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March 02, 2006

A Podcast! A Podcast, I say!

I'm really, really excited about all the new technology. It's sooo kewl! Makes it possible for me to work my way through the different media (please don't ask me to use the non-word "mediums". It hurts) on a purely amateur basis. Frex, last September I got to read part of a story on the radio (I'm in the last five minutes of the show)! Now I'm bloggin'! And next week, I will be cast to pod!

Carmen Van Kerckhove and Jen Chau (both multiracial) have teamed up in the past few years to produce several vital projects dealing with multiracial and interracial relationship issues including New Demographic (a diversity training company that does more than just spin your wheels and reinforce positive stereotypes), Mixed Media Watch (a blog about media representations of mixed race people), and Swirl, Inc. (a nonprofit Jen started in New York City to address multiracial issues.)

Their relevant project here is Addicted to Race, a regular podcast on multiracial and interracial relationship issues. They do rants and interviews, and have guest commentary, and in Episode 15, they have what must be one of the last interviews with the late Octavia Butler. These two really keep their eye on the ball (well, it's their job), so if you have any interest in a non-traditional take on race issues, subscribe to Addicted to Race.

In any case, with regard to their eye on the ballage, Carmen and Jen caught my Pop and Politics article on the falsehood of the dream of ending race through fucking interracially until everyone is kinda brown. So Carmen interviewed me by phone yesterday on the subject and the thing will be part of their podcast sometime next week. I'll let y'all know when. Until then, do check out their other stuff. Much worth a look!

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Comments

Yay, technology. Now...

all racial/ethnic stereotypes and fantasies are motivated by discomfort with racial/ethnic difference.

That's a bit much, no?

I know you will correct me if I'm wrong: your argument is that multiracial is a racial identity with its own set of stereotypes but stereotypes are only indicative of discomfort so people should learn to not stereotype the multiracial?

Personally, I've not come across many stereotypes of multiracial identities — though I have a few of my own, almost all restricted to the claim: "They'll probably have more opportunities to reflect on their identity and will thus be somewhat more likely to have a nuanced understanding of same."

Is my stereotype based on my discomfort around racial difference?

Moreover, aren't some "racial fantasies" — a very broad category — based on political exigencies or, even, just plain old wishful thinking?

For example:

This attitude of Tibetan moral superiority is largely based on the implicit belief that Buddhism in general, and specifically our brand of Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, with its special emphasis on altruism and compassion, is superior to all other religions. This self-image can also be attributed to the increasing popularity and recognition of our leader, His Holiness, as one of the world’s supreme moral figures.

That's just one. There are many more. I don't think you need to make such a sweeping claim as the one cited at the top in order to support the basic claim that positive stereotypes are also... stereotypes.

Moreover:

You're hardwired to be uncomfortable with people unlike you and things you can't understand.

What the? Are people not also "hardwired" to be uncomfortable with their exact twins? (The doppelganger? Sectarian strife?)

My understanding is that people are even more uncomfortable with their own family members than they are with strangers.

Finally, "can't" understand? Are you suggesting there are some things people from one (non-existent) racial identity cannot understand about another person's (non-existent) race-based culture?

This is what you want people to accept as they "learn to deal"?

Your rhetoric may have gotten the best of your argument.

P.S. Thanks for starting a blog.

jose, thanks for getting the discussion going.

all racial/ethnic stereotypes and fantasies are motivated by discomfort with racial/ethnic difference. That's a bit much, no?

i don't think it's too much at all. i said all stereotypes and fantasies are motivated by discomfort with difference, in the same way my cleaning my house is motivated by discomfort with messiness, or my cooking dinner is motivated by discomfort with hunger. racial difference is cooked into our culture's dna, so it's nearly impossible for us to encounter someone of a different race without noticing the racial difference. (in another culture we might notice a different phenotype without attributing so much to it, but there would still be discomfort with the difference.) so we create systems to account for the difference and tell us how to feel about it. inevitably, any systematic accounting of racial difference is going to fall short of describing actual individuals. that's a stereotype, positive or negative.

I know you will correct me if I'm wrong: your argument is that multiracial is a racial identity with its own set of stereotypes but stereotypes are only indicative of discomfort so people should learn to not stereotype the multiracial?

no, actually, i didn't argue that multiracial is a racial identity. i didn't address this directly (but thanks for the question -- i will address this in the future in this blog), but what i hinted at was that in the happy rainbow people scenario, multiracials were being held to the role of ending race and racial identity, while at the same time being held to a specific role by virtue of their racial make-up. multiracials are racially virtuous because they end race. a contradiction.

also, multiracials do have their own set of stereotypes (tragic mulatto, anyone?) and yes, in a more complicated way, the building of these stereotypes is motivated by discomfort -- by the desire to control discomfort by accounting for multiracial being and behavior in a systematic way.

Personally, I've not come across many stereotypes of multiracial identities — though I have a few of my own, almost all restricted to the claim: "They'll probably have more opportunities to reflect on their identity and will thus be somewhat more likely to have a nuanced understanding of same."

Is my stereotype based on my discomfort around racial difference?

honestly, yes, and i can say that because i've held, and expressed, the same stereotype. multiracials inspire a greater, if less openly hostile, discomfort than easily categorized "others" because of the ambiguity of their appearance and identity. our culture hates ambiguity. the very word has negative connotations in the english language. it's rarely used positively except in art. an ambiguous identity is equated with confusion, which is where the "tragic mulatto" and the "confused half-breed" stereotypes come from. those stereotypes address discomfort with ambiguity by making the ambiguity a "confusion" and making the confusion a function of being multiracial. it's not the half-breeds' fault, but that not something you should do to a child.

your stereotype is the positive side of that. it's an arm of the "hybrid vigor" theory, that the mixture is stronger than its parts. it's closely related to the idea that multiracials have an ability to end race, only this time by giving us a magical perspective on it sorely lacking in the discussion among monoracials.

Like i said, i used to think this way myself, but working in the multiracial community has cured me of that forever. the fact is that identity discussions are everywhere and everyone has the opportunity to think about them every day. ironically, it's a strong racial identity that often allows you not to think about it. you just go along with what the others of your group say and think, and you don't question the underlying structure. multiracials are still somewhat unusual, and those of my generation as often as not were the only ones on their block, so they didn't and don't often have a community to teach them how to ignore the noise. that's not so much opportunity as vulnerability. yet most of the multiracials i walked up to during my years of outreach seemed to deal with the issues by talking about them as little as possible, by making a placating gesture to the obnoxious questioner and keeping their heads down the rest of the time, by "covering".

who knows what goes on inside their heads? i certainly don't. maybe they are all racial geniuses, but from the evidence, most of them are just trying to get by. as far as i'm concerned, a nuance unexpressed is a non-nuance.

Moreover, aren't some "racial fantasies" — a very broad category — based on political exigencies or, even, just plain old wishful thinking?

that's exactly what i'm saying. discomfort with difference = "here's something not like me. what do i do with it that will make me feel less threatened?" politicians often, or usually, leverage this discomfort in their constituents to get their policies across. usually that means negative stereotypes, like swarthy people are terrorists. well-meaning folk still have to find a way to address their discomfort so instead of entertaining their paranoia, they entertain fantasy: but indians are so spiritual. see? they have a place! but blacks are so culturally savvy and athletic. see? they have a place! asians are so industrious, latinos are so passionate, multiracials are the wave of the future and will solve all my discomfort so i don't have to address it on a daily basis. wishful thinking as a way of avoiding difficult thinking ... or merely a daily dose of self-control.

You're hardwired to be uncomfortable with people unlike you and things you can't understand. What the? Are people not also "hardwired" to be uncomfortable with their exact twins? (The doppelganger? Sectarian strife?

My understanding is that people are even more uncomfortable with their own family members than they are with strangers.

i'm sorry but that's a completely specious argument. twins? what the --? and which people are more uncomfortable with their family members than they are with strangers? not me. are you? that's a completely individual matter, and will be completely different from family to family.

what i'm talking about are the basics. you walk down the street and hear a loud noise behind a fence that you can't identify. most people will either try to look through or over the fence to find out what that noise is, or else walk quickly away to get away from it. at the very least you will spend a lot more time wondering what the hell that noise was than you will thinking about the five hundred cars, lampposts, trees, bicycles, dogs and people you passed in the same time period that you were able to reconize, categorize, and filter out of your consciousness because they weren't a threat to you. it's strange, it's unusual, it's different, and you don't know whether to ignore it, or pay attention because it's dangerous. our impulse is to find some way of quickly categorizing it or disposing of it. our discomfort is hardwired to protect us from unknown threats.

Are you suggesting there are some things people from one (non-existent) racial identity cannot understand about another person's (non-existent) race-based culture?

This is what you want people to accept as they "learn to deal"?

race exists. just because it is based in a fallacy doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. our history created it and our society perpetuates it. it exists.

i'm not suggesting, i'm saying right out that you will never understand everything you want to about the person standing across from you because they are not you. you locate your discomfort in a categorical difference, or create a category to locate it in, then attempt to soothe your discomfort in that difference by describing the category to your satisfaction, either positively or negatively. in doing so, you deny them their individuality. i'm not suggesting, i'm saying right out that people shouldn't do this. i'm saying that instead of the category search, people should notice what they're doing ("hey, i'm categorizing. hey, i'm uncomfortable.") and just chill out and tolerate it. ("hey i'm uncomfortable. okay, so i'm uncomfortable, big deal. okay, so what else do i have to do today?")

This is so long I'm going to respond by email if that's OK?

I've never heard about "New Demographic" and "Addicted to Race". It's good to know someone is taking serious the multiracial and interracial relationship issues.

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