Friday, March 19, 2010

Behind the Curtain of the Single Narrative

I'm still not fully comfortable with how I managed to express myself about my admiration/enjoyment/envy of non-white aesthetics. I think there is something deeper for me to look at here, and so I want to try again. 

I subscribe to a blog called adipositivity, which posts a weekly photo of a fat (yes, that word has been reclaimed) person, usually a woman, dressed in whatever she chose to dress or not dress in, surrounded by (presumably) things that she loves or that represent her. I love this blog. I love it because there is a part of me that is tired of the singular cultural narrative that says all people worth looking at in media are thin. Seeing these photos portraying fat positively feeds me in a way I find difficult to express. I find it . . . yummy. 

The same holds true for when I see Barack Obama as president, or Hillary Clinton on the political stage. Personal political opinions aside, I feel fed when I see a black man in power among all the old white men, and I feel fed when I see Hillary in her salmon suit among all the blue power suits and red ties. It gives me hope; it quenches a deep thirst for diversity. It shows me that things are changing and other voices, important, capable, wise voices are finally being heard and taking their place among the decision makers.

I also subscribe to Nil Doctrine, and this post fed me, too. I have a visceral joy over seeing non-white faces in media, doing and singing and speaking in ways that are celebratory of themselves and outside of the stereotype-fest, limited-singular-narrative that I get fed by mainstream media. The way the light shines in Sister Rosetta Tharp's cheeks brings me joy.

So perhaps what I am really and inadequately trying to say is that I crave a diversity of people in everything and am impatient and bored with the singular narrative of people-worth-showing being white, thin, etc. I am so bored with it that my whiteness bores me as well. Almost everything my dominant culture mainstream media has presented to me has been about white people, with a few rather insulting niches prescribed for people of color. 

And in South Africa, I experienced firsthand how much more there can be to that narrative, how much more human we can be if we stop playing these racist and marginalizing games. I saw behind the curtain of the single narrative, and have craved the experience of more yellow and more hair in twists and everything else ever since.


Anonymous said...

i'm sorry to bust a little bubble, but president barack hussein obama is not black. he is mulatto. and the origin of his name is arabic/muslim. he is also a first generation american. no slave origin here.
i am italian and polish and a forth generation american. and to tell me that our country is not the greatest country that ever existed is a lie. to criminalise personal non-violent lifestyles is a crime in itself.

diversity in lifestyles is fine, diversity in programs that work is fine. but to deny greatness and what has worked in this country for over 200 years is a pitiful attempt to control what freedoms we have left.
socialism destroys freedom. who are the great socialists? hitler, chairman mao, khrushchev, chavez,... the list is long. how many have helped save the world.

it took the free thinking white man (and the women behind them) 200+ years to build this house and it is taking one mulatto with so called good intention to tear the house down.
good luck with your choice.
please leave me out.

Philosofisher said...

I have used the word "black" to describe Barack Obama because as I understand it, that is how he identifies himself. I did not call him African American, because you are right, he does not come from the descendants of African American slaves. Yes, he is biracial, but from what I understand, he chose to embrace and claim black identity when working as a community organizer in Chicago.

At no point did I say anything about whether or not I think our country is the "greatest...that ever existed." I merely criticized our cultural narrative. It is your racism that led you to jump from 'changing the cultural narrative to be more diverse' to 'diversity challenges and undermines our greatness'.

Perhaps you should examine that.

LDA said...

To anonymous: I would say that in America, if you're Black at all, you're Black. It doesn't matter whether you're first or fifth generation. No one who dislikes Black people is going to ask Obama for pictures of his mother and father before deciding how to feel about him.

As for free-thinking white men and women building this "House"...try telling that to slaves who made the economic existence of this country possible for centuries, to the Asians who helped build our trans-continental railroad, and to all the non-white people (including Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans) who's cultural, economic and scientific contributions helped make this country what it is.

The President is not always going to be white and male. Eventually, they may be neither. Anybody who doesn't like that should just accept that the sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time and get over it.

Anonymous said...

edit: I do realize that the US had not even existed as such for a century before the Civil war occured, but since Slavery did exist for centuries in the British and French territories that would later become the US, I still feel that slaves contributed "for centuries" to the economic foundations of the US.

Anonymous said...

Last comment by LDA

Rachel said...


This is Rachel, and I think it's awesome that you read Adipositivity. A few months ago I found the blog Fatshionista, and it's been a helpful counterpoint to the many cultural expectations we're bombarded with that tell us that women should only come in one shape.

Oh, and I like your writing style! Rock on.