Thursday, September 13, 2007

I have Native American in me - Really

Why does the world make my life harder?

In a recent interview with Beyonce she responded to a question about her Latina support noting that "I'm just jealous that I wasn't born Latina." You can read about the entire interview at

Raising a daughter in 2007 shouldn't be so hard, but surely it is.

I learned about the interview at What About Our Daughters - a really interesting blog that works to bring awareness about issues facing women from a variety of angles. I have to tell you I blog about just about anything but lately I've stayed away from critical world issues, content to talk about my little world. Without cable, access to BET, or enough time to enjoy television, I thought I was becoming exempt from discussing the impact of pop culture or recounting what the truth the news does not tell. Guess I can't afford that habit any longer.

Being a beautiful Black girl is hard enough without looking up and seeking the last pop icon declare she's jealous she wasn't born Latina. Nothing against Latina's but Ugly Betty star America Ferrera is holding down the fort. She is confident, secure, beautiful and last I read - proud of her heritage. Sigh. Shake my head. Beyonce? I'm telling my seven year old, my dear, "Let me upgrade you."

With my French name truly I have vivid memories of almost getting my butt beat for the unending debate about heritage in school. I grew up with pictures of Native Americans in my great grandmother's hallway, and watched our elders respond haphazardly that those folks were our ancestors. When I mentioned in school that I was 1/8th Indian, a playground full of kids almost ended my admiration of long french braids down the back of your head as a fashion style. I didn't recognize then that the issue of sensitivity in central city T-Town was the thin line between knowing your background and denying who you are. I am African-American.

My roots and ancestry clearly show, like most people, that there are a lot of other nationalities and ethnicities in play. My blue-eyed baby boy was a treat, but all of his pictures are colored with the brown crayola crayon. This lesson I learned on the playground has stayed with me for a lifetime.

I admire Halle Barry for knowing and articulating that she is a black woman, even though her mother is white. No debate here about her heritage and her pride, she is dealing with reality. A reality taught to her by her mother that when you look in the mirror and stand before the world itself you are Black. I still have to wonder if Angela Bassett would have gotten more work if the world was a different place. Scratch that. I know.

When my daughter at age 7 questions her beauty because she doesn't look like her class mates, its a renewed opportunity to help her appreciate her beauty and her characteristics, her culture and style, her individuality. She relates more to KeKe Palmer (Jump In, Akeelah and the Bee), than Hannah Montannah - but KeKe isn't quite getting the exposure of her counter parts. That process is enhanced when she can look at her family, friends, peers and others who are Black and beautiful. When we read her History books we often help tell the "rest of the story" to ensure that even in 3rd grade she has a firm understanding of our country and our culture. Jamestown was our first chapter in history this year, and we spend many days rewriting what the text book offered for fact. At all opportunities we look for the reality of our culture and our contributions to society.

Don't ask me why its important for her to know about Dr. Condi, Dr. Logan, Venus, Serena, Veronica Webb, Tyra Banks, Hazel Taylor (great granny doesn't have a web page - but she should), Avonia Harris, Soror Astronaut Mae Jemison, Rosa, Coretta, Sojourner, Maya, Oprah, Octavia, Angela Bassett, Michelle Obama - my future first lady, ME.....and the list continues. She has to be deeply connected to all of our images (some I like and some I appreciate less) so that she defines for herself true beauty. As we encounter growing pains and the opportunities to reinforce intelligence, grace, the arch of her back, and span of her hips ...... I'm glad it is happening now.

I pray she isn't quoted aspiring to something else as she's knocking at 3o's door. With all that she has been given, I pray she is confident about what she is and what she is not. She isn't in need of another culture, we've got enough work fully embracing, representing and upholding this one.

No comments: