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I’m Race People

I’m race people. I come from a long line of race people. People who raised me to be a black, proud, smart, well mannered lady. It’s a sentence I don’t feel should even be written in the 21st century, but it’s the sentence that keeps me from writing about race. I’m so concerned now with being multi-culti, and my blackness so intrinsic to my being that writing about it seems obsolete to me. But we’re in trouble and my talking about it and not writing about it is part of the problem.

I had Tyrone put a texturizer in my hair, blow it out and straighten it…
And it’s straight and all Nona Hendrix right? (Or like Malcolm X before he went to jail.) And then I watched John Henrik Clarke’s “A Long and Mighty Walk” and went and washed the straight out of my hair.
I love having an Afro.
I love looking and being black. I do believe in race. It’s very important to me. It fills me with an incredible sense of pride.

But that all still sounds very pedestrian to me. Simple statements that don’t reflect the complexities of the subject. My intersection with race is directly tied to my particular environment. But since my environs have evolved so has my spin on race. I’m not of the school that race doesn’t exist because I don’t live in the world of people not noticing my race first. I mean, I’m black. People who try to describe others without race when race is the obvious distinction annoy me. “The guy, you know he had on a baseball cap and a blue jacket. He was standing over here.” “You mean the black guy?” “Um, yeah.”
Now isn’t that more to the point. It isn’t as if calling someone black is an indictment. All of this political correctness is making it difficult for any serious conversations on race. By being so obtuse, we are denying a fact of life on these shores. And living in a dream world. The fact that simple descriptions are politically loaded- that’s the problem. I’m offended if I’m the only black somewhere (like at work) and people go ten ways around the moon to describe me as opposed to “she’s the black girl” (although I guess I’m quickly moving from girlhood.)

But here in NY, surrounded by the people I’m surrounded by, race is even more complicated than my Chicago definitions. I love it. It confuses me and challenges me.

And I watched Amistad today and wish the straight-backed pride of being Africans, of being sure in our skins, of being wonderful (and boy I love Djimon Hounsou) was the reality of the totality of my people today. But the calling of ancestors, regardless of its cinematic merit, should be a common virtue (practice?) of all in the African Diaspora.
I’m quite aware of the fact that I wouldn’t be here if someone hadn’t chosen to live in deplorable conditions, chose to live in general, for me to exist. I am the promise of things unseen. I am the promise of many sacrifices and I must succeed because of the sacrifices and choices made for me to draw breath. Regardless of what Budweiser tells me late at night, I will fulfill this promise. My writing this is a testament to my belief and fulfillment of this promise.

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