This postcard, found at Post Secret, breaks my heart. I am staunchly pro-choice. Still, I am hoping that the fact the resulting child would be biracial isn't the reason she chose not to have the child.
I was talking to a friend today who also has one black parent and one white parent. She said that when she was growing up people in her family referred to her as a "zebra." I remember using that one too. Zebra. I still kind of like it because the zebra is equal parts black and white in its stripes--and both the black and white part are visible.
I also like mocha baby, mixed, biracial. I don't like hybrid, oreo, mutt, heinz 57, and truthfully light-skinned-ed --though obviously I am trying to make peace with that word too.
Curly Kid at Twisted Curlz reminds me that I should make sure to write about the upcoming Loving Decision Conference, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down anti-miscegenation laws. It's hard to imagine that just forty years ago it was illegal in many states for whites and blacks to marry. My parents faced this legal hurdle when they met and, in fact, married in Denmark rather than in the United States. (My father's next assignment was a South Carolina Air Force base. South Carolina still had anti-miscegenation laws. As the family lore goes, when the military found out he had married a white woman, they transferred him to Tacoma instead.)
The Loving Decision Conference will be an amazing event. There are dozens of panels concerning transracial adoption, the issues of blended families, and biracial and multiracial identity. I will moderate a panel titled The Creole Aesthetic: Biracial Identity in the Arts. It's a cross disciplinary panel with filmmaker Octavio Warnock-Graham, photographer Mica Anders, and Arana Fossett, founder of the Topaz Club and jewelry artist. I'll also present a short piece at the Friday night extravaganza (possibly from my one-woman show in development about me and Nella Larsen) and on Saturday afternoon I'll do a longer reading from Light-skinned-ed Girl, my novel manuscript, and share new writing from a novel-in-progress about Miss Lala, the mulatta strongwoman immortalized by Edgar Degas in his painting, Miss Lala at Le Cirque Fernando. (You can read more about Miss Lala at my website.)
If you can make it to the Conference, please do. Let's have coffee!
The reward for the long drive back from Wyoming was an overnight at The Hotel in Las Vegas. Dinner--because it was a reward--was at Mix, The Hotel's top-floor restaurant with a sweeping view of the city and a top-dollar menu.
Champagne, tuna tartare, and a curry lobster, and to-die-for bread. All was well. In fact, things were still going well when two gentlemen sat at the table beside us.
Now, for whatever reason, the two men decided to strike up a conversation with us. "What brings you to Las Vegas?" led to a long conversation that continues to disturb me two days later.
The two men (white and in their mid-forties to early fifties) were attending the National Broadcasters Association conference. We had friends and business associates in common as it turns out. And then the conversation turned to the Imus affair. I stayed silent--happy with my ciabatta roll. The men, all in agreement, said it was a First Amendment right for Imus to say what he wanted. Not that it was okay, but . . . should he have been fired? No. I continued to enjoy my ciabatta roll. Inside, I was disagreeing, but why ruin a good meal? I didn't say anything when one of the broadcaster guys said: yeah, that Al Sharpton is dangerous.
Then the conversation turned. With a chuckle, one of the broadcasters said of the other: "Now, if you want to hear something controversial then you better not ask my partner here about his super right-wing views."
We all laughed. Huh-huh-huh. But then I noticed, the guy wasn't laughing. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
"Oh, really? You seriously are right-wing?" I asked. From all that I knew of him thus far, born and bred in New York City, and eager to chat up the only black folks in the restaurant, right-wing didn't fit.
"Yeah, ask him about how he feels about Muslims."
"How do you feel about Muslims?"
"You don't want to know."
"What?" I asked.
"I think Islam is a bunch of crap. That's no religion--people going around blowing each other up. Blowing up kids. Exploding planes into buildings and killing thousands of our people."
You know, as I write this, I realize I don't want to recount the rest because it only gives the man a forum for his bigoted views.
But here's essentially what I had to say: " ."
Yup, nothing. I didn't want to ruin dinner.
I did register my vehement disagreement, but I didn't challenge him because it wouldn't be polite.
I don't know that I would handle the moment any differently now. His opinion was so outrageously bigoted. What do you do in the face of such bigotry? Is the conversation even worth continuing?
As much as I am focused on issues of race and biracial and bicultural identity in my writing and also in what I read, I read cross-culturally. It's National Poetry Month and I want to share one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poets. William Stafford was an amazing poet who wrote about the everyday, the small moments that add up to become our lives. Not even in my all-things-black days--when my reading was a steady diet of African-American and female minority writers, could I resist Stafford's style. His poems draw you into life. See what I mean?:
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember? How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day. This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life -
What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
Maybe you are a weather channel fanatic, or maybe you caught a 10-second piece on the news about the two-day blizzard that paralyzed Wyoming last week. If not, let me explain. On Tuesday morning we learned about the impending storm: "supposed to be as bad as '84." It was difficult to imagine what that might mean. On Monday, we could sun ourselves on the patio looking out at clear skies. By Tuesday afternoon though a certain kind of storm rolled in. The sky turned dark gray and the rain began. It rained and thundered all night until about 6am on Wednesday. At about 6:30am, it was snow. It was beautiful.
We left for our weekly grocery run at 9:30am (a day early in case we got shut in). We didn't get shut in. We got shut out.
By the time we reached town some 40 minutes away, the interstate was closed. That meant all those big trucks were driving down our road that headed home. The snow fell harder. There was a lot of snow. Our drive back was slow and then it was stopped. Trucks, cars, a schoolbus with kindergartners still aboard and a cattle truck had overturned and blocked the ONE road back to our compound. We were stuck. Luckily, we made the decision to turn around and go back to town early enough. Some folks didn't and were stranded in their cars for nearly full two days waiting to be rescued.
Yon and Robert had walked a few miles in the snow once their truck got stuck in a ditch and they assured us the road was impassable. That's when with Yon and Robert also in the Surburban we headed back. Our amazing, wonderful program director Lynn Reeves sheparded us for the next several days. First a stop to get necessary toiletries for the night, and then a stop at the Last Chance bar. The power was out but the place was packed. As promised, Yon--freshly shaven--was there and bought us a round. Note to self: at a place called the Last Chance, don't ask whether they serve white wine. The answer may be yes, but . . . No matter, I enjoyed my white zifandel in a Bud Light plastic cup. It all seemed surreal at that point. Here we had been in this idyllic place. Tons of space and light and privacy. And suddenly we weren't able to escape each other.
For the next two days, eight people and four cats slept in a 780 square foot house with only two beds. Our grandest amusement was going to Wal-mart and buying fresh undies. The next two nights we stayed at the Holiday Inn--four people to a room.
What I can say is that I love these people. As "refugees," I think we have bonded for life. Though we each had a temporary breakdown or two--mostly because the expectation of our time in Wyoming was different than what was our experience--we got along fantastically--shared so many laughs and we will have fantastic memories.
We were able to move back to the Ponderosa yesterday morning. It's an amazing sight. There is an 8-foot snow drift blocking our front door. The ground is white. Walking outside means walking on at least five foot drifts that I seem to sink into too easily. But it is beautiful--I see the rabbits scamper (yes, scamper) along the snow banks outside of my window. Birdsongs and calls seem louder as if the snow has quieted the earth a little.
Today, I'm hoping to get back to the work I set out to do when I came to Wyoming. I'm not sure that I can. I am feeling a kind of separation anxiety from these folks as we have all retreated to our studios again --as that was what we all came for. So maybe I wasn't meant to come here to write the Great American Novel finished but learn more about myself and these wonderful people.
Whatever becomes of my writing these last days here will be a bonus. I'm really grateful for having had these days with such cool folks.