31 July 2010
Day 126: Color Blind
When I was growing up, and even into my college years a bit, I always kind of envied the black and other raced kids. I know, it's a little messed up, but they had this whole identity path charted out for them and they had what seemed like four or five ways they could fit into their culture. I didn't realize at the time how limiting that can be to someone who doesn't want to follow the path they're expected to by their cultural/ethnic peers or family members.
This is probably not coming out right and I'm showing my Stupid right now. The thing is, being white comes with so many options that sometimes the only option for a white kid growing up is not to fit in at all. By the time I hit high school I had moved so many places and seen so many things that it was practically impossible for me to fit in with anyone. For a while I tried hanging out with the punks, but I didn't drink or do drugs. Then I got into the theatre crowd, but I wasn't really accepted there either because I was willing to accept male roles in Mississippi, and that was weird even for theatre kids down there. Not to mention it was hard to land a lead role unless you had been groomed from 9th grade by the theatre teacher. That's just the way it was and I had fun and sucked it up, but in some ways there was a lot more suck than fun.
At least with the skin color it seemed that you automatically had some common ground. As an outsider it felt like there was solidarity and camaraderie where there probably wasn't. It took me a long time to get to a point where I realized that all of the good that comes from having a pre-prescribed identity also includes all of the bad, and that the bad usually outweighs the good. There are cultural trends, etc. from other backgrounds that I wish I could claim, but I also wouldn't want to be saddled with the negatives, and it's not fair that people who are born into those backgrounds are sometimes encumbered by them.
I am making broad sweeping statements here, and I recognize that not every person of color has to deal with pressures to fit in culturally with their own race. However, I imagine most do or at least have to deal with similar pressures from other cultures. I've certainly had friends who were told they "act too white" by both their black and white friends. This mentality isn't right, it shouldn't matter and people should be able to behave how they want to (within the law) regardless of their ethnicity.