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July 14, 2007

Lately, with summer being kind of dull between all the millions of things I am (or should be doing), I’ve found myself staying up late at night after the kiddo’s gone to bed and blog-hopping. I’ll start with a feminist comic book blog and end up reading an argument for Joss Whedon being “color-blind.” Then I think, “Is color-blind a bad thing, and why do I think that?” Are we trained to think that being color-blind is being a good thing, rather than, as it is put in that article, “regressive”?

I’ve always thought that being color-blind is a good thing, but by reading this article, I’m getting the impression that what the writer believes I’m doing is ignoring the deeper implications of race as it pertains to making us who we are.

The thing is, I think about a race a lot lately. It didn’t just start in LittMeth, but that definitely helped bring it to the surface. I grew up in a town that was heading toward half-black and half-white by the time we moved away. (The one Latina girl confused us. We were seven years old.) I moved to a town where there were a handful of black kids who were all, to me, no different than the kids on the Cosby Show in that they were completely relatable. They were my buddies. We weren’t superclose because that really had more to do with where you lived for a long time (my group of friends was basically as far as the eye could see down my curvy street), and then of course the gender thing. By seventh grade, we were all okay with having “icky boys” end up being really good friends, and while there was a trio of black girls who were best friends, that didn’t strike me as odd because we were ALL in groups of three, one way or another. For me, it was Lauren & Jessica, and later Lauren & Chris. Jessica defected to being closer to the girl who lived three houses down from her, but who could blame her? Proximity. And then there was the Rock Chick grouping of Allison, Janine, and IForget, who loved Kiss even though we were all ten and no one else had ANY clue who they were talking about. I believe they all lived within a few houses of one another as well.

Still, it was threes. It was proximity. It was who you went to church with, who was in CCD with you, who was your cousin. It wasn’t race, although from the outside, it could look like race.

That year, seventh grade, a new girl moved into town, briefly. Her name was Nikia, I believe. She was Black, Black is Beautiful Black. Then Aginah moved in (I’m probably screwing up the spelling after all this time), maybe in eighth grade. She came to my slumber party and had a face masque on or something and I was like, “That must be an out-of-town black thing” because certainly none of us were taught those elaborate feminine grooming tips. We weren’t from the SOUTH, you know. Ginah was cool, and fairly color-blind. Nikia was a little hard to reach. She was from a predominantly black town and she gravitated toward the trio. (Again, you’ve got to forgive me all this time; it’s been almost twenty years, and the timeline is fuzzy.) But Nikia brought something to town we’d never had before: segregation. Not a purposeful one, but suddenly, the trio seemed more like The Black Girls than the three girls who hung out together who happened to be black. Nikia did not stay long, from what I remember. I don’t know if Ginah did, because high school tossed us around and it was difficult to keep track of everyone.

The thing is, it couldn’t have just been Nikia, because while in eighth grade I was friends with Davey, who I loved as much if not more than all my other not-trio-y friends, by junior year, he was barely someone I recognized. Suddenly, African pride was everywhere. The Cosbys were finding their roots. A Different World got political. The Afro-American Club in my high school became the African-American Club. I swear I remember Blair Underwood’s character on L.A. Law wearing a dashiki. My freshman year, the only kids who wore dashikis were those weird post-hippies who did a lot of acid. (Okay, I think it was just ONE kid.) By junior year, Davey was wearing them. I felt like I’d lost him.

But I’m being sentimental and revisionist, of course. Davey might’ve gotten in touch with his roots, but I was getting in touch with my inner goth or something, with my Cure shirts and my ridiculous amount of necklaces (although I gave that up quick, as I was strangled once and I’ve never been comfortable in necklaces) and my music that no one played on the radio. Still, you never see yourself change; it just seems like a progression toward yourself. Davey probably felt the same way. Still, we were never really friends again, not like that. When I did run into him, after high school, it was at a dinner meshing the members of two churches, one all black, the other almost totally white. The room looked and felt divided. I was tepidly received. I think Davey missed me. I’d like to think he did. But suddenly, there was so much between us. I think I gave him my number, but he never called.

Actually, I can’t even tell you know what his last name was.

So when my town stopped being color-blind, did anything good come of it?


One of the things that I dislike about putting a “reading” on a work is one of the very things I like best about it: you can pick and choose and you can back ANYTHING up, if you’re good. The problem with looking for stereotypes in media is that you’ll find them. But…you’ll find them NO MATTER WHAT.

For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s look at the main character. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here is the creator’s premise: “The typical blonde cheerleader walks into an alley and instead of getting attacked by the vampire and dying, she kicks its ass.” Buffy begins, purposely, as a stereotype. Okay. She’s blonde. She’s a cheerleader. She loves to shop. She’s kind of brain-dead, although underneath it she actually has a brain.

Okay, let’s make Buffy Asian.

Suddenly, the Slayer’s innate knowledge of martial arts becomes repulsively racist.

Let’s make her Latina.

Suddenly, she’s yet another Latina in southern California. Her wisecracks are typically “sassy” for a Latina woman in the media.

Now, let’s make Buffy black.

Suddenly, she’s the stereotype of a Black Warrior Woman. Her wisecracks are (again) taken as being “sassy.” She’s subservient to the white(!), British(!!) male, her mentor Giles.

…Yeah. See? It works every way.

I’m thinking right now about my friend Paula. She’s a cute little white girl, so white that her icons are Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, the Monkees, etc. Her two best friends are black. If I dared to make Paula’s life into a TV show or a comic book, at least one person would come out of the woodwork to say that the black women were being marginalized as sidekicks. But this is her real life! Now say we revolved the show/comic around her friend Tanishia instead of Paula. Paula then becomes a stereotype, the white girl so white that her interests barely make it past the ’50s.

And me? I suppose I’m color-blind. The majority of my friends who are minorities are mixed (mostly black/white, Asian/white). With the exception of one (who grew up in those racially changing ’90s I was talking about earlier, and who also grew up in an urban rather than a suburban environment), they’re all fine with who they are, with no identity issues. To me, the way everything’s gone has felt more like “separate but equal” than anything else I’ve seen in my lifetime. I miss the early Cosby era, where everyone looked different but felt the same. But is this a valid thought or the party line of my “regressive” programming, spoken from a place of privilege?


In the movie Thirteen, a character says that in one generation, racism could be eradicated if everyone chose a mate from a different race.


I keep thinking about these things and whether, in the end, there’s something to be learned by them.

But for now, I’m going to the movies with my daughter and my father.

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