October 21, 2007 by multiracialsky
I attended a powerful 3-day Undoing Racism training last week. It was conducted by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, an organization that has been conducting these trainings around the country for 27 years. Day 2 of the training was a marathon day–8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. We never left the building; three meals were provided.The workshop included an historical accounting of the invention of ‘race’ in the United States, evolving alongside the gradual enslavement of African Americans–and the creation of the institution of slavery in the United States.
Days before the workshop began, I finished watching (for the second time) the PBS documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion. The second segment of the film has an entire section dedicated to the European decimation of the Cherokee Nation. This part of the film made me wince with every word, as I felt my ancestors’ fear and sadness, as I began to understand true assimilation. The combination of these two events (workshop and documentary) have me thinking about some new facets of the same ideas I’m always kicking around.
For one thing, I realized how isolated I feel right now–as a person of color.
It was exceptionally clear at the workshop that if I identify as multiracial–and not White alone–then I am a person of color. I have been uncomfortable claiming a POC identity because I appear White, I was raised as White, and the majority of my ancestors are White. However, during the workshop, as we talked about different internal/personal issues and concerns–issues that were clearly divided along POC/White lines–there was no question in my mind (or to the leaders of the group, and how they treated me)–I am a person of color. This personal identity is a separate but overlapping identity from being a parent to children of color.
That was my greatest immediate gain from the workshop. I am now completely comfortable outwardly, verbally identifying myself as a person of color–not just as a multiracial person. It does not matter what I look like or how my family members identify themselves. The racism that dogs people of color in this country–that racism is my issue. Not just because I am a parent to children of color. Not just because I am an antiracist White person/parent. I take that racism personally. It is addressed towards me–to say nothing of my children, my family, my friends.
The workshop helped me understand some things I have been struggling with lately, issues no one else close to me seems to be dealing with right now. When I framed my issues from the perspective of a POC, my unusual struggles became normal phases many adults of color in this country go through.
I’m also embracing my personal role as a resource for my children, especially the ones who do not physically represent their full ancestry. I still would like my kids to have (for example) close local family friends who are African American women. However, especially for my three daughters of color, my example and experience as a woman of color is also a significant paradigm.