Saturday, February 2, 2008

Race & Ethnicity

I'm irritated I find myself attracted to Dallas Cowboy célébrité, Terrell Owens. While I would never permit myself to post one solitary picture of Jeremy Shockey, who I think has a gorgeous ass (notice I didn't say face), I will post images of T.O.

Hmmm. Why is that? Does this present as a double standard? Both men have made disparaging remarks about gay men, Terrell most notably for his sexual accusation towards Jeff Garcia, yet here I'm doing a post on Terrell Owens and not Shockey.

Why? Is it because T.O. looks better? (He does. I'm sorry, but Shockey looks like he's been hit in the face once too many with a football.) Is it because he's Black like me, and given his ethnic background, I overlook his remarks? (Could be.) Or is it because sometimes you have to omit one's character flaws, look at their intrinsic worth, forgive mistakes, and recognize the beauty of the within? ( I desperately want to say yes this is the case.)

I want to say I'm a person who views the content of one's character and not their color. Unfortunately, as an American, I'm locked into the cultural mindset to view race over character. Everyone here does it, occasionally its on a subconscious level, other times, we're fully cognizant. Americans are hyped over racial issues, let's admit it.

How do our European, African, Asian cousins see us? Let me be quick to point out our cultural attitudes stemmed from our Old World fore-parents. American inherited the divisiveness and we enhanced upon it. Also, I do not mention our South American cousins or anywhere else in North America, one because I can't speak for their culture, and two, because they also fall into the New World category.

However, from my limited perspective on other cultures, other areas of the world seem less focused on race and more on national identity, the ethnicity. In America, we tend to blend the two, but really, ethnicity and race are two horses of a different color. And please don't get a "it's six of one and a half dozen of another" attitude. The issues are similar, yes, but ultimately different, separate morose social concepts. Let me use my French-born friend Robert (pronounced "Row-bear" although, most of us just call him Bob) to illustrate my point.

We've known each other, he and I, probably for 20 year, give or take, and went to university together. Robert was born in France, but his parents moved to the US in his childhood. Robert speaks perfect French (puts me to shame) and English. Oh and did I forget to mention he is dark-skinned, of some Afro-decent, "black?" And yes, that is how he's classified here in the US, as "Black," both ethnically and racially, losing any connection to his French birthright. Yes, labeling Robert solely as "Black" would be correct if we had to assign racial designation, but inappropriate for his ethnicity. His ethnic background is French.

Most Americans miss the boat. I'll have friends on many sides of the racial spectrum argue the point Robert should be considered Black, even African American. Huh? Much as I personally prefer to use African-American as my cultural designation, it does not apply to Robert. He's French-American or Afro-Franco American, but not African American. How absurd to state otherwise! As Americans, we tend look at skin color and that's all we see. Ask any Person of Color from the Caribbean if they're African American and most will quickly correct you.

"No I'm Jamaican-American." or "No, I'm Haitian-American." or "No, I from the Dominica (the Dominican Republic)." These just a few answers you may hear.

Moreover, y two oldest nephews, who are more multicultural than I, are half Puerto Rican (on their father's side) and are bilingual. Yet, I've witnessed firsthand how most Americans view them as "Negroes" only. It doesn't matter they're bilingual, speaking Spanish & English, and are a united gene pool of Puerto Rican, African American, Cuban, Native American, and Irish European-American ethnic mix. Americans will only see them as "Black" and that's that.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a group of friends in college. Being young idealistic idiots that were were, we'd wax philosophic on general bullshit about race, politics, life, the universe, and everything (So Long And Thanks For All The Fish....) Petra, an ASSociate of friends, who could trace her roots, brought up the topic of where people were from. She went around the room asking people were they from this country or that country, finally getting to the people of color in the room.

"Oh and where are your ancestors from? Hahaha." Petra guffawed at her sagacity.

Oh how drool! How witty! Not! Bitch thought she was funny *emphasis on thought* Perhaps, she didn't mean to offend, but she did. Petra assumed Black people are ignorant of the ethnic heritage, like we're ignorant Plantation Negroes who know "nothin' bout dis here world 'cept fo Massah and pickin' cotton!" Again, I say "Bitch!"

Said conversation occurred 17 years ago, nonetheless, I can remember word for word given. I can recall my exact feelings and ire at Petra's assumption and de facto racist remark. Seventeen years later I still get red in the face about. Hester you were there. Do you remember this incident? It was in Brookwood. We'll talk over the phone. I know you remember because this was right around Shannon's wedding. We'll talk.

For a change, I was not quick to respond. It took a moment to compose myself. I could have "read" her good (as in reading the riot act), but I swallowed my bile, and calmly replied to her.

"It's funny you should ask me that Petra. Thanks. Did you know my mother is biracial? Did you also know my father is too? No? Gee let me fill you in. My mother's has Black American, Irish, American and Native American Blood and my father's family were Black and Native American as well. Didja also know that my great-grandfather, my dad's mother's father was from Cuba? Yes, Cuba. Surprised? I guess by your standards, I should be oblivious to my family origin, that only the thing I should know is some of my folks road over in chains and shackles. Am I a subspecies beneath your superior Caucasian genes? Do I need to remind you what your ancestors, some who were Cossacks, did to people in Eastern Europe? I wouldn't be so ready to declare pride about my ancestry!" I got up, slammed the door, and huffed back to my apartment. Being more militant then, I refused to talk to Petra for weeks.

Now before anyone accuses me for being racist regarding my statement about the Cossacks. I was young then. I speak my mind when my integrity is questioned and my ire pricks up. I have friends, good friends, from many walks of faith, racial, and sexual orientation backgrounds. I had this huge crush on a guy named Alexei a few years back and he was from Eastern Europe. I made out with my dear French friend Robert once, two of my best friends, Kristiana and Alexandre Knoebl, are from Germany. We spent much time together when they lived in the states.

So, I'm not racist, far from it. But I do have ethnic pride. I think everyone should. I'm reminding the hell out of people this is Black History month!

I got off on a tangent. Sorry. Getting back to where I started, why TO and not Shockey? I have to think about that more. A bigot is a bigot, regardless of race. But for now I'll go with I think TO is hotter than Jeremy Shockey....

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While this blog is not really intended to show adult content, I can't guarantee that an occasional image of male nudity won't appear. Be advised that this blog is intended to be read by people with an open mind. I don't claim any rights to the images nor do I have any knowledge of the sexuality of persons featured (unless they are openly gay...duh). Enjoy yourself and take a small step in my every day life and pondering... Feel free to email any comments or opinions.

President Barack Obama!