i heard a fabulous broadcast on NPR this morning on my way to work about the black identity in the USA. it peeked my ears because the first thing that was asked was what does it mean to have a black identity, now that there is a goal to not associate it with class. the respondent immediately stated “memory and history” as his factors for the black identity.. he was talking about how black people in the US share a history and that the role of their color in this history constantly affects day-to-day interaction today.. the moderator took this as a tangent into reparations, but my mind wandered into a different place. identity as shared experience and history. i really like that. i am always playing with how identities are formed and why and i really like the placement of it within the concepts of experience and ancestory. i am always bothered by the idea that a person exists without a context and that context is built through experience, even beyond one’s life.. anyhow, was definitely a good bite to chew on.
when i zoned back in (after picking up my perfectly folded laundry which scared me to pieces), there was a discussion about how middle and upper class black people who work in white sectors in the US are constantly having to switch their identities. at home, they have one dialect, performance and set of behaviors, to fit into the black community. at work, in the white community, they have another, in order to be taken seriously. one woman was speaking to how this was tremendously problematic for her and created constant struggle. a call-in from germany talked about how nice it was to come to germany where she was no longer “black” but “american” and how embracing this new primary identity really allowed her to step back, consider and resolve what having a black identity meant. i thought about how this related to the gay men in britain who have 2 sim cards – one for their “straight” identity, which was primarily for work, and one for their personal “gay” identity. depending on which sim card was in, they answered with a different dialect and manner. or how people who transcend class are constantly battling over going home, readjusting their speech, clothing and mannerisms and never fitting in on either side (think dorothy allison). or my own struggles as my identity feels constantly mutilated by the space i am in and the people that surround me. on a personal front, i can feel the constant confusion and perpetual “outsiderness” no matter where i am.. that feeling that i don’t have “a community.”
anyhow, the conversation made me really think about the meanings of “outsider” identities and how they are not that very different.. these are the conversations of similar experiences that should be shared, rather than the constant fighting over differences in oppression that are always divided. and it made me think about how this type of approach – discussions of “outsiderness” would be a really good way to frame conversations with those who are so frustrated by being labled the “victimizer” because of their privileged characteristics. this makes me think about the gutteral importance of a shared community.. of why people with similar experiences of race, class, gender, … are drawn to one another for support and so as to not have to constantly feel that they are changing their faces. now, this is not the answer to ending -isms, but it makes it really visceral..
shit. i should be working.
anyhow, need to think more about how to unite people, particularly when the current hatred creates a need for people to create groups of similarity in order to not have to be constantly struggling. particularly, because these segregated groupings that allow for emotional healing and building often aggrevate tensions, which results in magnified bi-directional prejudices, which only cycles into more problems. i mean, anger and frustration can be both beneficial, by allowing for the necessary strength to fight hatred. but it can also create hatred, which only furthers problems.
again, i think to my consant confusion about how helpful extremist politics and beliefs are and how they affect things… at my gut, i still believe that the only way to solve hatred is through open lines of communication, to systematically work through historical and personal battles and understand one another. but i don’t know how to do it. on one hand, you have the master’s tools; on the other hand, you have separationalism. it’s a really polarized world.
speaking of which, must really stop thinking and help build the master’s house. grumble grumble grumble.