“Amistad”, Vectors, Comfort and Conciliation
By William Javier Nelson
(Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)
Since I am a regular contributor to Interracial Voice with a regular message (eliminate the One Drop Rule or hypodescent as it applies to African Americans), it might come as a surprise to those who read my essays and letters that I very much identified with (and felt proud to have been partially descended from) the African rebels, when I saw the movie “Amistad”.
For those who know me personally, it’s no surprise at all. Acknowledging African ancestry and even following derivatives of West African customs and practices does not automatically make one a fan of the “black”/”white” lunacy which infects the United States. Although one of the Africans in the movie was heard to cry “brother” to one of the U.S. residents with African ancestry, it is likely that the Africans, while growing up in their native cultures, would not have been able to fathom the words “black” or “white” or what they meant. By the way — for me, I was struck by the good-naturedness evident in the smile of Cinque (the African leader).
I am deeply impressed by the ability of North Americans to somehow separate their collective worlds into “black” and “white”. It is as if their common nationality of “American” is secondary. As in many social customs, most of the population would be hard pressed to give rational explanations for this, beyond the superficial ones revolving around “black” rejection of “whites” in certain social situations and/or “white” belief in “racism” or “black” inferiority. Do that many people know that, in the South during the early 1600s, both Europeans andAfricans were often treated as indentured servants? The observations of Kenneth Stampp and others somehow get lost in the rhetoric and dogma of “racial” separatism. Similarly, the genius (geniuses) who decided (long ago) that offspring of Africans and Europeans were to be labeled as though their European parents did not exist are not here to explain their wisdom. So North Americans are just left to deal with the effects (and there are many). North Americans can be likened to the magnetic filings used in high school science classes. When the magnet is pointed one way, the filings group together; when it is pointed another way, they separate. The U.S. population which insists on bifurcating itself into “black” and “white” camps is analogous to the magnet in the second mode. I call this the vectors of “whiteness” and “blackness”, which lead North Americans into artificially induced different directions.
At the core of the acceptance of these vectors lies a certain amount of comfort. I recall once when I took my ex-wife to my native country, the Dominican Republic, she had a delayed-stress reaction upon returning to the United States. Although discrimination based on color, features and hair texture does exist in the Dominican Republic, there is no cut-off point at which the population falls into “black” and “white” groups. Moreover, there is a tremendous amount of “racial/color” ambiguity and cultural overlap. Although my ex-wife is mulatto, she considers herself a “black” North American. As such, she was extremely disoriented in the Dominican Republic because she was not in a position to accurately judge who was “white” or “black” (and thus order her behavior for each group). Clearly, most North American “blacks” and “whites” are ambivalent with the present One Drop system. Although there seem to be mutterings about “racism”, “prejudice” etc., most people are comfortable with self-designations as “white” or “black” and are unwilling to forego allegiance to these bogus “white” and “black” groups and interact as Americans first. The only group significantly uncomfortable in most aspects with One Drop are the people who frequent this website (people like me).
My wife Estela is fond of biblical analogies (“santa” that she is). We have talked at length about what it takes to form a reconciliation. Estela says that present-day adults (full of their “racial” paradigms and feelings) will just have to die out. Makes one think of Moses and the bible. We have talked about the potential residing in folks who presently are not in either “black” or “white” camps (such as Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, etc.). Much of my contribution to Interracial Voice is, in fact, focused on this topic. I, for one, think that demography will do more than any editorial of mine or anyone else’s. There are too many interracial liasons which include “blacks” and “whites”. There are too many blended children being born. There are too many people coming into the U.S. who are not from “black” or “white” source areas. These people have relatively high birth rates. Whether someone formally strikes down the One Drop Rule is secondary to the increasing difficulty in fitting people into monoracial, zero-sum categories.