What, you might ask, do the two things have in common? Not much, except maybe I would not have commented on the racial identity issue if I hadn’t been confined to the house by Tropical Storm Fay, which means I might have missed the comment by “Babette” on eehard’s blog entitled “Is Obama Black Enough?”
First, let’s get something out of the way. I’m white. Naturally blond. Freckles, even. My grandmother’s grandmother was from the Old Country. That country would be Ireland. My mother and grandmother had carrot red hair, which regrettably my sister and I did not inherit, and have been trying to correct artificially ever since. On my father’s side of the family, we can only guess that their background was French. Mostly because of the name, which shall remain unrevealed here, but also because of the location where they surfaced, and their appearance. Dark brown hair and big noses. Don’t believe me? Go to France and walk down any street.
So could it get any better? Northern European descent. The whitest of the white. Well, somehow, I missed the part growing up where that made me special. I thought it made me have a different skin, eye, and hair color than other people. Here is as racist as I got: I thought, Dang. How sad that black people only get to have black hair and brown eyes.
It took living in Memphis for me to understand that I was an enemy, and it took moving to New Orleans to finally get a break. In New Orleans, it’s impossible to determine anyone’s race. The absolutely wonderful New Orleans newspaper (the Times-Picayune) once did a series of articles about the issue. I hope they won a Pulitzer for it, but I don’t know. They published a group of photographs on the front page of the newspaper, and asked, “What race is this person?” You had to guess, and then on the inside pages, you found out what race the people identified themselves as, with some shocking results.
In Louisiana in the 1990 census, something like 30% of the population checked “other” on the census form under the category of “race”, and wrote in “Cajun” or “Creole”.
So Babette, don’t let the forms cramp your style. Write in “Other”. The real answer to that question, as eehard points out, is “Human”.