Thursday, July 5, 2007

Race Limits What You Can Do?

I'm having a conversation right now on Facebook with a friend about race. This is one that is interesting.

Basically, some man was trying to pickup on her. For the sake of this post I'll call him Mr. Slick. She's black. His m.o. was to say that because he was black too he was in the eviable position of a man with such strong DNA that, and let me quote what she wrote

You see I am the only man that can have a child with another woman and the baby will still be black, thats why they hate us. You can have a baby with one of them and your baby will still be black.
His point was to discourage her from exploring other cultures and races. She'd mentioned to him that she was studying both Japanese and Korean and he told her to just let it go because they would always be non-accepting of her.

Well, I think that's one problem right there. I'm not in and never have been in Korea to be accepted as a Korean. I'm here on my own journey and I've yet to define exactly what the objectives are. However, I know that, for the most part, I'd not trade in my collection of experiences. I would even agree that most Koreans no matter how long I'm here will see me as a foreigner, but I do know when I open my mouth to speak to them and they see I've been here awhile and know a bit of their language and culture that I've had many of them tell me I'm almost Korean now. I always say "no" because I'd like to just consider myself a sophisticated or well-traveled American as there are truly so few of us. That, however, I can't express in Korean.

Back to this man's point, I know about the powerful dominance of African DNA (right on, I say.) We all know the one drop rule, which is framed at a time where the the lowest common denominator is black. And, that's the onus you can't get away from. One drop, you black...that's it. But as Orlando Patterson wrote in Time
This is the infamous one-drop rule, invented and imposed by white racists until the middle of the 20th century. As with so many other areas of ethno-racial relations, African Americans turned this racist doctrine to their own ends. What to racist whites was a stain of impurity became a badge of pride. More significantly, what for whites was a means of exclusion was transformed by blacks into a glorious principle of inclusion. The absurdity of defining someone as black who to all appearances was white was turned on its head by blacks who used the one-drop rule to enlarge both the black group and its leadership with light-skinned persons who, elsewhere in the Americas, would never dream of identifying with blacks.
What's always bothersome about how Mr. Slick and others like him think is this. Speaking of non-acceptance, it seems that they've constructed this idea of what is or isn't black. If you speak standard English, you're not black. If you're interested in learning about other cultures, you're not black. If, God forbid, you date or fall in love with someone outside of the black race, you most certainly aren't black. I could give tons more examples, but you get my point...I hope.

This generates a tension in which if you're black you will eventually become accutely conscious of "black" versus "white" behavior. In grade and middle school I was really naive. I befriended my classmates irrespective of their race. When we all transferred to the local middle school that came back on me like a wildfire where other black students got on my case for not being black or for being an Oreo (like the cookie, black on the outside but white on the inside). That was horrible, so much so that I refer to it even now.

This comes from all areas of society but blacks have essentially become experts on limiting the range of their own behavior and judging other blacks who appear to exceed that range. Let's take Tiger who calls himself Cablinasian or something like that. I'm sure to some he's a huge traitor. I just see him as a man with some black heritage who is at the top of his game and who just had a baby (congrats Tiger). I'm sure to some that makes me a traitor too.

The thing is this I'm black. Even if I somehow morphed into a black white supremacist I'd still be black. Honestly, I believe that like other races, blacks aren't a monolith. Like other races, we don't all think the same, speak the same, look the same or have the same points of view. So I'm usually annoyed when someone expresses shock at something I can do or am interested in as if that's off limits for us black people.

The next time you do or think something like that I'd ask you to consider whether or not it would be shocking for a white person or yourself. If not, then don't be shocked that I can do it or that I'm interested in it too.


A post that got this blog going was this one from No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Sphere: Related Content


  1. This is such an interesting issue. I had never heard of the "one drop rule." Being half European-American and half Indian, I deal with this all the time. People only believe what they can see, whereas I see my background as a melange of cultures, not "races." I may look just Indian, but my European-American heritage is just as important to who I am. What's ironic is that what people can't see at all when they look at me---my international upbringing, mostly in Vietnam---is probably the thing that defines me the most. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  2. Hey is life?

    Well, that's one rule the USA is NOT proud of, so you'll not hear about it except from just random stuff where it comes up. However, it should be something that is taught so we don't forget it. It seems that even 40 years after the Civil Rights movement, we've forgotten a lot.

    It's hard for people. I know I do it too, but I'm hyper-conscious about it. I learned my lesson in college where I just refused to acknowledge the existence of another student because of his background: white, male, frat boy and from Texas! Well, there was no way he'd be a nice or interesting person.

    Ends up he's one of closest buddies from university. We spent hours trying to figure out the philosophy of Kant, Leibniz and others. To this day I still laugh when I think about some of the madness our group of philosophy undergrads went through.

    In my young head, someone like him would never be friends with someone like me. Glad I figured out after blowing him off for a one quarter that I was being a dolt.

    So now it's just something I try to be patient with because I've fallen victim to it too. It seems to happen more if you're a minority in a place where minorities aren't common, so it's hard not to be sensitive to it.

    I wonder does the Indian community have issues with this? I mean that's something blacks fight with a lot as I wrote. Unfortunately, it seems that blacks have bought into the limits too which just limits us even more.


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.