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I should preface this by saying that I am white. I am about as white as you can get. I’m your standard Celtic-and-Anglo mix with light brown hair and skin the color of an unbaked piecrust. As such, I usually don’t feel like I should write about racial justice issues. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person and I never will know. And I’m not going to drag out that old saw about having Irish ancestors, because it’s not the same. Having had ancestors who were persecuted for their race isn’t the same as actually knowing what it’s like to be persecuted for your race, and the situation with the Irish in America, horrible as it was, doesn’t parallel the situation of African people who were brought to this country to be bought and sold as livestock.
I usually feel like I shouldn’t speak up about racial justice issues, for fear that I’ll sound like I’m yet another patronizing piecrust-colored white person speaking over black people who ought to be allowed to speak for themselves.
But I’ve got something I need to say.
I need to say this to all the people who claim that certain mixed-race black people aren’t black enough– that they’re really white or “half-white” and just pretending to be black for perceived benefits. I want to say it to everyone who claims that President Obama (who, for the record, I didn’t vote for and disagree with on many issues), and Colin Kaepernick (who I just heard of for the first time a few days ago), aren’t really black, because some of their ancestry is white or because Kaepernick was “raised white.” I want to speak to people who have patronizingly explained to my mixed-race friend Daniella, that she isn’t really a black person, because some of her ancestry is Italian. And I also need to talk to the many people who have read or heard the assertions that mixed-race people aren’t black enough to be black, and who don’t know what to think about that.
Guys, let’s try a little thought experiment. Come take a field trip with me.
Get into my time machine. Do you like it? I just built it specifically for this thought experiment. I used an upcycled cardboard refrigerator carton. Are you comfortable? Great. Hold onto something; I haven’t had seat belts installed yet. I’m going to set the coordinates for 1950s Alabama.
Here we are.
But we’re not done yet. I’m going to turn the refrigerator carton upside down overtop of you. It’s not a time machine anymore; it’s a transmogrifier. Don’t worry, I just have to turn it back over to get us back to 2016. I’m going to use the transmogrifier to turn you into a person with the appearance and genetic characteristics of someone who is mixed-race– that is, someone who has one black parent and one white parent.
I’m letting you out of the transmogrifier now. Wow, you look great!
Now, one last thing I want you to do.