” Yes. Not that I don’t think Creole history and language are fascinating, etc. – I do! But to uphold any kind of caste system just isn’t helpful, I say. Recognizing that castes exist when they do is another thing, of course. Etc. Etc. Thanks for your comment.

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