Tag Archives: race

Americanah

51mSJNECGyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For our latest book club meeting, we read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, which is undoubtedly my favorite book we’ve read so far in our short four or five months of meeting. Adichie is a fantastic writer; she makes it easy to picture the characters and readers can get fully invested in their world. (She’s also a brilliant public speaker, as can be seen in her TEDx Talk “We Should All be Feminists.”)

It’s amazing yet disheartening to think that there’s so many Americans (myself included) that don’t actually know much about Africa. For instance, I really had no idea that most Africans—especially educated ones—speak English, and that many prefer to speak it instead of their tribal language. It’s a very clear indication of both westernized influence on their continent and self-obsession with our own affairs, yet I really had no idea the extent of it. In the same vein, another thing we discussed was how people in many other countries know so much about the happenings in America while we don’t know all that much about places outside of our immediate realm. One of our members conveniently went on a trip to South Africa recently and spoke with locals there about Trump and our political process as we gear up for the primaries. I have no idea who rules in Nigeria, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to hold a lengthy, in-depth conversation about their politics. It’s actually rather embarrassing and makes me want to expand my political intake more.

We also talked about the difference between people in Nigeria and in the United States. In the book, Adichie shows people asking their neighbors for money, and they all know and talk about each other’s problems. They’re pretty distant from their corrupt government, but among their peers, they’re open. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, I can’t even tell you what the girl and guy that live upstairs do for a living. There’s more of a feeling of community among people, which is further shown when Ifemelu moves to America and feels isolated from the people around her, especially the ones she knew back in Nigeria. The idea that many foreigners have of America is that it’s a place where dreams can come true and people can get a new start on life, however, Ifemelu’s experience is a more realistic depiction of many immigrant’s lives. She struggles to find work and has to settle for jobs that are below her capabilities, nannying and working as a maid. She eventually adapts to it, but then when she moves to Nigeria again over ten years later, she’s shocked by people’s honesty and openness as well as their enthusiasm to hire her simply because she lived in the U.S. Once she gets used to the new culture, she has to acclimate again to what she grew up with.

Additionally we discussed her white American boyfriend, Curt, who most of felt was dating Ifemelu as a trophy in a way—her being black was something that he was attracted to before he even knew her as a person or figured if he actually liked her. It almost felt like a rich white man’s rebellion against his upbringing. I’ve also known people who say things like, “I only fall for black guys, I don’t know why,” and it has always annoyed me. Saying that you prefer one race over another fetishizes a person’s race and makes the relationship inherently flawed from the start.

The only thing people universally disliked was the ending since it seemed so sudden and rushed. It was almost as if Adichie got tired of writing the story or hit a word limit, and she tried to nicely wrap it up and leave the reader to interpret it as they would. But we didn’t want to do that! We wanted to be told what happens since we were so invested in the story and characters the entire time. I did find this blog that Adichie made in the voice of Ifemelu as if it were the blog that she created once she moved back to Nigeria, so I guess that’s a bit of a continuation and closure. Personally, I didn’t hate the ending entirely. It definitely didn’t detract from my feelings on the novel as a whole, and I’m excited to delve into more of Adichie’s works (possibly Purple Hibiscus next!).

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Race and Rachel

idiotI think I need acknowledge something that’s been happening because I’ve mostly tried to stay silent, but I’m sick of it. I want to talk about race.

As many of you know, I’m proud as hell to be half Puerto Rican. And those of you who know this also know that I do not look anything other than white white white. I’ve never experienced any of the many, MANY struggles that come with being dark skinned or a minority. And I’ve also felt that I don’t really have much of say in anything that’s been happening in the media lately as a middle class white girl from the suburbs. The recent surge of video evidence of excessive police brutality toward blacks is horrific, and it breaks my heart to think of how much must have gone by undetected before camera phones existed.

However, now this Rachel Dolezal shitstorm kicked up and I’m pissed off all over again. And this time I don’t really want to stay quiet.

There are so many things wrong with what Dolezal did, but the thing that’s most alarming to me is how many people are so quick to defend her actions. It’s truly commendable that she did great things for the Spokane NAACP branch. That’s great, and there’s good to be found in every negative situation. Because regardless of her accomplishments, everything she did could have been achieved as a white woman. There was never a need for her to start darkening her skin and wearing weaves, but she did it anyway so that she could play the role and use it to her advantage.

Her interview with the Today Show was confounding. Dolezal contradicts herself multiple times while skirting the questions and avoids giving any substantial answers. Here’s what I took away from it:

  • Dolezal doesn’t put on blackface for a performance. Since her reasons are practical and professional, then it’s acceptable for her to not “stay out of the sun.” Maybe she should trade in her bronzer for some sunscreen.
  • She also mentions that for people to believe that she’s Isaiah’s mother, she can’t look like a white woman. It just wouldn’t be “plausible.”
  • Albert Wilkerson is her dad. Not her father, her dad. Because people can be dads but not fathers. Even though the person she was speaking with meant her biological father and she knew that, but let’s just move on.
  • It was totally okay for her to sue her predominately black graduate school (Howard University) as a white woman because they hurt her feelings.
  • The color crayon you use to color in your skin as a child determines your race. So I personally learned from this interview that I must be related to Skeeter Valentine because I’m pretty sure I always drew myself with blue skin.

Am I insane, or is this interview absolute horseshit? So much of it makes NO sense. I was shocked that Matt Lauer didn’t persist or push his points, but I guess with such a hot topic they want to see how long they can drag it out and exploit it for more airtime.

Just a quick sidebar: I’m just going to say now that the term “transracial” is fucking aggravating to hear. Race and gender are ENTIRELY different, and there’s no way that the “struggle” Dolezal has gone through is in any way comparable to that of a transgender person. If I see one more person likening Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner, I’m going to throw a chair.

Rachel Dolezal wanted to be a martyr, and rather than do so in her own skin, she changed herself and took on the physical appearances of a black woman. She made a mockery of an entire race and belittled the struggle that millions went through and continue to experience. She lied about being on the receiving end of hate crimes and even told her family to not “blow her cover.” This is probably the most extreme example of white privilege I’ve ever seen: A white woman that shifts her race when it’s most convenient and beneficial to her needs, and she somehow has people supporting her through it.

Now there’s even more coming out with the exclusive NBC interview where she finally just says that she’s black and can’t identify as white. She’s black because she raised black children and felt a connection to the culture and knows black people and has curled hair and tanned skin. Because apparently that’s all it takes to be black. Rachel Dolezal is just a self-centered woman who wants to be remembered at whatever cost it takes, changing her story as it conveniences her.

This New York Times piece is well articulated and points out exactly why this whole sham is so ridiculous as well. As for me, I’m waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and let the country know that we just got severely Punk’D because there’s really no other acceptable end to this story.

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