14. desember

"I don't know. I didn't have the luxury, I suppose, the certainty of the tribe. Grow up in Compton and survival becomes a revolutionary act. You get to college and your family is still back there rooting for you. They're happy to see you escape; there's no question of betrayal. But I hadn't grown up in Compton, or Watts. I had nothing to escape from except my own inner doubt. I was more like the black students who had grown up in the suburbs, kids whose parents had already paid the price of escape. You could spot them right away by the way they talked, the people they sat with in the cafeteria. When pressed, they would sputter and explain that they refused to be categorized. They weren't defined by the color of their skin, they would tell you. They were individuals.

That's how Joyce liked to talk. She was a good-looking woman, Joyce was, with her green eyes and honey skin and pouty lips. We lived in the same dorm in my freshman year, and all the brothers were after her. One day I asked her if she was going to the Black Students' Association meeting. She looked at me funny, then started shaking her head like a baby who doesn't want what it sees on the spoon.

"I'm not black," Joyce said. "I'm multiracial." Then she started telling me about her father, who happened to be Italian and was the sweetest man in the world; and her mother, who happened to be part African and part French and part Native American and part something else. "Why should I have to choose between them?" she asked me. Her voice cracked, and I thought she was going to cry. "It's not white people who are making me choose. Maybe it used to be that way, but now they're willing to treat me like a person. No--It's black people who always have to make everything racial. They're the ones making me choose. They're the ones who are telling me that I can't be who I am ..."

They, they, they. That was the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn't a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be neutral and objective. Only white culture could be nonracial, willing to adopt the occasional exotic into its ranks. Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed, take a survey of the situation and think to ourselves, Why should we get lumped in with the losers if we don't have to? We become only so grateful to lose ourselves in the crowd, America's happy, faceless marketplace; and we're never so outraged as when a cabbie drives past us or the woman in the elevator clutches her purse, not so much because we're bothered by the fact that such indignities are what less fortunate coloreds have to put up with every single day of their lives--although that's what we tell ourselves--but because we're wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and speak impeccable English and yet have somehow been mistaken for an ordinary nigger.

Don't you know who I am? I'm an individual."

-- Fra Barack Obama: "Dreams from my Father" (1995)

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ingermerete

ingermerete

35, Oslo

Inger Merete Hobbelstad (f. 1980) er kulturjournalist, teateranmelder og filmanmelder i Dagbladet og burde egentlig vre lut lei av skrive etter endt arbeidsdag. Men den gang ei. Jo, og s har jeg mastergrad i Litteraturvitenskap med en oppgave som handlet om Homers "Iliaden". Hvilket jeg altfor sjelden fr sprsml om. Og s ns jeg p imh@dagbladet.no.

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