Identity Politics, The Patriarchy, and Love


Happy Holidays from the Libertarian Latina!  I hope everyone is enjoying time home with loved ones.

Last night I saw the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” with my family, and it was great, but it’s not the black film I want to talk about.  The upcoming film “Belle” tells the story of an illegitimate biracial woman who is raised with her father’s aristocratic English family.  She develops a relationships with a young lawyer with abolitionist ideals and the two begin to pressure the powers that be to end slavery in England.  The film is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the product of an affair between an African slave and and English sea captain.  She was raised in the house of her great uncle and was allowed certain household privileges (managing correspondence) but not others (eating with the family).  I cannot wait until this film comes out.  I will be first in line to see it.

My time as a liberal was uncomfortable for me, particularly when it came to racial and identity politics.  I’m a biracial woman who was fortunate enough to attend private school her whole life, and had parents who spoke Standard Mid-Atlantic English at home.  I learned African-American Vernacular English but never used it.  I don’t code switch.  I never have.  This created a rift between me and my fellow classmates of color and within the black and Hispanic communities writ large.  To belong to these communities meant speaking two languages: one in “polite company”, and the vernacular with friends and neighbors.  To speak only the former meant forfeiting your street cred.  It meant you were a sellout, an Uncle Tom.  And yet, to speak English “properly” drew raised eyebrows and intrigue: the unspoken conclusion was that I was not like the “others”, and was therefore a trusted ambassador of communities to which I did not culturally belong.  I have a sneaking suspicion that “Belle” is going to explore the theme of not fitting into a world of privilege and the struggle to find a place in society which has no blueprint for those of your “kind”.

So much of being a liberal in this country as a person of color seems to be centered around hating white people, especially white men, which I guess has some merit, given that black slaves were owned by white masters, and the Jim Crow South was framed by white people in positions of power.  But hating white men goes against my experience and was something I refused to do, further damaging my already negligible credibility with prominent liberals of color.  My second family is composed of my teachers, many of whom were white and male.  They taught me, but they also raised me.  They believed in my potential, recognized my talent, and interacted with me as a thinking person first, a woman of color second.  They validated my beauty and challenged me to think critically.  My intellectual identity and emotional independence is largely due to their positive influence.  Perhaps this is why I’m interested in political science, philosophy, and history instead of sociology, intersectionality, and diaspora studies.  This is not to say that I don’t believe in oppression and injustice.  It just means that I believe these issues are more complex than “Us vs. Them”.  Hating someone who doesn’t look like you, whether you’re the cultural hegemon or not, only perpetuates ignorance and intolerance.

Racism and ignorance exist, but they’re not limited to white people.  Some of the most open-minded people I know are white; some of the most racist bigots I have ever met have had colored skin.  I refuse to dislike a group of people to gain admission to a community because of our matching skin pigmentations.  My community is one with whom I share interests, and ideals, and goals.  We are brought together by respect and bound by love.  Those things transcend skin color, race, ethnicity, culture, and even language.  No political agenda should trump being human.  It often does, and that’s a shame.  It means different interest groups make conflicting sets of demands and fighting to the death to advance their agendas by one inch, which is petty and counterproductive.  Working together is the only way we can achieve anything worth having, not by protecting our bean patches from people who don’t look like us.

That’s all for now.  See you again soon.