There is actually a really good reason as to why I haven’t written in a two months. Usually, I can give some half-baked excuse about my world has just gotten too busy for a blog post, but this time I would say that excuse has been baked fully and could be over done. I have been on crisis mapping for the earthquake in Haiti using a tool called Ushahidi (www.ushahidi.com), and this simple mapping tool has become the forefront in disaster and humanitarian response. My jobs have ranged from mapper, SMS coordinator, SMS manager, Urgent Response Team Lead, and now, Director of Crisis Mapping. I actually wrote a blog post detailing one of my experiences over the past few weeks, which can find here.
However, this blog to me is a commentary on culture and traveling, and although there is a very interesting culture around crisis mapping, I am actually going to write a post that I have been dying to write for a while.
I am a bi-racial woman. My mom is of Irish descent and my father is African-American. Until Obama came on the scene, this combination of ethnicities was not only unusual but it was also unwelcome in variety of settings. According to the black population, I wasn’t black enough. According to the white population, I was too black. I know these are gross over-generalizations of populations, but sadly, this is based on my experiences.
For instance, “Well, you know, you don’t count, you’re not fully black anyway” or “Well, you know, you could pass” or my favorite “So, exactly what are you?” I have heard these phrases more than one. Hell, more than 10 times.
I find it interesting that when I wrote a blog post discussing women on motorbikes in Morocco, it received more attention than any other post I’ve written. In my opinion, this is because that is the ‘hot topic’ of conversation – how women are treated in the Middle East. Whenever I have commented on my time in that beautiful country, the first question I hear is – “Well, what was it like, to be a woman in a Muslim country.” The thing that I find interesting, though, is that the Middle East is actually the place in the world that I have been unanimously accepted.
Let me illuminate –
A Moroccan cab driver: “So where are you from?”
Moroccan: “No, no, where are you from?”
Me: “Really, America.”
Moroccan: “Ugh, no, where is your father from?”
Moroccan: “But he isn’t from America.”
Me: “Well, he’s black.”
Moroccan: “Oh! He’s African. So it’s like you’re from Morocco. Ok. Good.”
This conversation didn’t happen once. It didn’t even happen 10 times. This conversation took place every time I sat down in a cab, every time I ordered food at a cafe, or every time I talked to someone on the street. Moroccans were unbelievably willing to accept me into their culture. Me. The girl who has been completely rejected from both races to which I am supposed to belong.
What does that say about American culture? It is not easy being mixed and I refuse, even in 2010 to push it under the rug. I refuse to stop discussions about race because they are no longer relevant. Yes, the civil rights movement is a crucial part of American history, but I don’t think it’s over. It’s not over when I have to defend my place in the middle of two races.
Guess what – you can be both. I am proud of my black heritage. I am proud to be Irish. Yes, my ancestors were slaves. My ancestors were redheaded, beer drinking, potato farmers. Some picked cotton. Some choose to come on the boat. Some were property. Some were brought on a boat. I am proud of each one of those people. Without them and all of their trials, I would not be here. I am product of every person that has come before me – black and white. To me, discounting either one of those parts of me disregards their mutual experiences and sacrifices.
I am a mixed girl, and dammit, I am proud of it.