Now, I knew this in advance. I mean, I've been around for a few twenty-four hours and I know how to do my homework. So in preparing for the show, I listened to some archived broadcasts and read some of their statements and learned that the panel of questioners (who are quite specifically focused in their beliefs) are an intelligent and angry group of Black folks. And if you've read much of my blog, you know that I don't disagree with the reasonable nature of Black folks' anger. In fact, I raise the issue often.
But acknowledging it and having it directed at you for two solid hours live while being broadcast coast to coast and archived permanently are two entirely different things. And it's something like bootcamp, an experience not for the faint of heart. So why would any White person who is at all educated on the subject want to participate in such a thing?
Tim Wise -- who some people see as the godfather of White anti-racism just now -- has committed himself to appear on the show every month for a year, for example. Why in the world, after even one whopping helping of fixated whup-ass, would he agree to such an exercise? I can't speak for Wise, of course, but I can speak for me. And the reason for me was that I can't say I want to fight oppression if I refuse to look it in the face -- wherever it raises its ugly head -- even in my own life. And who better to point out what I need to examine than a focused group of intelligent and angry Black folks?
Anyway, the bottom line was that instead of talking about oppression in a more general sense or exploring the three hundred eighty posts I've published on this blog over the past four and one-half years, Gus T. Renegade et al decided to focus almost entirely on the fact that I have a bi-racial daughter and wouldn't I say that was a mistake and wouldn't I counsel Black people around the world not to do that or even get in "romantic" relationships at all with White people?
As a mother, this put me in a tricky position at best. I remember when my own mother suggested giving my as yet unborn child to a Black couple (like a litter of kittens?). I was dumbstruck. I was carrying a human being, after all, a manifestation of the expression of a bond, however ephemeral or ill-advised, between a man and a woman in love or in lust or in a historical moment, that I would no more disavow than I would cut out my own heart and eat it for breakfast. Having had an offspring murdered at the age of twenty-two has given me an extremely clear grasp on the value I give to a life I have carried, birthed and nursed. And believe me, it's non-negotiable.
So despite the complicated nature of "race relations" in the world today or at any other time, there's no way I could ever tell people not to reproduce any more children like my daughter. Which does NOT mean that I don't see Mr. Renegade's point: that under an international context of White Supremacy where the most powerful nation in the world is the poster child for that White Supremacist system, "romantic" relationships between a person designated as "Black" and a person designated as "White" are difficult at best. So are ALL "romantic" relationships, of course. In fact, the last statistic I saw on average length of marriage world-wide was four years. Hardly an advertisement for strength of commitment.
But Gus T. Renegade believes that no Black person can thrive in a "romantic" relationship with any White person under an umbrella of White Supremacy and that, therefore, Black people should be warned not to get into relationships with, marry or make children with White people under any circumstances. And I was asked repeatedly to co-sign this perspective.
My response? In a perfect world, all "romantic" relationships would be based on mutual respect and affection and a commitment to personal growth in all areas of one's personhood. But in this far from perfect world, most of us are hard put to get through Thursday. So I wouldn't begin to tell people who they "should" or "should not" get with. One of the reasons it was easy for me to stay alone for ten years until recently was that the vast majority of "romantic" relationships I see (regardless of the race or gender of the partners involved) look at least somewhat neurotic from where I sit and I didn't want to sign up for another tour of that kind of duty.
It's true without question that oppression in any form screws up relationships all day long and twice on Sunday (when oppression with a capital O is pushed from pulpits in the name of God). And for a relationship to last more than four years, all kinds of difficulties must be resolved between the participating parties even if oppression of one kind or another is not involved. Adding the element of "race" or "gender" to the mix is guaranteed to create a much deeper level of angst on both sides.
This is the reason that, increasingly, women around the world have come to the conclusion that forming relationships with men is a bad idea for women. While the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" has been around for no more than five hundred years or so, men established themselves in a position of dominance over women as much as seven thousand years ago, leaving many convinced that men are supposed to be in that position, that it's "natural." Consequently, women are stuck with trying to survive under a patriarchal system in romantic relationships with their oppressors. Who, by and large, are frankly, beyond clueless about the situation. As a matter of fact, this arrangement has been in place for so long, the vast majority of women don't get it either. They bow and shuffle and go along to get along and make excuses for striving for new levels of "submission" to their "mates" according to "God's" law and so forth ad nauseum. I see them come into my gender courses semester after semester, only to leave with their personal lives in disarray because of their new level of consciousness.
But do I tell them they shouldn't make relationships with men (as some other women do)? No. I tell them that THEY are responsible for the quality of their lives, whether in or outside of relationships. I tell them that no enterprise worth bothering with -- "romantic" or otherwise -- is going to be easy. And that crossing the "gender" line to mate with a man will require constant vigilance related not only to his socialization as "king" over her and his perception of the meaning of "manhood," but related to HER socialization as "queen" under him and her perception of the meaning of her role as a "woman." When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
And I apply the same principles to bi-racial relationships.
I laughed when Gus asked me if my daughter has sex with White men. Apparently, the point he was going for was that being raised by a White woman would leave her without Black reference points (reminding me of a middle class Black woman who once told me flatly that her children were never going to have a "boom box," that if they wanted to listen to music, they could listen to it in the living room on the "stereo"). But if the reference points my daughter was raised with at home included exposure to African and African-American culture of all types and all manner of people from all over the world, including a number of African nations, then the White reference points with which we are ALL embedded were delivered to her particularly in school in bite-sized chunks from the time she was in kindergarten until she graduated from college. In my role as a college teacher, I see Black young people everyday who've been raised by loving Black caregivers and who are as deeply embedded with White Supremacy as my daughter will ever be on her worst day.
After all -- and Gus seemed fascinated by this -- she had barely learned to write when she handed me a paragraph that read:
“I think Whites do the things they do to Black because Whites want to be better than Blacks and most Whites want to be better than all colored people. Whites think they are the king and queen of the world. I think Whites and Black should have the same rights and should be abel to do the same things. Whites treat other colored people like they are animals. I think it should be stop right now. Blacks should be respected just as Whites are and the same for all the other colored people.”
Where does he think she got that understanding? From an NWA song?
She is who she is. Just as I am. And while I may still be working on my Self on a daily basis in a lot of areas, I think I'm doing a helluva job overall being a Person I feel good about being. And if my daughter is any indication of who I am, then I am proud of myself indeed. Because she's the bomb.
Renegade asked me to see if my daughter would come on a subsequent radio show with me and I said I would ask her. Actually, I thought she would say no hands down because she's one of the most private people I've ever met. But I knew that, regardless of what she said, I would never subject her to the grilling of his troops. She may be twenty-eight, but I'm still her mother. Allowing myself to be attacked is one thing. Inviting her to be attacked -- because I'm her mother -- is something I couldn't live with.
Besides, I've only posted nine segments of my book, Reduced to Equality: My Odyssey to Renounce Racial Privilege -- and Find Myself. That consitutes less than half of it. And I finished it several years ago, so there's been some new developments in my life since then. Because those few segments seemed to be the only information he had taken in, Gus may not have had all the information he probably needed to do the job he seemed to want to do.
For example, neither he (nor any of the rest of the team) ever asked me whether or not I am right now in a bi-racial relationship. And the answer is yes. I stayed alone for ten years, working on my self as an individual. And then, when I finally agreed to date someone, he happened to be African-American. I'm thinking Gus et al would have had a field day with that. Especially since we'd only been dating four months at the time of the broadcast and so were still in a very formative stage.
Regardless, and I kid you not, Gus T. Renegade and Justice and the others really took me places in my consciousness I've never been before. I was so rocked by the experience that it took me a week to process it all enough to do anything else. I went deep and stayed long. And I entered a whole series of dialogues with Boxer that forced us both to look at everything we were doing in an even more rigorous way. So I'm grateful. I can't have it both ways. I can't grow beyond where I already am without breaking new ground. And I can't do that alone.
From the looks of his archives, Gus has stayed busy interviewing others on The Context of White Supremacy. I highly recommend that you check out what he and his compatriots are up to. I guarantee you'll learn much. But keep in mind, it can be dangerous way out there on the ends of the branches where the fruit is.
Tomorrow, I'm going to write another post on the topic of bi-racial relationships. I do think they have to do with more than just "love" or even "lust." I believe, in fact, that under White Supremacy, they are necessarily a political statement. So give all this some thought and join me tomorrow, if you will, for the second part of "What's Love Got To Do With It?"