Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Am a Real American

Inspired by jen, who I sort of want to be when I grow up.

I sat in my feminist legal theory class yesterday and watched a presentation on critical race feminism. The presenters showed a portion of the video A Girl Like Me. At one point during the video, the creator performs the famous Brown v. Board of Education doll test with young black children. I watched as a young girl chose the black doll in front of her when asked which doll was the bad doll and chose the white doll when asked which doll was the nice doll. She wasn't confused about why. When the interviewer asked, she said, "Cause this one's black...cause this one's white." And then the interviewer asked her which one she looked like. You can see it on her face. She starts to reach for the white doll. She wants desperately to pick up the white doll. But she knows the truth. She picks up the black doll.

I cried.

It's enough to make you want you to cover your head and quit - that over 60 years after the original tests, these kids are still getting that same message.

But we talked about it. We, a room of racially-diverse people, sat and discussed what it means to be black or white or African or Jamaican or female or male in this country. We agreed and we disagreed.

It doesn't fix it, I know. But I think that, for me, it's part of what it means to be A Real American.

It means acknowledging the state of things. It means acknowledging that there are still little black girls in America who think that being black is bad. It means taking that information in and crying about it and breathing it into all of your cells so that you know that when you breath back out into the world, you're breathing out something better.

It means accepting that the history of America is not only one of hope and promise and resourcefulness and freedom, but also one of fear and discrimination and pain and untruths. Not so that we can flog ourselves. But so that we can see it and learn from it and make the conscious choice to do better, to be better.

It means learning to embrace gray. To see the story from the other side, and to see all the myriad of stories that occur in between.

It means embracing your own story, the parts that make you proud and the parts that make you ashamed. It means sitting with the knowledge that you are part of what this country is and that you are part of what it will become.

It means acknowledging what an amazing gift it is to call this place our home and these people our people - this flawed home and these flawed people - and to get to play our own role in its growth.

It means believing that nothing real is perfect.


jen said...

exactly. the messier it is, the more real it is. we don't need it to be perfect. we just need it to be right. AMEN!

Merrily Down the Stream said...

Beautifully put. Our work continues...

Jennifer said...

It does and will take a lot of work. But, oh, we're getting there, painful inch by painful inch.

Beautiful, beautiful post.

(I found you through Jen, by the way!)

Nathan Black said...

You are not alone either, check out this web project:

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Thanks for all the nice comments!

suzannah said...

exactly--we learn our history and remember even the ugly shameful parts that we may learn and change and raise up children who will do it differently. lovely post.

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