The Identification Process
There was a tangent from Little-Whip's post, "Would You Join This Church?"
that I'd like to rescue: the process of identification.
As much as many hate to admit it, there's a
huge difference between the attitudes (and I'm speaking in general
terms here, the rule proves the exceptions) of American born blacks and
others who share their skin tone. England had slaves too, yet speak to
a British Black man and he'll identify himself as a Brit, not an
So, how do we identify ourselves when we're living out several narratives at once? For example, I am the subject of a narrative where the protagonist is played by a male individual; and I'm also the white subject of a racial narrative; and a Jewish subject of yet another narrative. Other narrative subjects in which I play a part include that of an American, a citizen of the United States who likes Canadian beer and Mexican food, a liberal, a Master of Fine Arts, a third-generation emigrant from Galicia, and a die-hard, cheese-headed Green Bay Packers fan.
When does a Mexican who legally immigrates to the United States stop being a Mexican?
When Italians and Greeks came across the ocean in immigration waves during the 1900s, the census bureau initially counted them as black. Until they lobbied to have their racial status changed. In the telling words of the late Chris Farley, "Holy Shnikes!"
Who the hell am I? Am I all of those identities I listed above? Or none of them? Let's say Men went to war against white people. With whom would I most strongly identify? Why?
For example, Karl Marx brilliantly and quite arrogantly (omitting racial distinctions from his equation) argues that people are naturally aligned with those who have the same relation to the means of production (economic class).
Louis Althusser argues that we aren't really "Selves" with unique identities. Instead, we are Subjects. His argument works like this: You may be You. But then You walk down the street and someone yells, "Hey, Taboo!" Do You acknowledge the label he's given You? If You do, consciously or not, then You (now Taboo) become subject to that identity.
Perhaps you can lobby against a label given to you - in the way the Italians and Greeks did - but think about all the labels you have acknowledge: there is something "black" that you don't want to be. There is something "black" that someone else HAS to be, but you do not.
Unless you get to choose - can a black person lobby to be white? Is it that simple? If so, we should stop telling Michael Jackson jokes.