Thanks Ayo, who wrote yesterday that she's transracial. Even though the term has primarily been used to describe of color adoptees adopted by white famillies, I love the potential for the term and I've been pondering it quite a bit in the last year. It's much closer to how I feel than biracial. I belong to many "races" rather than feeling an outright, pure allegiance to one or two. And isn't that the future we all want, one that's fluid, one that identifies with struggle, but with the transcending of that struggle as well? This, fundamentally is a discussion about home. Where it is and how we define ourselves within it in a way that is empowering rather than disempowering.
On a similar note, at one of my lectures in Amsterdam last month, many in the audience were part Dutch, part Surinamese, and when I spoke of being "mixed" they shared their term: Double Blood. And when the daily paper in Amsterdam, Het Parool, did a spread on me, that was the headline: Double Blood, and I was thrilled by the shift. I feel we are finally at the place where our two or three or four sided identity can be seen irrefutably as a place of power and not victimization. Why not claim it all?
We have two traditions, we are not half of anything; we are transracial, we are not bifurcated. I like too, how transracial is different from postracial; it doesn't deny that ideas of race exist, it just chooses a different position towards those ideas. I also like that the term is open and inclusive, all people can embrace it, not just people of color or of many backgrounds, thus allowing allies to use it rather than feel perpetually on the outside. I really think transracial is a term of the future.
Thanks Ayo and all of my Dutch Afro-Surinamese sisters. You've given me a new way of seeing myself. The best present of all.
Check out both Ayo's blog: www.rainbowfriends.net and also the blog for Outsiders Within, an important discussion regarding adoption that I find especially relevant as I have received so much criticism for my statements in Baby Love about the desire of some adoptive parents to erase the reality of biological parents by denying the difference between the two.
And of course, this seems a particularly important discussion to be having on Martin Luther King Jr.'s official birthday. I'm sure he would approve.
As a bi-racial, Ivy-League educated, thirty-something feminist who campaigned for Bill Clinton, the election has me squarely on the fence. I love Barack's vision and know intimately the mosaic of ideas and experiences that helped shape it. I also feel a profound loyalty to Hillary who, after much sacrifice, has the chance to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.
Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the NYTimes didn't help Team Hillary [full disclosure, GS is my godmother]. It crystallized for me that Hillary, no matter how symbolically potent, runs the risk of being seen as a Second Wave candidate. She's one of the first women to gain power and access, and may be one of the first with power and access to ignore the criticisms of women of color, progressive men, and many young women, all of whom have been sending clear messages to Second Wave feminist leadership for well over a decade.
Women are not only victims, but active participants in the shaping of their lives. It's not Hillary's gender that may keep her from winning this election, it's her lack of preparation. If she had an inter-generational, multi-racial, digitally savvy, globally inclined machine behind her, crafting electrifying rhetoric like The Audacity of Hope and The Power of Now, she'd be swept into the White House by a landslide. Hillary wasn't forced into the number two position in Iowa, she made decisions that put her there. New Hampshire is a case in point; she made different decisions and got different results.
Racism and classism are as definitive as sexism. Did Steinem insinuate that Barack's gender, and not his talent, put him in the top spot? I thought black men were capable of performing at his level without an irrationally granted advantage. And the idea that black men always reach the Promised Land before white women? Forty per cent of black men don't finish high school in America, and one in four are incarcerated. Hillary, and her feminist supporters, are not going to win this election by glossing over the realities of African-American men.
Men are not the enemy. Steinem claims that sexism is responsible for Hillary's loss in Iowa, implicitly accusing men-at-large of devaluing women, while many of them may simply be more inspired by a candidate who happens to be a man. This type of divisive discourse that judges and alienates the many men who support the women in their families, communities, and the civic sphere every day is not only bad for women, it's bad for Hillary's campaign. Obama is running as a uniter. Hillary needs to avoid re-inscribing historical divisions in order to gain ground.
Young women are not stupid. The idea that young women are too naive to realize the pervasiveness of sexism is an old Second Wave trope used to dismiss and discredit an entire generation, many of whom now support Obama because he doesn't insult them. As a result, there are a few women lining up behind the "feminist" placard, but many more running in the other direction.
Far from being ungrateful or unintelligent, these women know that confrontational political labels and a religious fixation on gender aren't productive. They, rightly, choose to enjoy the rights they should have had all along, and find other, more complex approaches to righting the rampant injustice in the world. Hillary's gender is not enough to win their vote, and she needs to show them that she knows it.
So while there's still plenty of time for Hillary to win me over, Obama is looking pretty good at the moment. He's listened to what many of my generational peers and I have been saying for the last decade, and his momentum proves it.
So a few weeks ago, Katrin Sandberg from ZenTVin Sweden wrote me an email asking for an interview. She was in LA and I was in Hawaii but I told her I'd love to talk to her, and could she find a way to come over?
Today I got in my truck (we use ethanol here!) and drove down from the volcano into the lush jungle of Haiku, down a little dirt road into a beautiful dharma temple filled with Buddhas and views of the ocean from every spot. All bamboo, all sustainable, one hundred per cent off the grid.
Kartin and I talked for a couple of hours and then Kutira, who created the amazing eco-retreat, came in and we spent some time talking about, what else, Obama and Hillary and changing the world. We all agreed that we wanted an Obama-Clinton ticket, or a Clinton-Obama ticket. Then Kutira said she had to show me an amazing short video.
And so we sat in the bamboo temple with wind blowing and the ocean crashing, watching this little video on her Mac (solar powered, of course).
I know everyone is talking about elections, Kenya, and Britney Spears, but here's another way to look at the whole situation. Smart, educational, and empowering, The Story of Stuff is good for the whole human family.
Thanks Katrin, for moving with it. Thanks Kutira, for being open. Big day.
Hey all, just stayed up writing a response to Gloria Steinem's NYTimes Oped piece, but I sent it to the Times so can't post here. What I can post is an interview I've just finished for the Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera about the election and Obamamania:
1. Did you already make your choice as far as the upcoming presidential election?
Like many in the US, I am undecided. Because the outcome of this election is so critical to the future of humanity, I am approaching the race with great caution and respect.
2. As a feminist and at the same time a Jewish and Black American do you find this a particularly difficult choice to make?
I can say that in an ideal world, I would be able to vote for both. It would be a great victory for America and the world if the winner takes the loser on as VP. That's the real winning ticket.
3. Which of the Democratic candidates best represent your many souls?
If I had to choose one whose message resonates the most, I would choose Obama. Like me, he's biracial, ivy-league educated, and believes deeply that he can bring his faith in humanity to the table and make profound, lasting change. But there's a reason I'm not a politician. The global political stage is a tough place for optimistic human beings of integrity. Hillary's got a lot more experience holding up under the pressure of right wing henchmen.
4. How do you explain Barack Obama's stellar ascent? Is he really a better candidate than Hillary? Why is America so in love with him?
Barack Obama is more in tune with where we are going than where we've come from. He transcends racial barriers, has a powerhouse wife, and says he wants all Americans to have a chance, no matter how rich or poor. It is unclear at the moment if he is a better candidate than Hillary, but we can definitely say his rhetoric is better. The audacity of hope. The time is now. One America. In a country of consumers, it's all about the advertising, and he's got that in the bag. Americans also love Obama because this is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian country; most Americans believe that either the messiah is coming, or the meek will inherit the earth. Obama represents both.
5. Is Obama really equally loved by both black and white Americans?
This is hard to say. I know some black Americans who aren't enthusiastic about him and some white Americans who are. It appears that race is not a handicap for him at this point.
6. Some African-Americans at the beginning attacked him as more white than black, citing his mother's race and the fact that he does not share the pain and suffering of their ancestors brought to the American shores in chains. What do you think about this argument? Do you have to share a common history of slavery to be called a true Afro-American?
I don't subscribe to the idea that you are not black if you haven't lived in a shack or shined white men's shoes your whole life. I do think it is important for all candidates to be able to speak with gravity and sincerity to those who have.
7. What do you like most about Obama? What do you like most about Hillary?
I like Obama's wife, Michelle. I like Hillary's husband, Bill.
8. If Hillary were to lose again tonight in New Hampshire what will happen to her campaign?
9. Which strategy would you advise her to follow to rescue her campaign?
Hillary needs to let the American people into her heart. She needs to let people know she feels their pain and has the medicine to make it go away. She needs to show that's she a mother, a wife, a friend, a multi-dimensional human being who has a calling to make America and the world a fundamentally better place for everyone. It's tough because in order for her to get where she is, she's had to play like a man. That moment is gone, however, and this political moment calls for her to act like a woman.
10.Do you know how your parents will be voting?
I'm fairly certain that both of my parents will be voting for Obama, but until the moment of truth it's a toss-up.
Hey, just wanted to share a short clip I've got in Salon's round up about the 2008 election.
Truth be told, I'd like a Hillary-Obama ticket, just like on Rod Lurie's Commander-in-Chief. We all know Jim Gardner, the brilliant and loyal black Chief of Staff, was the real Vice to Mackenzie Allen's principled first woman Prez. I want that in the White House next year. Not just a little tiny piece of change, but the whole fucking enchilada. That's the only way out of the godawful mess we're in.
But that's playing it safe, isn't it? And the real point of these round-ups is to see how those of us with so-called split allegiances are going to manage the calculus of this watershed moment. Do I want the woman or the half-black man? Dare I turn my back on the almighty Oprah and support Billary? What is a biracial girl to do?
Of course I could always roll out the who has more experience yadda yadda yadda. I could have my virtual assistant in India pull up every single vote Hillary and Barack ever cast, and make my determination on the issues. But that would be silly, because we all know this race is about emotion. It's about change. It's about the time being now. It's about multi-generational work. It's about outrageously powerful power couples. It's about being married to the answer.
Like most Americans, I am going to keep my vote to myself because it's my right to do so, and because I love going into the voting booth, pulling the curtain shut behind me and facing the moment of truth. Until then, nothing is for sure.