THE WHITE BLACK GIRL

My happy-clappy hometown of Spokane WA is in the news again for another stupid reason besides that idiot representative of ours, Cathy McMorris-Turniphead-Rodgers.

It’s the terrifying case of the black white girl. Or, the white black girl, whatever. OMG, what a national kerfuffle!

Here’s the bare bones of the incident. For nearly a decade, Rachel Dolezal, who heads the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has claimed to be African-American. From 2008 to 2010, she was a leader of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In July 2010, Dolezal resigned from Human Rights Education Institute in Kootenai County, and stated to KREM 2 News that “she had been the target of discrimination.” Dolezal stated on September 29, 2009, to KXLY that she had become a target of racism after she recently woke up to find a noose on her front porch. Dolezal’s biography on Eastern Washington University’s website states that while living in Idaho “at least eight documented hate crimes targeted (Rachel) Dolezal and her children.” The subsequent police investigation did not bear it out.

Lemme think. Six years ago Dolezal claimed something that may or may not be true, since when it comes to racial hate crimes, I am not 100% believing one damn thing that the police in Idaho tell me. I guess either making these claims isn’t a crime, or claims were never made, because nothing happened.

In fact, that is the complete modus of this whole tornado-in-a-ketchup-bottle. NOTHING HAPPENED. Dolezal went to work for the NAACP, an outfit which is primarily, but not always, associated with helping black people struggle against the constant, venomous racism of American culture. I find that rather admirable. Who cares if she’s black or white, if she does good work for the community?

But I forgot. This is America, where practically all our immediate first impressions of a person are based on what frequency of light is bounced off his or her skin, a reaction inherited from the legendarily dysfunctional American South which has permeated our entire national culture. And, instead of being allowed to die a natural death, racism has been co-opted as yet another tool of manipulation by corporations and big business, to give the masses something to focus on that isn’t the outrageous malfeasance of exactly those corporations and big businesses.

Ask yourself: Why has this turned into such a huge effing deal? I’ll tell you why. Because the giant corporate masters of American media sniffed out a great opportunity to rile up a bunch of knuckle-draggers and stoke outrage over black people for doing something that isn’t approved of by white people, thus making white people feel more “different” from black people than they actually are. Divide and conquer: does it ring a bell?

Does it matter that Dolezal’s hide is pink and not brown? Not one whit! Clearly she self-identifies as culturally black, and that is some variety of the ultimate crime to a fundy paleface with the mark of the Deep South upon his or her immortal soul. You can thank CNN and ABC and the New York Times and the rest of the Big 6 media news predigestion vats for getting you all pissed off about this. Not to mention her fundamentalist Christian family, who, being of a tradition which really hates people stepping out of line with fundamentalist Christian norms, decided to blow up Dolezal’s life.

Lemme think. George Zimmerman pretended to be a cop and KILLED SOMEBODY, but that’s okay. Eminem has made zillions of dollars pretending to be a black rapper. Men are becoming women, women becoming men, and that’s fine, because gender is fluid. Why can’t race be fluid too? Why is this a problem? Nobody got hurt. Nobody made money off it. Actually, Dolezal was by all accounts a conscientious worker and did good things for the community.

This is only a big deal because somebody is manipulating you into thinking it is. And the reason they are manipulating you has nothing to do with Rachel Dolezal, regardless of how convenient a whipping-girl she is. The proper question here is not “Is she black or is she white?” It is “Why does it matter?”

Follow the money – straight into the maws of the Big 6, Fox Fake News, Limbaugh, and the rest, who have all played a little drum solo on your amygdala and made you mad about fairness, equality, and the American flag. Even though none of that has anything to do with NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, who had choice words for those questioning her ethnicity: “I don’t give two s**ts about what you think.”

Well said, Ms. Dolezal.

 

THIRD WORLD FIRST HAND

As an intrepid American of some means, I had the privilege of traveling to somebody else’s country for a couple weeks. The country I traveled to was Panama. They have a big-ass canal there. And even though it is big, the ships being built today are bigger – so much bigger, in fact, that the Panamanians are building another canal, one that is over half again as wide as the one they’ve had since 1915.

It costs between a half-million dollars and a million to travel through the canal, one way. The price is calculated according to the size of your ship. A little sailboat is a lot less. A guy swam it for 36 cents, but that was a long time ago. Suffice it to say, the canal makes a shit-load of money, around 3 billion dollars a year, 2 billion of which is plowed (supposedly) back into the canal operations budget. The other billion is given back to the Panamanian government.

Panama has 4 million people. If you divided a billion dollars amongst 4 million people, that is $250,000 PER PERSON. This begs the question – if every man, woman, and child (there are a LOT of children in Panama!) is worth $250K, then WHY is everybody so effing POOR? I find this a question worth thinking about. Judging from the fabulous wealth on display in downtown Panama City, or the rim of the island Contadora, most of it goes to the Panamanian version of the 1 percent.

At the same moment they are living in dire poverty, most Panamanians are deliriously proud to be Panamanian. The flag is everywhere. Futbol is something of a national religion. Television soap operas are assiduously followed by men and women alike.

Hmmmm… tons of money going into a relatively few pockets, while the majority of the mindlessly patriotic population is distracted by TV and sports. Kinda reminds me of home, actually.

Then there’s the “brown” element. Everybody in Panama is brown. You might be a brown indigenous person (they do have tribes and reservations there, even though proportionately, the Spanish were even more thorough in eradicating the natives than the Europeans were in Norte Americana). You might be a brown person of African descent, since so many slaves were imported to do the work that the natives could’ve done, if only they weren’t dead. You might be a brown person of mixed heritage, like Spanish (who, incidentally, are white people), hobnobbing with the locals. And, even if you are a white person, you either take a tan or burn up. White gets diluted quick in Panama: the only really white folks I saw were foreigners.

What does this mean, when everybody you see is on a sliding scale of kinda brown to pretty much brown, to really dark brown, to a nice plummy black? In Panama, it means that nobody cares what the damn hell color you are.

In the USA, every single encounter we have with other people is freighted with color. If you are white and regarding a black person, a ton of stuff runs through your head immediately: all the Fox News racist broadcasts, all the negative encounters you’ve been told about, all the riots and burning and looting etc. If you are black, then a whole lot of similar stuff goes through your head when you encounter a white person: a whole burdensome history of murder and lynching and marginalizing and redlining and profiling. Even white people encountering other white people has a dimension of race: is this person racist? Do we share common ground here? And the same with blacks, I am pretty sure, as they have issues of race too, even within their own communities. It is the thing that takes up a lot of room that nobody wants to discuss. It is stuffed into our faces and it intrudes into all of our comfort zones, yet we hardly ever talk about it. It leans annoyingly into every conversation, like an irritating, unwelcome eavesdropper. It doesn’t matter whether you are sympathetic, or aware, or thoughtful, or interested in the topic – it’s there anyway. In America, practically everything eventually boils down to the color spectrum, unless you are a member of the privileged dominant white class, which means you can avoid thinking about it even though you should.

Panama was a breath of fresh air. The freedom and the relief were tangible. Nobody has to walk the line of being “black enough” or too much of a “n- lover”. Nobody has to THINK about it, and it is SO LIBERATING. We have NO idea in this country how we’ve been made captive to this stupid color thing. I wish we could just GET OVER IT and judge people on merit and not their light-reflective qualities.

Which I doubt will happen soon. We have way too much time on our hands for that.