Black, White, and Awesome

Talking race, humanity, and comedy. Let's do this.

daedaluslives asked: I don't have a question! But I am so excited to be following your blog. I am currently struggling with my role in the arts as a young bi-racial woman in an un-diverse community. I'm delighted to have found you.

I’m so honored to receive this note. I hope you’ll join us at Mixed Remixed this year. There is so much love and support there. I’d love to hear more about what you do!

She’s Not A Black Woman

image

Someone whom I’ve considered a friend and colleague for years dropped my identity in her blog post today. She said lovely things about the way my parents love me, lifted up my husband, called my daughters beautiful, and then she said:

"But here’s the thing: she’s not a black woman."

This is the part where I put down my phone, walk away, come back and read it again. This is the part where I close the article and take a shower to calm my thoughts. This is the part where I realize that in every intimate story meeting, large artistic meeting, conversation over a beautiful vegetarian meal, all those times I felt relief that there was someone like me in the conversation, someone who could understand my perspective when others couldn’t, all of those times I saw a sister she saw an other.

This woman is Black, brilliant, stunning, thought provoking and today she mutilated my heart by deciding that she knows more about who I am in the world then I do. She goes on to say this about my identity:

"She’s biracial, and they’re not one in the same, much as we in the black community want to pretend and assert that biracial equals black. The one drop rule is dead, and anyone who would have you believe otherwise is walking through life with a small mind."

First off, I’m multi-racial, but that is another conversation. More importantly let’s talk about this “not one is the same” “we in the Black community” and “one drop rule” business. 

"not one in the same"

Indeed, I am made up of multiple cultures and that, happily, effects how I see the world. However, it does not make me any less a part of the individual communities. Both of my parents and all of my ancestors are full parts of who I am. When I go over to my families’ homes on either side they don’t make me sit at a White table or a Black table. We’re family. 100%.

"we in the Black community"

Present! Right here. I am a part of that community. You can’t ask me to sit outside. I’m already here.

"The one drop rule is dead, and anyone who would have you believe otherwise is walking through life with a small mind."


When I simply read this sentence, alone, I agree with it, but let’s look at the context. As it is being used here it says, having Black blood doesn’t make you Black. Well, I’ve got a bone to pick with that. The importance of the one drop rule being dead is not to stop people from identifying as Black. This “rule” shouldn’t exist because no one gets to choose our cultural heritage for us. The blood that runs through our veins is ours. The parents who raised us, they are us. 

If I were going to make a list of why I am a Black woman it would look like this:

1. My father is Black

2. I am a woman

I could write a long tally, break my human body into an inventory sheet to prove where I belong in the world. I could dissect my skin, my hair, my hips, my voice, but I won’t. You don’t get to choose my identity in this world. I do. I’m not 1/2, 1/8, 1/4, or 1/5. I am whole. I am Black. I am White. I am Mixed.

Paula Deen said what …

Paula Deen said what …

4 Reasons Black People (and The Food Network) Do Not Have to Accept Paula Deen’s Apology.

Guess who has been playing on the internet again? That’s right, racists, people who think it’s cool to be racist, and people who think that overly sensitive people of color are to blame. They’ve got lots to say and they are pretty pissed at The Food Network for not getting Paula Deen’s back. What are they most angry about? It seems the the whole wide world is being mean to Ms. Paula Deen and they won’t accept her heartfelt apologies (video 2 or 3 because she erased 1). Well, I got news for, we don’t have to. So, I give you, the top 4 reasons that I am not accepting Paula Deen’s apology …

1. People say she is being punished for her honesty, which should be commended, however …

It’s the law to be honest during a deposition. You don’t score brownie points. (Also, I’m betting we’re running fast a loose with the word honest)


2. People say, haven’t you ever made a mistake?

Called someone a Nigger? Nope. Thought about having Black people dress as slaves for my amusement? Nope.


3. People say, it happened so long ago.

It was happening during the interview.

Responding “of course” to the question “have you used the N-word” is a problem. She didn’t say, when I was young and I didn’t know the difference. She didn’t say regretfully. She said “of course”. As in, don’t we all. No, we don’t all.

She says she and her husband taught their children not to use the N-word “in a mean way.”  Is there a nice way for a White person to use this word? (I don’t like the word at all, but that is another discussion) 

When questioned further …

Okay. Would you consider those to be using the N word in a mean way?


[Objection]


That’s — that’s kind of hard. Most — most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target — I don’t know. I didn’t make up the joke, I don’t know. I can’t — I don’t know.


Okay.


They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know — I just don’t know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.


Okay, well —


I can feel out that person pretty good on what would offend them, but I’m not sure…what — what the question even means.


Well, if you were sitting around at home just with you and your family, would you feel any hesitation in telling a joke that you thought was funny if it had the N-word in it?


I don’t tell jokes, not at my house. That’s —


Do the other members of your family tell jokes at home?


Yes.


Okay.


Yes.


And they told jokes using the N-word?


I’m sure they have. My husband is constantly telling me jokes.


Okay. And have — are you offended at all by those jokes?


No, because it’s my husband.


Okay. What about your brother, does he tell those jokes?


I’m sure he has. Bubba’s not good at joke telling, but I’m sure he’s tried to repeat some.

I’ll give you highlight reel of what is wrong with the above. 

-Her list of what most jokes are about

-Deflecting all responsibility by saying she can’t determine what offends another person. (perhaps she has a clearer sense of that now)

-Being cool with people you love telling racist jokes.

Then of course there is the moment when she says she couldn’t dress black people up as slaves because other people would misinterpret it …

Yes, they might actually think that you are into slavery, because, you know, it makes it look like you are into slavery.


4. That was not an apology.

A few years ago Jason Alexander told a totally insensitive joke on late night. It was bogus, but a lot of people forgave him. You know why? He actively tried to figure out what he did wrong. He listened. He owned it. He actually had a discovery about his own bias (and we all have bias so if you think this doesn’t apply to you you’re wrong) and he wrote an awesome apology. 

http://www.glaad.org/blog/actor-jason-alexander-apologizes-jokes-made-cbs-late-late-show

So, Ms. Deen and her twitter happy crew, if you really want Americans to forgive these discretions you have to actually own what you did, who you are, and how you have been effected by your own privilege.  Be thoughtful about why throwing around the N-Word in a knock-knock joke is all fun and games for you and a reminder for us that you will always think of us as the less thans.

I see Mixed people …

I see Mixed people …

Dumas Rocked a Fro and Pass me a Cheerio

All right reading public hold on to your seats because I’m about to drop a bomb … Black people existed before slavery. Yup, and not just in the U.S., internationally people.

Alexander Dumas, author of 3 Musketeers, Mixed. Rocked an amazing fro and based The Count of Monte Cristo on a Black man. Check out this year’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Biography, The Black Count, by Tom Reiss and read all about it. France check!

Last month I was at the Getty Museum teaching a section on the Odyssey. While looking through their ancient Greek artifacts I noticed two wonderful things. In the middle of a case entitled “Comic Masks of Women” there was a mask of an African woman, not an African mask, a mask of an African woman. See, we weren’t only around back then we were doing comedy.  There were also three statuettes of what is believed to be traveling performers from Ethiopia. Ancient Greece check!

The term Black Irish not only refers to black hair and dark features, it refers to the fact that Ireland has had a Black population since the Mid 16th Century. 16th CENTURY! (Which is good news for my Irish/German mother who has always thought she was Black) Ireland check!

And if I haven’t made my point, you guys have heard of Othello right? England I’m looking at you.

And here is the other major bomb I am about to drop, all this time there have been Mixed kids. That’s right we were there. Ready to be even MORE shocked? There were also Mixed FAMILIES. Yup. It’s true. Families who loved each other, and dare I say, had real actual FUN together.

I know, I know, I know, you’re thinking, Khanisha you crazy Mixed kid, that can’t be true because Cheerios just put out a commercial with an inter-racial family and people on the internet went bonkers. They. Lost. Their. Minds. There couldn’t possibly be inter-racial families in real life, otherwise why would people freak out when they see them on t.v.?

Excellent question, I shall tell you why, because we have been running scared (and I ain’t talking about no Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal 80s cop comedy) for too long. I’m calling on innovation my friends. It’s past time for the images we see on television to reflect the diversity that is all up over the place. On stage, in commercials, on the small screen or big, if it’s feeling stale to you I’ve got a real easy way to breath life into it … hire actors of color, show me same sex couples, hire transgender actors, hire actors with disabilities (if there is a better word I should be using here by all means correct me. I want to learn too), hire people who look different for goodness sake because let me tell you, we, the viewing public, are ready.

Until then I will be eating a bowl of Cheerios, wearing my Barack My World shirt, listening to Lenny Kravitz while I watch Maya Rudolph get married in Bridesmaids! See you in the future …

#3

#3

Take My Body … Please!

“body |ˈbädē|

noun ( pl. bodies)

the physical structure of a person or an animal, including the bones, flesh, and organs

• the physical and mortal aspect of a person as opposed to the soul or spirit

• informal a person’s body regarded as an object of sexual desire

• informal dated a person, often one of a specified type or character : a motherly body.

• [in sing. ] ( the body of) the main or central part of something”

                                                            -The Dictionary

A mother’s body stretches, rips, packs, compounds, nourishes, envelopes, breaks, heals. I have shared my body with 3 other people. Every bite, sip, step, swim, nap shared. Competing heartbeats. Negotiated sleeping positions.

For this mother’s day I ask you to take a few seconds to fathom the thing that seems unimaginable to us no matter how obvious it is:

Your mother grew you, EVERY part of you in the body she is STILL walking around in. And here is the part I want you to fully consider, you will never know who your mom was before she did this for you because she will never be that person again.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a guilty mom post. This is a that’s a flipping miracle and my mom is a Goddess post. I’m seven months past my last body share and I’m working hard everyday to get back. I workout 6 days a week, I eat right, I breastfeed, I even have an active job, and this body I’m walking around in, I have never formally been introduced. This is a new playing field and I’m not going to lie, it’s terrifying. The mamaness? I flipping love it. The stranger’s body? That is a test of will.

The first time this happened I was 23 and just out of theatre school. I had dedicated 4 years to learning everything there was to know about my body and then when it was time to become a professional, I radically altered it. It took me 3 years to even try to reacquaint myself with my physical form. When I did I lost a great deal of weight (safely and slowly) but more importantly, I found empowerment in my body.

The second time I shared my body it was a 90/10 split, not in my favor. I was 29. I had planned to workout throughout my pregnancy, but I couldn’t get off the couch. Even to stand was trying. 13 weeks in I found out it was because my body was giving everything it had to a baby that wasn’t going to make it. After the D and C I had energy. Horrible empty energy. My body had already changed in those 13 weeks. My showing belly didn’t disappear with the baby and the weight in my face served as a reminder of my loss. I had given my body away without the joyful ending that makes it all worth it.  I went after health with a vengeance. I pushed myself further in workouts. I stayed within my calories daily and ate on a schedule. My body became more powerful then it had ever been, but I’d still see my loss in its transformation.

This last time, I was fit when I got pregnant. I thought I’d be the healthiest pregnant lady around. I was going to workout and eat right. I did that as planned, but the weight came anyway, defiantly. The pregnancy was a healthy one, my baby Heavenly, but I wasn’t able to keep my body. Somehow I thought I could trick it into thinking those nine months would be like any other. I thought with all the preparation I’d done my body would bounce back into itself. The journey, it turns out, is a slow and steady one.

I’m going to stop saying, “I’m working my way back” about my post baby body. The body and self I am working towards will be new. I hope they will compliment each other. Perhaps the me that is to come holds some great revelation or small comfort, but today all I can do is tie up my gym shoes put on a bra I can jump around in and work in a small way towards the future. I’m grateful for my brilliant daughters who remind me daily that change makes us better even if it hurts for a while.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Side note:

While this piece is about the physical changes of pregnancy, the world is full of amazing mother’s who have not carried a child in their bodies. They too have given their mind, bodies, and spirits to the endeavor of motherhood and I fully honor them.