A Post-Racial Manifesto
This body is considered ‘black’ by this society, but it does not mean much to me as a person. It only means something to me insofar as other people define it for me. The colour of my skin is not a sufficient criterion for me to adhere to a certain behaviour pattern or subculture. It is not an impetus for me to buy rap and rhythm-and-blues albums, use stereotypically black slang, idolize Africa, or wear clothing that black people are stereotypically ‘supposed’ to wear. To me, it is a superficial physical property, and not something that defines my very being. I find that racial pigeonholing, particularly within my ‘assigned’ race, causes me to feel even less akin to those who are supposed to be akin to me. I diverge from most of the well-known black stereotypes, and to be forced into a cultural milieu that is alien to me intellectually and philosophically is quite offensive. I would rather be treated as a human being with the freedom to choose my own acquaintances, friends and sparring-partners, as opposed to being a Black Person who must do Black Things because My Skin Is Dark and My Ancestors Happened to Come from the Same Continent Three Hundred Years Ago.
Honestly, would blond people band together simply because they are blond, or blue-eyed people band together because they are blue-eyed?
There have been such movements in the past, or movements that wanted to embrace those who exhibited those phenotypic traits. Today, mainstream population rightly regards them as preposterous, and I believe that ‘race’, at least as a phenotypically-based construct, should be treated similarly.
I am post-racial. That is, as an individual, I do not view myself as belonging to a particular ‘race’; rather, I see myself as a human being, and nothing more. I am capable of viewing myself, and other human beings, outside a ‘racial’ framework, and become frustrated when others try to force me into such a framework, or when others try to force themselves into ‘racial’ stereotypes — as opposed to pursuing their own interests — in order to make themselves credible to their phenotypic compatriots.
I do not view phenotypes as a rallying point; rather, I see individual inclinations and proclivities as uniting points. I would much rather bond with someone over a mutual appreciation of the book Sophie’s World, or Imogen Heap’s music than someone’s being dark-skinned and of African descent. A black person who immerses himself in (in my opinion, largely pathological) ‘gangsta’ culture has less in common than the white person who shares my interests in historical linguistics and evolutionary psychology. The black person in question may share my phenotype, but he may not share my interests, ambitions or values, or any defining factors that would elicit my interest. The white person would have more in common with me intellectually, and I would be far more inclined to feel solidarity towards her than my black example. Certain activists would believe that because of immutable phenotypic traits that I would have more in common with the black person, and that I should join his ranks as a Person Of Colour™. Never mind that the hip-hop devotee might have had an entirely different upbringing and cultural heritage from me, even though our distant ancestry might be similar. Because he is black, he is my compatriot, and my white intellectual counterpart is not. Again, would this make any sense if one replaced ‘black’ and ‘white’ with ‘blonde’ and ‘brunette’?
I also believe that people can have their own cultural heritages independent from their ancestral cultural heritage. For example, my individual cultural heritage is very much Western European, as opposed to African-American or simply African. My ideas are influenced by Western thinkers and Western history. I was born in a Western country and have lived in two other Western countries. I speak a Western language and participate in a Western culture. I have never been to Africa, and do not feel particularly connected to it. For all its faults, Western civilization and culture are the ones that speak the loudest to me. I do not see that connection as a function of ‘internalized racism’: I appreciate many aspects of African cultures, and certain aspects of African-American cultures, but I do not identify with them in the visceral way that I am expected to, and do not care to have it shoved down my throat as the definitive way to see myself.
My people are my intellectual ancestors and peers, not simply people with the same colour as me. Perhaps you may think the same.
Sodalis is a San Francisco-based autistic transgender male blogger sharing his experiences here: http://anotherautismblog.blogspot.com/ He’s also working on a science fiction novel tracing the lives of a diverse group of gifted schoolchildren, set far into the future in an age of intergalactic travel, several sentient species, and genetic enhancement.