purity and mixed up-ness

April 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

mamita mala made an excellent point on vivir latino:

Latinidad is not a race. It’s not even a sole ethnic group. The way I have consistantly used it is related to a shared history of colonization coming from the Iberian Peninsula. In using this definition I include indigenous populations, African slaves and their descendants and yes the colonizers and their descendants. While being Latino isn’t a single race or ethnic group, colonizers in the region from the Europeans to the U.S. have lumped all Latino together, makes it easier to oppress I guess.

when i was in the democratic republic of congo i was struck by the incredible variety of ethnicities living together. i had known intellectually that obviously ‘africa’ is not some monolithic place. my parents had been very firm about the fact that part of white racism is to act as if africa is a country and not a continent. and when i was young there was this map of ‘ancient africa’ hanging up in our living room that designated some of the larger ethnicities and kingdoms on the continent. okay. but until i traveled to the drc, uganda, rwanda, and ethiopia did i really *get it*.

i remember the day that we talked with the indigenous organization, representing the ‘pygmies’ in the drc. and we were all a bit confused. what do you mean that you are the indigenous people? isnt everyone here ‘indigenous’. oh no. most of the dominant groups migrated a few hundred or thousand years ago. the pygmies have been here for 25,000 years at least.

talk about shifting my definition of ‘ newcomer’ and ‘immigrant’.

excerpted from The Liberator Magazine

I hear a lot of talk about putting differences aside when it comes to Pan Africanism. Yet, when it comes to bridging the gap of humanity outside of the African identity, oftentimes we run back to the old knowledge of what makes us different from “others”. Rather than being schizophrenic about this inconsistency, I’ve decided that I’m okay with it. It’s wonderful to learn about what makes you similar with those you want to be similar with, but it’s just as dope and important to recognize our differences. My point is that, if we are secure in our similarities, than we need not fear that discussing and recognizing (even honoring) our differences will break down solidarity. We only gain opposition when we are not secure in our similarities with an “other”, and our differences are too urgent, or dangerous, to accept. I recognize that my being able to identify directly with a specific cultural tribe in Africa in part enables me to see things this way much easier. But nevertheless, I think it is an important lessons even for those of us more detached from direct knowledge of our ancestry. So when I came across this piece on the net while doing some surface research on my maternal tribe from Uganda (The Batoro), I had to share. It’s lesson that I think we cannot afford to overlook when envisioning realistic unity. I’m an advocate for diplomatic unity that preserves the sovereignty of our local cultures in the diaspora and on the continent. More and more, I’m against a vision of Pan Africanism built on singular unity because I see it as unrealistic and unsustainable.

so what is it that makes ‘black’, of african descent, a race, but ‘latin@’ a descriptor of shared history? are not those of us who are ‘black american’ a melange, a mestizo, of various african ethnicities, white colonialists and slave owners, various native communities and more? while i dont think that any of us can claim racial purity…i think that is because there is no such thing. races, however they have been defined throughout racism’s history, has always included the basic human tendency to well…mix it up…

i guess i personally get frustrated at times with the emphasis on multi-racial bodies and histories as being somewhat unique or special. something new. that certain identities ‘defy’ the black/white dichotomy. when the very existance of ‘blackness’ (at least on this continent) defies the black/white dichotomy and has been doing so since the beginning of the slave trade…

in other words, for most black folks (slave descended) that i know, blackness has never meant purity. actually, blackness for us , and in the white imagination, has always meant the ‘unpure’. the mixed up. the families that span color ranges. our ‘mixed up-ness’ began the moment that we became cargo during the maafa when our various ethnicities were mixed together and we were forced to create new communities in order to survive inconceivable violence.


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