I generally don't comment on the great whirl wind of stuff that takes place in the blogosphere, because usually there are people who are much better at articulating what I want to say, so I let them say it and nod sagely in agreement. The discussion on white washing book covers is one that I have not weighed in on with my own opinion but a recent conversation with a friend that had nothing to do with book covers and everything to do with race prompted me to want to have my say and so here it is.
Color has never been a defining part of my life. I grew up in a home where religion was more important than where you came from. My mother is Moroccan, my father is African American. My mother grew up poor - her mother used to boil coffee over a fire place and when she had seizures as a child, no one knew what was wrong with her or had the money to care. My father grew up in an America that was racially divided so much that he joined militant civil rights activists to try to fix it. When my parents separated my mother married a Pakistani man. I have family in France, Canada, Italy, Egypt, and Pakistan. Some of my closest friends are from Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. My life has been rich with color of people from all over the world, from all religions and walks of life.
And I can say with all honesty, that this has only served to make it better and more full. It has never served as a way to judge the people that I meet, or rank them or affected my view of them, if only to make me better understand their viewpoints because of culture. The idea of judging someone based solely on their country of origin or ancestry is so far removed from my understanding as to make me laugh. And laugh hard. The idea that someone is less marketable, less accessible or less appealing because of the color of their skin stops me stop in my tracks go, "What the frak do you mean, my color doesn't sell?"
Because, really, what the frak does that mean? I. Don't. Understand.
I understand the outrage at telling someone that their race doesn't sell. I understand because I lived with a father whose life was defined by racism, who fought against it most of the years of his life, and who, to the day he died, was still struggling with what the institution of racism had done to him. My mixed heritage has saved me and condemned - most people can't identify where I'm from. And it allows the worst of people to show - I've heard some of the most horrific things about people, my people, from people that I thought I respected. My scarf puts me into a category - I am oppressed, I am ignorant, I am too weak to rise above the confines of an archaic religion.
But I am none of those. I never have been. Because of my mother. Because of my father. Because of a family that has gone through so much I am strong and I am proud of that strength.
So I do understand. I understand what it feels like to be on my side of the fence - to be categorized and judged and told 'You're not good enough to sell'. But I do not, and will never be able to understand saying that to a person that is as real as me. I will never understand thinking you are worth something because of chance. I will never understand people that live in a world divided, instead of joined by, color. I will never understand not being able to see the beauty that is race and culture and religion and how it has created a world that is so beautiful even when it manages to be ugly.
O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. (surah 49, verse 13, al Quran al Kareem)