After writing my last article about race, the idea has continued to stick in my craw, the curiosity of my own place.
I’m a black photographer. THAT IS SO WEIRD. I’m a black writer. CRAZY.
Owning those labels, wearing those hats, if for only a second, makes me wonder about responsibility.
Do I have a responsibility to speak about a particular experience? Should I, somewhere in my writing, speak up for black folk?
Should my photography talk about the Black Experience? Should I only take photos of women like Janette?
And as soon as I start asking those questions, I realize how limited the idea of a single Black Experience is.
A person looks at me, thinks black.
But my dad’s from Panama. My mom’s from Minneapolis. I was raised and educated in Beverly Hills.
My skin lies to you.
And I’m rather glad of that. I look at the hands typing this, and they bear no relation to a shared experience, to a racial identity.
As it should be. My skin has not determined my fate. Raised in the blender of cultures like I was, my skin means my chances of getting skin cancer are low.
Because that is what it is for.
The term Post-Racial has been used a lot since the presidential election. Is this what it means, that you see a black person, and all you think is how lucky they are they are resistant to UV rays?
I’m sure this would be more potent if I had an answer to each question I pose here. But to assume there’s only one answer, that’s part of the problem. A cure for racism lies in going against what our minds do with every decision, every calculation. Forcing the mind to take each person as an individual, to reserve any and all judgements until fresh information comes in, that there is near impossible, and requires a conscious effort greater than anything else we ask of the human mind.
And even if racism was 100% eradicated, there’d still be the effects of centuries of inequity.
Let me simply ask you this: next time you see someone of another race, if you can, think of the black panamanian jew raised in Beverly Hills who likes rock music and comic books and photography and Henry Kissinger and Wes Anderson and Annie Liebovitz and Chuck Palahniuk and Jay-Z and chess.
And wonder if the stereotypes blooming in your mind are worth anything at all.