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December 14, 2004

California Knows How To Party

Subtitle: Being & Nothingness

Continuing on the racial angle, because really today is a great day and I'm not at all purturbed at any part of the world, I'll follow up on Ambra.

One of the offhanded remarks I made at her site was that although I'm from California, one can't say I'm the same as the others who aren't black. It's a really awkward thing to say, but I was speaking French. My point, because I made it in the context of a Mandarin and a Spanish sentence immediately previous, is that we're not quite sure what we are supposed to be with regard to ethnic / racial identity..except that we do.

The way I see it is that there are the mainstream stereotypes which are half ignorant, half disrespectful and half true. There is your interpretation of the intention of those who repeat them and there is your reaction to them. This is the threefold factoring of ones place within an ethnic comfort zone. Most of us are accepting of most of that.

Fzample. Let's take the single stereotype of black male (predatory, insatiable) sexuality. It's half ignorant, half disrespectful and half true. So what should I do about it. I can reject it and say I'm not black like *that*, but black like *this*. I'm still responding as black along the same axis, so no matter where I am on the spectrum the stereotype is reinforced. So long as I respond as a definer or redefiner or blackness dealing with the stereotype of black male sexuality, I'm part of the cycle, for better or worse. But what of my sexuality? Am I predatory and insatiable? Hell if I know. Maybe, maybe not. Compared to what? Everyone is unsure about where they fit on various scales of human performance. We all will continue to be until there are web-accesible Olympic records and actuarial tables for every human endeavor, which means forever.

Oh. Think I'm a sexual predator? Well according to Google, the average sexual predator seduces a median of 27 people every year. I've only had sex with 18 different women in the past three years, that puts me in the 14th percentile of American males aged 13-35.
Such data coming soon to a WiFi hotspot near you. Thanks, Starbucks. Still, this doesn't disable the stereotype because you've got to be something, why not be black? Isn't it cool to be an American who *didn't* vote for Bush? Yes, because you understand the perversions of those Americans who did, at least you can pretend so when in the company of non-Americans. Same deal. There is always something special about being part of and yet not part of a semi-understood group.

Again. Stereotypes are half ignorant, half disrepectful and half true. You accept the premise, you define or redefine depending on your interpretation of the intentions of those repeating it. But you can't afford to walk away. Because some part of your real identity is vested in the ease with which you can wear the mask, even though you don't really know where you stand in absolute terms with the rest of your cohort. Interesting isn't it?

I think about this a little because I'm going to be representing Meiguo (America) when I go to China. But I'm not American, I'm from Cali!

What is California? We're more multi-ethnic than just about anywhere on the planet. It seems as though I'm always hearing some statistic about how there are more Xians in California than anywhere oustide of the capital of Xia. (Interestingly I always percieve that it's whitefolks who need to remeind us of all this.)

But California is athletic, more or less tolerant, imaginative, perverse (in the good way), young, affluent and mercurial. It happens first in California. We're cutting edge. People come to California because the place is plastic and accomodating. You don't have to change. We eat everything in California, we speak everything in California, we wear everything in California. We have snow, we have deserts, we have mountains, we have lakes, we have rivers, we have caves and just about every other geological feature. We're agricultural, we're industrial, we're post-industrial. We have grinding poverty and lawlessness, we have arrant manic egotism and... wait. Aren't all these stereotypes? They've got to be at least half true.

Part of the problem with dealing with race and ethnicity in America is America itself. It's too big. Bigger even than California. I've gone the whole nine yards dealing with racism and I've discovered that people are a bit too quick to jump from what's happening around the way to tha national significance of race. It's the fault of blackfolks because we invented Black Nationalism and we've been dominating the discussion of race for a half century. Even though we accomplished a great deal, we didn't really succeed in our own nationalism. But we've begged the question of what the Nation thinks of the Black Race. And everyone has been trying to figure that out and come up with adequate answers. They won't be found. It's more appropriate, I think, to ask a whole lot more smaller and more answerable questions and not try to aggregate them up.

What are the prospects for college educated children of black parents who from two different states who grow up in a third state? Damned good, I'd say. A damned sight better than the kid from Biloxi who's high school educated parents are both from Biloxi.

I think that taking regionalisms and class markers are more definitive than those of ethnicity and race. Not that I would leave the latter two out of the question. Add to that some generational stuff and you've got a handle on a mask that fits a bit better. That's what I believe.

Posted by mbowen at December 14, 2004 12:40 PM

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In the ciiiiittttttyyyyy. City of Compton.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at December 14, 2004 01:44 PM

Yeah, I'm in that same wavelength, Cobb. The micro doesn't always scale up to the macro.

Posted by: memer at December 15, 2004 09:24 AM