What Color Am I? And What Does it Matter?

There’s a fascinating discussion about race going on right now in the Parent wing of the great blogosphere. Over at BlogRhet, Tere asks “Am I In, Or Am I Out?” and Daddy In a Strange Land wants to know, “What’s Race Got to Do With It…?

Race is so very complicated. And that is about the only thing I can safely say. From there, it is all largely personal experiences and questions.

Here’s some more questions–What color am I? And if I am white, can I still participate in this conversation? And if so, how can I do so in a way that is productive? Do I have anything of importance to add?

Is white the assumed default in the Blogosphere? Should we mention our race as bloggers? Since the blogosphere is anonymous, how does that affect how race is perceived in this community? What are the implications and politics of “passing” as white when race meets the anonymity of the blogosphere?

When my business partner and I started Mamanista!, I noticed immediately how white the blogosphere seemed. (I say seemed, because a lot of bloggers do not post pictures and even when you see a picture, you cannot know how someone identifies racially. Some people of purely European decent are dark and some “people of color” are very pale. Skin tone does not always signal race. But what is race? And where do people of mixed heritages fall in these discussions? … It is so hard to get anywhere in this post because there are so many side issues!)

At any rate, I was checking out another product review blog and was surprised to find the woman appeared to be black in a picture on her About page. Why was I surprised? The caricature in her banner was white. To this day, I do not know what to make of that.

A caricature is clearly not supposed to be an exact representation of the site author…and quite possibly some of us are posing as blondes when we are actually brunettes or vice versa…but for some reason this particularly surprised me. Does that say more about the site author or me?

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to have a lot of frank discussions with friends in real life and on the Internet about race. While I can’t say we always understood each other, I would like to think we moved the ball down the field just be talking with each other honestly.

I am white? What are the requirements for being a person of color? Appearance? Experiences with prejudice? Self-identification? Cultural differences? Interest in certain issues? Where you live? Where your parents lived?

Besides those who are mixed races, there seem to be others who live on the periphery of “color.” What about Arab Jews and Christians in the United States? What if they experience prejudice as Arabs? What about European Jews in Western Europe and the United States who have experienced prejudice and feelings of cultural dissonance? What if you are a Hispanic person of fully or partial European descent–is it your culture that gives you your “color?” Does it matter if you identify as Hispanic? Look Hispanic? Have experienced prejudice as a Hispanic person?

What if you can pass? Do you have a need, a desire, an obligation to not do so? What about in the blogosphere where we could all theoretically keep a lot to ourselves, including our color? In doing so, are we contributing to the impression that the blogosphere is white? And, if so, do we have any responsibility to combat that impression?

Should a white person even be discussing this? And is white a color? Or are white people colorless–with all the implied blandness and homogeneity?

How can the blogosphere as a whole better promote, recognize, and celebrate cultural diversity? What part do we all, white, black, brown, or otherwise, have to play in this?

How do we start?

Specifically as parent bloggers–is that enough of a starting point? My grandfather, who was Jewish, looked Jewish, experienced much prejudice as a Jewish person, and culturally identified as Jewish, but married an Irish Catholic woman, was a musician throughout the 30s, the 40s, and beyond. He had an opportunity to play with musicians of all races and, as a result, have many conversations about race that were really about music, conversations about music that were really about race, and conversations that were really just about music. Because music was a medium, especially in that era but also especially in the United States, that simultaneously transcended and yet breathed and lived race.

On some level, can parenting and writing about parenting do the same for us? Is race integral to parenting? Are there issues in parenting that can unite us in meaningful discussion while also illuminating issues of race?

ETA: More questions…I’m just full of it them, aren’t I?

So, how do we keep race out there? So everyone, the PR flacks, the politicians, the other moms and dads, everyone, knows that it is on our minds, and on our lips, and in our hearts? How do we live it, love it, cry it, share it, and celebrate it…not just once or twice, but as part of who we are?

Because I do think that this is something to embrace. Yes, we are different. For many reasons…and race is one of those reasons. Sometimes it is large and sometimes it is small…but it is always there. I want to strike out prejudice…not differences.

So how do we make this bright and shiny new world of the blogosphere more beautiful with more color?

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  1. Gloria says:

    You woke me up with this entry! This was very, very interesting.

    I actually feel that blogging transcends colors. I’ve been reading various blogs written by writers of various shades and it has never changed my initial perceptions about them. I do, however, wonder if people see me differently if they know I’m not white, if I somehow end up ‘sounding’ white. I’m interested to know if they will like me as much as they like me now had they known in advance that I am not white. I’ve been dropping hints in my entries to indicate that I am Asian. Anyhow, I don’t want to insult my reader’s feelings and judgements if I think they think different of me just because of my race. So far nobody has cared about my race in the blogosphere. I have wonderful readers and I’m still loved! :)

  2. homeslice says:

    Great post, Mama. I’m half hispanic, half white, 100% mixed :-) I’m with you. I was surprised finding out that some of my favorite bloggers weren’t white. Then I felt bad about myself for being surprised. I love that the internet is, at times, the great equalizer. If you choose not to divulge, like in my case my “Mexican-ness” which will immediately conjour a reaction, sometimes negative, I am on equal footing with everyone else.

  3. Donna says:

    Great, thoughtful post.

    I would like to think that we are moving to a time when the concept of “race” is obsolete. We are all human beings, and when we pigeonhole ourselves around a racial identity, we make everyone else “other.”

    That said, living in a society where race is still an issue has made me someone who almost reflexively identifies others by their ethnic backgrounds — even when I fight the urge. I know that is not something I did when I was young — but it’s a learned behavior that has become more pronounced as I’ve aged.

    But I do see lots of signs of hope. When I was in high school (some 35 years ago), it was a radical act for white and black kids to date each other. Such relationships were the subject of “bold” TV movies. Now, it’s so not a big deal that mainstream TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, etc.) feature inter-racial couples and it never figures into the plot. So I think we are moving in the right direction.

    As for your question of whether or not the blogosphere is white… I think that when people are reading things and have no picture of the author, they picture someone like themselves, so in my mind’s eye, I see a white person. But seeing a picture and discovering that the author is not white doesn’t make me think differently. If I like a writer, I like a writer and I don’t care about his or her ethnic background. In fact, it is the people who are most different from me who are most interesting.

  4. We’re (BlogRhet, Motherhood Uncensored, KimchiMamas, Rice Daddies, etc) a multi-cultural initiative, look at race and culture, etc.

    Would you like this post to be a part of that?

    Let me know :)

    j pippert at gmail dot com.

    Also, you can read my thoughts at Is the Internet the Rainbow Connection?

    FWIW, I think all people should talk about this.

    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  5. Lawyer Mama says:

    Thanks for your comment and great post! I do think it’s important to keep the race issue alive because diversity is important. If people are unintentionally being left out (or even if it’s intentional), bringing it to everyone’s attention can only help.

    I do agree with you that I think it’s easy for someone who is part of the majority to say that race is unimportant, but it is. It’s part of us, our life experiences and how we view the world. I don’t think that it’s necessarily important to put it out there right away, but sometimes race can help us understand another person.

    In any event, I still think that diversity is an important thing to have. We certainly don’t want white middle class moms speaking for all women.

  6. Okay back to finally comment all my thoughts for your great post.

    So glad you joined in!

    I think you ask some good questions and pose good points.

    The Internet does offer a rare opportunity for us to highlight and lowlight different aspects of ourselves that might not usually get overlooked or noticed in corporeal life.

    As Gina pointed out in her post, it allows us to get to know each other without other factors getting in the way or putting up walls or whatever those things might be.

    It’s like politics. You can’t look at a person and tell their voting history. That comes out later. It’s a factor of that person, but is somethign that can be integrated within context, KWIM?

    Listen, remind me or email your questions to me at j pippert at g mail dot com and I’ll add them to the list for next week, if you want.

    Thanks for this great post!

    Ravin’ Picture Maven