Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It begins / Multiracial Identity

So, here continues my journey into self-discovery.  As you can see from my profile description, I'm using this space to digest everything I learn about kyriarchy, and how that affects my way of thinking and how I identify.  This includes looking closely at how my race/ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. shape how I view the world and the events that happen in it.  Much of the focus of this blog will be about posting either events or ideas and reflecting on them.  Instead of simply reading an article and forgetting about it, I see taking the time to respond as important to integrating new concepts and beliefs and renegotiating my identity.  

A lot of what I'm interested in right now stemmed from my first interest in feminism.  From there I noticed that some who write with a feminist focus in the blogosphere slip into ableism and cisexism, and I found that to be wrong.  It's important to use anger at sexism (or any other -ism) as a road to compassion and empathy for others.  This is keeping in Maat.

Maat is the Kemetic goddess of justice, truth, order, law and morality.  Doing that which is just is doing Maat, and living Maat.  This is part of my religious identity as a Kemetic pagan, and part of what fuels my passion to see social justice and put down any -isms that I come across.  However I am still growing and learning, so I will do my best to strive in Maat even when I fuck up.

I'll begin by laying out the most salient aspects of my identity.  I'm: 
  • Filipina American
  • "White" (I put this in quotations because I'm having trouble identifying what this is, more on that later)
  • mixed
  • Californian
  • heterosexual
  • female
  • middle class
  • progressive liberal
  • Kemetic pagan
  • introverted

I'm going to have to touch on the significance of my self-labeling of Filipina American.  As a person of mixed racial heritage,I find myself straddling the line between binary identities and not being able to fully assimilate into either. While on one hand most (Whites and Latinos) will identify me as white or Chicana (yes I speak Spanish) since I have olive skin and "White looking" features (my father has German and Welsh heritage), full blooded Filipinos see me as White, or Mestiza.  I personally identify as both, even though there are also problems with this.

Firstly, I know and understand how white privilege works, and what unearned privileges/benefits I have just from passing as fully white.  And although I have White ethnic heritages of German and Welsh, I have had no cultural interaction and was not brought up within those communities.  So even though racially I am German and Welsh, I am not culturally German and Welsh.  I am not sure that it is meaningful to identify with a nationality/culture that I am completely ignorant about. White privilege is exemplified in Peggy McIntosh's essay Unpacking the Knapsack.  These are all the privileges I benefit from as a White person.  However this does not give me a positive identity of Whiteness.  When I say positive I mean substantive.  Understanding White privilege gives me the duty of being anti-racist; to moving from victimizer to ally.  This is a prescriptive understanding, but not a full identity, like other cultures' identities as I understand them.  I am not going to equivocate American values such as individualism and meritocracy as White values because I think making American synonymous with White is itself racist.  So what does a culture/identity look like?

For an understanding of Filipino identity, I'll turn to a study done by a 1998 Filipino senator that detailed the strengths and weaknesses of the Filipino character, which I fact checked against my mom who immigrated here at age 27 from the Philippines where she was born and raised (thanks mom).  The strengths of Filipinos are:

  • Pakikipagkapwa-tao (a basic sense of justice and concern for others)
  • Family orientation
  • Joy and humor
  • Flexibility, adaptability and creativity
  • Hard work and industry
  • Faith and religiosity
  • Resiliency (or the ability to survive)
 Some weaknesses are:
  • extreme personalism
  • extreme family centeredness
  • lack of discipline
  • passivity
  • colonial mentality
  • kanya-kanya syndrome (selfishness or to each his own)
  • lack of analysis and self-reflection
A lot of those sound very familiar, having grown up in a dual language household and being taken care of after school by my lolo and lola (grandparents) and being surrounded with other family while I was a child and my parents were working.  Knowing these traits and the history of the country and its people to me is a strong base from which to foment an identity.  However I don't think Filipinos are as aware of the difficulties of being mixed race, as my family members and friends don't recognize me as Filipina, but will say I'm beautiful and should be an actress in the Philippines.  American culture is pervasive there, and I've noticed that Filipino culture is itself very mixed with Malaysian, Chinese, Spanish and American influences that much of the culture gets assimilated to.  In any case I'm trying to learn about being Filipina and have asked that my mom speak to me in only Tagalog in an effort to learn more.

So there you have it.  As an imposed identity that itself seems lacking in substance, I identify as White.  As a mixed race woman, I get acceptance from Filipinos, but only as an interesting American phenomenon that belongs on T.V.  I'm still trying to figure out what a White identity is supposed to be, hell, what a balanced perspective on having two races and identifying as both is like without wearing myself out.  I'm no stranger to polyvalent logic thanks to my religious identification, but in the meantime, I'll be keeping my cultural binoculars on in an effort to understand others' points of view while I build on my own. 

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