Tuesday, June 16, 2015

So. What? So What? Or So, WHAT???!!!

So we were eating our delicious lunch at Japanica! today and I am not sure how it came up but the word "gay" was said.
"Do you know gay is, Owen?" I asked him.
"No," he said.
I started to go into a longish explanation and Hank cut in.
"If a boy falls in love with a boy or a girl falls in love with a girl, that's called gay."
"Oh," he said. "Can we talk about me now?"

Ah, my heart.

I had the best time today. Hank and Jessie and Lily and the boys and I had our lunch and then we went to Costco where we dawdled down the aisles and talked about all the stuff we'd like to get but mostly don't. I love these outings. I feel like the matriarch I am with the grandchildren, the pregnant mommies, the son. We go in the coldy room, we shiver with great exaggerated shivers, we discuss whether or not we'd like to all split up one of these trays of nectarines and can you use some Romaine? We laugh, we peek at babies, we discover that you can buy a toilet for $84.95. We joke, we talk about how we could eat an entire box of whatever looks good and junky. We hold up ginormous containers of things and say, "Could you use this?"
Oh my goodness. What first world pleasures. Still, pleasures they are and I am not ashamed to say that one bit. We are gatherers and the Costco is air-conditioned and if we had to gather outside, we would die.

Speaking of which- how do those sidewalk builders do it? They work in this heat for over eight hours a day in high rubber boots and long sleeves and bright orange vests. They are soaking wet by the afternoon. I bet they go home and pour water from their boots, every bit of it from their own pores.
Of course, the two men who are doing most of the work are Mexican. They probably wonder why we're not doing it like they do in Mexico- rest during the heat of the day, work in the night time when it is cooler.
It seems ridiculous that we do not. Here in Florida, especially. I am in awe at anyone who works outside this time of year here. I simply do not understand how it can be done. Humans are far stronger than I can imagine. Some humans. Not me.

So. This Rachel Dolezal thing.
You know, I don't even know all of the details and I am not about to cast judgement. I just think that the whole situation brings up an amazing wealth of new questions about what we call race and privilege and culture. It's not unusual here to see women who are no doubt Caucasian who have married into Black families and who seem to have assimilated pretty thoroughly and yet, they do not seem to be Black themselves, just part of that culture. They have not darkened their skin nor permed their hair although they may be wearing dreads or locs. That doesn't seem like a big deal to me.
People assimilate into cultures ALL the time. Ex-pats who move to different countries, people who move from NYC to the deep south or vice-versa. Catholics who become Jews. Jews who become born-again Christians. Nothing wrong with any of that.
Sometimes we are raised in one culture and find another in which we feel, finally, at home. We should be free to adopt that culture if we please.
And as we all know, I'm extremely comfortable with those who feel as if they were born into the wrong bodies due to gender issues. I support those people with all of my heart if they decide to make things right.
Is this because it's a race thing? I know that Black people have "passed" in our culture for many, many years. Does it show a prejudice on my part because I don't even question that? And what IS race? What's the deal with that? Why do we call Obama Black? He's as much White as he is Black. Are we still doing that "one drop" thing where if you have one bizzilionth of African heritage as a percent of your blood you are considered to be Black? Doesn't this almost ensure that most of us ARE Black? And if you turn it upside down, aren't most of us White?
See? I don't know enough about any of this to really know how I feel.
I suppose that part of the problem in this case is that Ms. Dolezan misrepresented herself in ways that were not at all honest or truthful. The perms, the darkening of her skin by whatever means, her direct claims that she is, indeed, Black. The fact that she (according to what I've read) has claimed that "hate crimes" have been directed towards her. This is all troubling.
But it's so interesting, you know?
The situation is making me THINK about things. Mostly, to tell you the truth, about what is race and what is culture and what beliefs do I hold, even subconsciously, about race and culture?

When I asked for thoughts on the situation this morning, I got some incredibly thoughtful ones. I knew I would. And as Elizabeth said, I don't really care what anyone claims to self-identify with. It's not my job. Although- hold on! I don't want someone who "self-identifies" as a doctor but who really only has a high school education to be doing surgery on me or anyone I know. Is that in any way related?

See? It's like a giant onion of a conundrum here. At least, it feels that way to me. Am I over-thinking it? Wouldn't be the first time. But whatever is going on here, at least I've met a situation where even at my age I don't have any real immediate reaction and every question I ask leads to more questions. I find this encouraging.

Now tomorrow we may discuss the caliber of the Republicans who have announced candidacy for President. I'm not in much doubt about how I feel about that. In fact, to discuss it would probably be a big fat waste of time.

All right. I have to go make supper. But I would be VERY interested in your perspective on the issues that Ms. Dolezan's "outing" (is it an outing?) have brought up.

Because honestly, I just don't know quite what to think.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I don't know what to think of the Rachel Dolezal thing either. It could be as simple as she thought she had to pass to get the job. I have not really followed it and maybe I am missing something. Gail

  2. Someone on NPR this morning brought up a very interesting question. She raised it gingerly, not wanting to offend, but she wondered if the situation could be similar to Caitlin Jenner who was born a male but identified always as a female. Could it happen, she asked, that someone could have racial dysmorphia?
    Never even considered that!

    Thanks for all you do. You cheer up my life.

    xo Suz

  3. I had so much fun at Costco with my friend and the 3-year-old. I get it.

    I think that mostly it's like you said to me - there's something off with her and her family. I don't want to diminish issues of race and culture at all (you know i don't!), but ... how much of this is because she's just nuts? Like the fake hate crimes, and how she sued Howard saying she didn't get an assistantship because she was white (and other categories) - does she just really want to be a victim? Because that's more psychology than sociology, I think.

    I don't rightly know.

  4. Melissa Harris Perry did a very interesting interview with Rachel Dolezal tonight, but even more interesting was MHP's conversation with Chris Hayes afterwards about her reaction to Rachel Dolezal and the case itself. One of the things that was pointed out is there has been real trauma and abuse experienced in her family of origin and that she took on this identity to protect some loved ones, namely her younger adopted brothers and sister, all Black or biracial. Maybe this was her way of distancing herself from her family of origin to protect her black siblings (as she said). Perhaps, if one is raised with trauma of this sort, one does not make decisions that are necessarily easily understood. One thing MHP said that I heard deeply was that her two teenaged sons are wonderful human beings and that when she meets kids who are wonderful it makes her disposed to like the parent who raised them. It made me disposed to give Rachel Dolezal the benefit of the doubt, meaning maybe she's troubled but she's not venal. Walk a mile in her shoes and all that. But hey, you can't make this stuff up.

  5. Gail- Oh, I think it's far more than that. But perhaps that was part of it. I just don't know.

    Suz- I think that racial dysmorphia may be a real thing. Who knows? But see- I've never really thought about that.

    NOLA- You've got some good points here.

    Angella- " It made me disposed to give Rachel Dolezal the benefit of the doubt, meaning maybe she's troubled but she's not venal. Walk a mile in her shoes and all that. But hey, you can't make this stuff up."
    Yes m'am! And so now we need to consider childhood trauma and how that affects people AND the self-image they have and the protective devices they use.

  6. Well Mary, you must know that my choice of lifestyle and life partner have come up more than once in the course of therapy for childhood family trauma. On the other hand, I was spending a lot of time in the islands from about age 14 so perhaps that influenced me?

    (Dad retired early to live out his sea captain fantasy while I was still in the nest. Who does that?)


  7. Hey Ms Moon, I fell off the side of the earth for a bit but am back and will be reading up on all I've missed.
    My opinion is first of all like yours - I love it when a situation makes me think, and question myself and my opinions and the world.
    Then also, I am so messed up with regards to my own identity sometimes, what with completely loving my adopted Anglosaxon culture, but being Flemish, but moving in expat circles, and my continued battles with what it means exactly to be female, I'm not about to judge either. Sure, it would be better if everyone was honest, but there are so many reasons for why people do things. It would have been different maybe if she was using her pretense to get really rich or something.

  8. Well, you saw my post, so you know I essentially think she should be able to identify however the heck she wants. She ought to be honest about it, rather than trying to pretend, but at the same time I'm cool with her saying she's black given her connections and her immersion in the cause of racial justice as an NAACP director. (And apparently a capable one.)

    I did read a VERY interesting column yesterday (which I can't find at the moment, but I think it was in the NYT) in which a black woman writer said that Dolezal can't rightfully call herself black because she hasn't lived the black experience -- she can voluntarily dip into it, but "passing" isn't the same, this woman said. (I've seen feminists make this same argument about transgendered women, though, which is a whole other can of worms.) She also said she'll be more ready to accept trans-racialism when black people are permitted to self-identify as white if they so desire -- which is a good point.

    The whole thing IS fascinating.

  9. Invisigal- Obviously, your dad did it. I can completely understand your choice of a life-partner under those circumstances and many others, actually. Our heart finds the one that we feel right with. So often it may look weird from the outside (consider me and my husband who is a foot and a half taller than I am) but if it feels right, it just does.

    Mwa- It is all such a mystery, isn't it? And I suppose we could spend our lives trying to figure it all out. As long as we are happy with our choices, as long as we feel comfortable in our surroundings (mostly) than who cares? Well, unless obvious deceit is being used. I suppose. I DON'T KNOW!!!!

    Steve Reed- Well, what IS the "Black experience"? I mean, what about kids with dark skin being raised by White people in a completely White culture? It's so confusing. Do we have to deny them their Black identity? What a huge can of worms. As I said, for me, every question leads to another. It is definitely an interesting thing to contemplate, to try and tease out the different roots of all the tendrils woven together to make the whole.

  10. This is what I think...so what! why does anyone even give a fuck. OK, so she lied. People tell big and small lies all the time to ease their passage through life. So who was she hurting? (another blog friend claims Rachel is the niece of a friend of hers and that she is a terrible person who has hurt her family, her kids, etc that she's a liar and made up all the hate crime stuff, that she is a power hungry narcissist, etc) but I think that opinion has more to do with who's side you are on. I think all this attention is less about what Rachel did and if it was bad or not than about our national pastime which seems to be destroying (mostly) innocent people's lives for entertainment. Unlike Caitlyn Jenner who sought out the publicity, Rachel was just minding her own business. Why can't we just let people be who they want to be? And since there is no such thing as race, there is only the human race and white skin is really a recent innovation, what is so terrible about adopting and identifying with a different culture? Let it go people (I don't mean you Mary, but all those who are up in arms). Mind the mote in your own eye before you point out the one in someone else's.

  11. I tell lies all the time, i.e.: I don't like going to Costco. I don't want to buy a 40lb bag of cheezy puffs from Costco. I have never impulse bought too much prosciutto from Costco (as if possible).
    you know- those types of lies.

    I've not radically changed my appearance, adopted a sibling as a child, plagiarized others' works of art, and claimed to police that race crimes were committed-- all for the specific purpose of creating a false persona. Rachel is a pathological liar way beyond simply identifying with another race's culture. She has a problem.

  12. I feel it is not that simple, but I haven't really followed the story, just bits and pieces here and there. I had jury duty Monday, so I didn't see much news that day. It all seems very strange to me. Gail

  13. I am old enough that the word gay carries the meaning of lighthearted and happy, and I use it in that context on occasion. It won't hurt people to remember it's origin.
    As for Rachel Dolezal, she made choices and then was not honest about her reasons. She has hurt only herself and people who believed and trusted her. Now she has to wade through the consequences and some of them will cost her. But she's young and still has time to mend her fences and move on with whoever she decides to be.

  14. Ellen Abbott- All very good points.

    Magnum- Do you only show up in order to remind me how much I miss you? If so, you just did that. Anyway, yeah, she does sort of fit the profile for pathological liar, doesn't she? (We fondled the prosciutto at Costco yesterday but did not buy any. Nor did we buy cheesy puffs. A huge box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch was, however, purchased.)

    Gail- There is definitely more to this than meets the eye.

    Joanne- You're right. I should have told Owen that "gay" can also mean happy. I will remedy that. I fear that Ms. Dolezal is going to be somewhat infamous for this whole thing for a long time.

  15. I've no idea what to think, so I'm leaving it alone. I saw a comment on racial heritage being irrelevant if you don't share the culture, yesterday, and I disagree with that, but I didn't have the energy to join conversation.

  16. You said it all for me. I do think sometimes that it's the media itself that stirs these things up, and while they do provoke good thought and discussion, they tend to blow up and isolate things that probably are a lot more common than we know. I mean, this story has basically all the parameters of a Shakespearean play -- whether it's tragedy or comedy is anyone's guess. This woman's exposure isn't going to do anything for HER life, though, than ruin it, in my opinion.

  17. This story has now made it to our local media and while I've been reading a couple of commentaries I was reminded of the time when we lived in a small African country. There were very few non-black people and we rarely met them. Sometimes on the bus to work I would see this surprisingly white hand holding onto the handrail and it would take me a while before I registered with a start that I was in fact looking at my very own hand.
    My daughter, aged 5 at the time and with thick blond curls, considered herself African as soon as she could speak the local language and often pretended to be one of our neighbour's kids. They had no propblem with that.

    I know, totally different circumstances, but we adapt when we need to and even without becoming aware of it.

  18. Jo- I don't know either.

    Elizabeth- I think she probably started making one little choice after another and telling one little lie after another. And then BOOM! Whoa!
    It's bizarre but for me it sure does raise some issues.

    Sabine- Yes. I am certain that's true. And yes, definitely different circumstances. I can understand yours far better than I can this woman's but...who knows?

  19. If she had said she was really white and been honest, then it would be okay with me. But trying to hide and be dishonest is not a good thing.

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