Tag Archives: Interracial Voice

“Amistad”, Vectors, Comfort and Conciliation By William Javier Nelson

“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.

Why Be “Black”? By William Javier Nelson

Why Be “Black”?
By William Javier Nelson

The reader with a long memory may recognize here some things I got to at an earlier point in time. Bear with me.

One of the most enjoyable work-place experiences I ever had was at the Centro Cultural Dominico Americano (called the “Dominico” for short) in 1989. There, a group of young Dominican instructors (myself included) who happened to speak English taught a series of classes to Dominicans of various ages and skill levels who wished to learn and improve upon their English.

And what a varied group of instructors it was!

There was a 40-ish woman who had spent her adulthood as a U.S. suburban housewife. There was a young Brooklynite whose New York accent (when he was speaking English) and jokes often brought down the house. There was myself, who grew up almost entirely with “white” North Americans and whose childhood was like Wally Cleaver’s and Eddie Haskell’s. There was a humble Dominican from the country-side whose kindness and patience was etched on his face. There was a haughty and arrogant-looking man (inside, however, he was a pussycat) who would make it a point to drive up to the Dominico in his cream-colored Peugeot. And many others just as varied. In spite of our differences, we partied together a lot. Why? Because, aside from the fact that we all spoke English, there was another very powerful thing which made us have something in common: our Dominican culture and nationality.

What did that mean? It meant that our parties had plenty of merengue music. It meant that our feasts and dinners had plenty of Latino dishes like mondongo and sancocho and things like chicharrones de pollo. IT meant that we danced a lot at our parties, instead of stand around and talk. It meant that, although we spoke English, we could — all of us — slip into Dominican rapid-fire Spanish (complete with missing “s” letters at the ends of words) at a moment’s notice. It meant that we couldall recall what “el 27 de Febrero” meant and say it with pride.

What does the above have to do with my original question: “Why be ‘Black’?”

Hold on.

I have been reading posts and essays from “blacks” on Interracial Voice for over five years now. There has been a strain common in many of their letters. And this strain is one in which a “black” identity is encouraged for mixed-race persons with African ancestry. What do they use to support this argument? {Drum Roll, please]

Here is the logic used:

“Society will see you as ‘black.'”

There are many ways in which this logic has been expressed. Universally it has been couched in the language of rejection, oppression and hurt. Universally it has made the basis of one’s membership in the “black” group the reaction by some rejecting “white” outsider.

Has there been any thread of logic advocating “blackness” for mixed-race persons because of something positive and unifying?


Now scroll back up to the group of instructors at the Dominico. And ask us,


Until “black” posters to Interracial Voice fundamentally grasp the differences between:

(a) what united those English teachers back in 1989 in the Dominican Republic, and
(b) the rationales they have used here on Interracial Voice for asserting “black” identities for mixed-race persons,

they will continue to “not get it” as to what we are all about.

Now, I don’t expect to “convert” any “black” One-Droppers out there in cyberland. However, they may be better advised to attempt to change tactics. Why not offer an appeal to “blackness” based not on the rejections of “whites” but rather some cultural/social/linguistic things (like perhaps blues, jazz, church, folklore, etc.).

That’s what makes Germans Germans.
That’s what makes Mexicans Mexicans.
That’s what makes Chinese Chinese.
That’s what makes Egyptians Egyptians.
That’s what makes Jamaicans Jamaicans.

Now if this is not possible, then we have some exciting (and disturbing) new avenues for discussion.

William Javier Nelson, Ph.D.

Brief bio:
William Javier Nelson, Ph.D. teaches in the adult education program at Shaw University. He is a native of the Dominican Republic and performs (African-derived) salsa and merengue music with the musical group FUSION CARIBE.

http://web.archive.org/web/20010409211059/http://interracialvoice.com/javier15.html  (Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)