Othering Language-What Race Is Your Dog?
My comment on this article from Racialicious:
This is one of the few occasions where I’ve found the comments section to be more thoughtful and informative than the article. I’m not saying it’s a bad article; I can think of many times when I’ve overheard a conversation that sticks in my mind and provokes a lot of thought. But it doesn’t seem to quite be able to make a point, instead it hovers around several questions.
Then again, I came of age in Southern California/LA area in the 90′s, which is a minority-majority area, at a time when “multicultural” was more a part of the lexicon than “colorblind”. I have since moved to central New York, which is much more segregated and racially awkward than I’m used to. Racial and ethnic identity was viewed in my youth as more something you could choose (so many of us being mixed), as well as something you did or participated in, rather than something other people told you that you were. In fact, acting “colorblind” was seen as somewhat rude, kind of like saying “I can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman”. (Not that a lot of my friends wouldn’t have taken that as a compliment.)
Which I think is part of why I’ve been in a state of ruffled feathers since I’ve lived in CNY; people here don’t seem to be able to see my race. I’ve actually had people argue with me about it, and that’s certainly a situation I’ve never been in. Also, the incredibly awkward and painful situation where racist white people assume that I am white and racist. The whole situation has made me feel incredibly racialized and always on the defensive-in the classroom, going out to dinner, and even in my own house.
I guess I identify with Christina Franklin’s comment-”othering” language and a general atmosphere of marginalization makes me feel like I need to point out my race to people more than is necessarily fluid in the conversation, and often white people find that to be awkward or “unnecessary”…despite the fact that their assumptions about me have MADE it necessary.