Saturday, July 12, 2008

What other people are saying

On being Jewish and white: I spend a lot of time discussing race here and on Anti-Racist Parent. And I'm a regular at other blogs that deal with race-related issues. But I have never read a post that explored what it means to identify as Jewish and white. The Girl Detective has tackled this issue over on Feministe. I'm a black woman and reading Girl Detective's post touched a few nerves that I really can't articulate. (Something like "Why the determination to be accepted as white?" The definition of "whiteness" has always been more about power, class and social structure than genetics. As the writer acknowleges, there was a time when, say, Italians were viewed as "not white," today, they are white. Or is it jealousy? Black people, even though many of us (including me) have white Northern European ancestors, will never be able to opt in to the white power structure.) But this really is an insightful post. Check it out:
I’ve written before on how angry I was when fellow progressives began to inform me that while some Jews consider themselves white, it’s only because they’ve assimilated into white culture. They never explained what white-looking Jews actually are, if not white, but the message was always clear: if we Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews think we’re white, well, it’s just because we wanted some of that tasty privilege so badly that we suppressed our real identity to get it. I’d known, of course, that many white extremists still considered Jewishness a race, but hearing such comments come from leftists surprised and upset me for a couple of reasons: 1) they were presuming to know more about a Jew’s identity than a Jew would, and 2) those who were people of color were surely familiar with the frustration at having others dictate how they should define themselves. Read more...

On being a transwoman: I have never had the privilege of speaking to a transgendered person about his or her life experience, so I enjoy reading what Monica Roberts has to say on her blog, Transgriot. But Monica's blog is valuable not just because it offers a window into the life of one transgendered woman. It is valuable because Monica lays it down on a variety of issues from politics to patriotism to sports to black pop culture...and does it very well. I was visiting this blog, the newest member of the Afrosphere, and found this wonderful post:
One of the things that bothers me from time to time is the fact that I didn't get to experience growing up female.

Sometimes it's triggered when I see a little girl walking hand in hand with her mother. Other times it may be a group of teenage girls walking through the mall laughing, giggling and talking as they wear their tight jeans and discreetly ogle the boys walking by. Sometimes it's seeing as prom season approaches girls with their dates or getting made up for the first time at the department store makeup counter.
Sometimes it's a reaction to the depressing news of another transwoman found dead or the madness of ignorant people who haven't picked up science textbooks or read the Constitution in a while. To paraphrase Houston's legendary crusading consumer affairs reporter, the late Marvin Zindler, 'It's hell to be transgender.'

Well, sometimes it is, depending on what part of the planet you live in.

But from time to time I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd come out of the womb with female genitalia. And yeah, sometimes I honestly do feel cheated that I didn't get to experience life growing up as a young African-American woman inside and outside. I'll never know what it was like to run for prom or homecoming queen,
be a cheerleader, have mom and my grandmother run a hot comb through my hair, do a pajama party/sleepover, pick out a prom dress, have 'The Talk' from the
feminine side or all the other assorted myriad experiences that mark a young girl's maturation into womanhood. I can imagine the tug-of war that would have happened between my godmother and my mom both subtly (and not so subtly) lobbying teen Monica to join their respective Divine Nine sororities once I hit college.

But at the same time, I have to consider the fact that spending 20 plus years on the male side of the gender fence has not only been an education into the drama that Black men face on an everyday basis, but for me led to a greater appreciation of my femininity. I had to go through so much time, work, money, prayerful contemplation and drama just to become the Phenomenal Transwoman proudly standing before you. Read more...

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