she’s not a sistah, what the fuck am I ...
Victoria Rowell (Drucilla, Y&R) made an inter-racial relationship between a black Damon and a white Phyllis on her soap all about race in an April 27th “Soap Opera Weekly” “dueling diva” exchange with editor Carolyn Hinsey.
“We cannot pretend that Damon Porter [Keith Hamilton Cobb] and Phyllis Abbott [Michelle Stafford] are just a regular old guy and girl dating. This is Damon Porter, who’s African-American and fabulous, with the boss’ wife, who is white and fabulous. We have to play that because it’s very real and it’s what people are thinking. ... We have some other commentary where I accuse Phyllis of having Jungle Fever. At the end of the day, ethnicity is still a sticking point – with parents, with family – in terms of who your choice is. I don’t know that it will ever go away, because we are who we are. I think people who live in a more liberal setting are more accepting.”
The half-black/half-white Rowell herself probably knows more about inter-racial issues than most of the everyday black or white viewers in her audience. I can certainly speak to the more negative stereotypes and reactions from firsthand experience, being an Asian-American married to an Irish/German-American, and coming from a mixed-race Chop Suey kinda family.
Still, her comments – in character – bothered me enough to take another glance at my choices and question whether I loved purely, or with pre-conceived ethnic template in my head. Then, I got pissed off at the colossal waste of time THAT had been.
There does exist a group of people (of all races, everywhere) who choose partners and friends based solely on ethnicity. Whether it’s due to a positive experience in childhood or a strange, prejudicial assumption about a particular ethnicity, this kind of choice occurs all-too-frequently.
Rowell mentioned the “Jungle Fever.”
In Hawaii, it’s “Asian Fever.” Haole boys, especially, dig the stereotype of the delicate, frail, submissive Japanese female (I know, I blew the illusion of one). In turn, the Japanese locals specifically pick out a certain haole type themselves, thinking this translates into a successful (tall, blonde and handsome with broad shoulders, over six feet tall) catch, and a nifty trophy (I know one, she married a TV reporter who became a partner of a law firm).
Growing up half on the Mainland, half in Hawaii as an Army brat, I saw, experienced and felt a variety of mixed-race viewpoints. At an early age, I automatically placed a hierarchy of value based on racial stereotypes alone, in the most dramatic, immature, and ugly of fashion.
Quite the hypocritical conceit, I envisioned slumming it as settling for a black boy’s affections (David Jenkins being my heavenly exception); worse, another Asian like me, but preferring the epitome of All-American apple pie, a white boy, preferably taller, bigger, with shiny blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, and a penchant for basketball and making big money.
I never cared for Koreans, Japanese, maybe Chinese if they favored Bruce Lee (who was actually hapa-haole), giving in completely to my own ethnic shame at the worst stereotypes: the big bulbous purple lips, the slits for eyes, the flattened pancake face, the kim chee breath, the loud, grating, growling bellows mistaken for talking, the physical clumsiness bordering on multiple sclerosis, the mental stupidity bordering on retardation, the hair-trigger temper dissolving into a gutter of dirty fighting, the kind where biting produces a severed digit and self-mutilation, the one-inch dick (erect), the penchant for ball-licking and “tossing salads.” I mean, the worst things I could think of, I attributed to my race, other races similar to mine, and just imagine the horror for the rest of the minorities.
[I’ll spare you that minutiae.]
I grew up, thank God, and figured out the difference between racism and love. I resolved much of the self-hate inflicted upon me by a racist black and white upbringing and found my ethnic pride again. I dated boys and then, young men, from all kinds of races. I had a wide variety with which to choose, living in Hawaii by then, where I graduated from high school, community college and the state university and spent a bulk of my post-student life searching for the right editing job.
Anyone who’s spent any cumulative amount of time in paradise will relay that it is a bastion of a multitude of races and mixed races. There are perhaps more mixed races per family in that 50th state than anywhere else in the world. It’s not unheard of to encounter 3/4ths of the graduating high school class in Aiea encompassing a racial make-up including: Filipino, Samoan, Hawaiian, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Scottish, and Danish... in one person. Most of the beautiful women in the world hail from Hawaii, and give further proof that the KKK are off their demented rocker.
I went through two near-misses to the altar before meeting my one and only, and one was a nice (but gay) haole boy and the other was a nice (but infuriatingly anal-retentive) katonk (Japanese-American who sounds more like he’s from the Mainland than local).
My list of celebrity crushes runs the gamut from Andre Braugher, Costas Mandylor, Oded Fehr, and Lucky Vanous, to Jet Li, Chris Tucker, Kamar de los Reyes, Thorsten Kaye... hey, anybody far from the Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson range.
See how far I’ve come? It’s love and lust now, race a mere casualty.
I guess my point is, Victoria Rowell’s bringing up race as a strong African-American soap opera character seems a dual-edged sword, a conflicting matter I’d rather ignore than face, possibly to avoid my own unacknowledged, subconscious (?) hypocrisy than anything unpleasant racially.
[I’m hardly one to avoid an unpleasant racial discussion, I’d prefer we say “nigger” and “chink” and “spic” out loud... they were said out loud to us at every opportunity, acknowledge the shit, don’t make it like it doesn’t exist.]
When I walk down the streets of everyday America, are black women like Drucilla hating on me because I dared marry up, out of my lowly refugee status? Are white women joining her, is that why – when we first moved to Tampa, FL – so many of them were giving me the stink eye, the slant eye and the finger? Do racists and minorities fighting the dilution of their race think mixed-race couples like me and Eddie are traitors, fakes and social climbers?
Do you think I chose Eddie out of a line-up from a Lion’s Club convention in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield, thinking only of my 2.1 hapa-children, my two-story brick suburban walk-up in the wealthy part of Manoa (as if there’s any other kind), and my upper-class status, sighing with relief that now the rest of this godforsaken black and white motion picture will let me blend in and leave me alone?
I know what it looks like. I dated and married him for his white genes, to dilute my own race out of shame, and dilute his out of my own selfish sense of greed in the best of good old-fashioned American capitalism.
Unlike black women everywhere, I don’t have a whole host of impoverished slavish history behind my animosity and resentment. Maybe just a tiny bit borrowed from Hawaii, with its own history of white man’s conquer, divide and covet, could be attributed to Asians.
But quite honestly, I don’t give a fuck.
I’m not book-smart. I’m not into materialism, status, effrontery, or a Jag in the front yard, just let me write and watch TV, and I’m a happy camper, for the most part. I’m not delicate or dainty, and I refuse to giggle quietly into my cupped palms. I’m loud and crass, but not psychotic and obtuse. I used to be bi-lingual, but now I speak Canadian-English and I don’t know why, I just do. Don’t confuse me for geisha or Margaret Cho, I ain’t either.
If you bow before me or start talkin’ Japanese (this has happened to me in Waikiki), I’ll probably kick your ass. Or talk back, in high school French.
I’m hardly one to fit even a little of the Asian stereotype, much less the inter-racial part.
As convenient as it must be to slap a label—people have done so all my life—having to tear it off becomes a huge pain in my ass.
I love him. His race, his personality, his very soul washed over mine in a rainstorm and soon I discovered a whole new, exciting world to explore, a mixture of the physical, mental and emotional differences that makes each of us human beings so special, so alike and so familiar.
Not that it matters to the white bitches out there who will always see nothing but our race.
Funny how that bullshit works in reverse, huh.
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