One Drop

A while ago, Dust Daughter featured the homophobic remarks of Phonte and the discussion of the crisis of indetermininacy around bisexuality. In the comments, I stated that the belief that bisexuality does not exist is the one drop rule of sexuality.

I wanted to come back to that, especially in light of recent post from Max Julian. (I have one reservation in linking favorably here, as what I take to be reasonable anger with Racial Realsit’s commentary on his personal life, he calls her a Jezebel. Now, the application of a racialized and sexualized insult to someone who doesn’t believe in intersectionality is ironic, but it’s still unfortunate.) Onwards…

He describes the reversals and consistancies in Black self-images in America, moving from the status granted to lighter skinned blacks to moderns concerns over being in any way white-identified:

Blackness as privilege, rather than birthright. Interpreting the requirement’s these SUPERBLACK gatekeepers of racial conformity espouse in order to be accepted as black are similiar to the qualifications necessary to join ‘Skull and Bones:’ A Mystery, Wrapped In a Riddle!

Obviously, interracial identity and bisexuality have some clear divergences. In many cases, it’s a matter of being read as. For someone like me, my presentation is largely compatible with cultural concepts of heterosexuality and masculinity (I dress like a preppy, and talk like a grad student), This goes double if I’m in mixed company, and I don’t know if it’s safe space. I’m self-conscious enough to monitor how many gayisms come up in conversation or how my body language changes. Racial Realist notes that she is perceived as Black, and this might be part of the reasoning by which she holds race to be the Ur text of oppression, the substance by which discrimination begins its work. I don’t want to disregard that. She has less of a choice of appearing white than I do of being read as “straight.” But white-identified or straight-identified…each is a case of hybridity, the acceptance and even internalization of the domination system. Each has both a level of choice, as well as a denial of agency by the powers that be.

That’s why I keep coming back to the idea of fictive kinship. As I wrote a while ago, describing queer communities in this way, it’s a risky strategy. By de-ontologizing our view of the liberation community, we have some problems. One possibility is the rush to integration that means one sided acceptance. White/Straight/Male Idenitification, and the diffusion and loss of self-conscious culture. RR is not wrong to be concerned with problems in creating unified Black resistance to white supremacy. Ontological idenitify (think “gay” gene and we’re born this way arguments) can provide one of the few recognizable sources of legitimation and idenity in the face of oppression. The word choice implies the ability to chose to conform, en masse, and disband as a subversive group, idenity, culture. This is scary stuff. But I think there are some payoffs.

Fictive does not mean false. But it does exist on a different basis than ontology. It is the tension between saying that race is a socially constructed concept while simultaneously holding that racism is real in every sense of the word. Social construction is not a false reality that is easily shattered by the application of truth. It is a complex system of gesture, language and action that legitimizes itself, erases its particularly, and claims to be natural. It demands clarity of gaze, asking such questions as the one drop rule, so that it may ascertain and assign privilege. While there may be legitimate concerns in identifying the potential group for the liberative community, such as RR expresses, I believe that ultimately such clarity comes at a cost. It can fail to adequately address the question of agency. One drop rules might have utility in addressing the anxiety of uncertainty, but they leave us with brittle categories, and ones that look suspiciously like they are defined (or agreed upon) by the people most responsible for keeping us down.

I want to be clear that I do not think that the future of progressive thought is in an “end” to race, gender, queerness, or other markers of identity. But I am openly questioning how we assign those qualities. I am arguring for a broader sense of affiliation, based on the communal recognition of the participation of the individual that in turn mirrors the individual’s choice and effort to strive with a community of liberation. Because i don’t know if i was born this way. Because i don’t care if i wasn’t. I choose to love regardless of gender, and i don’t recognize any good in anyone telling me I ought to sleep with men for the good of the revolution, or that I have to marry a woman for Truth, Freedom and the American Way. To paraphrase Luther’s reaction to the Pope, “Fuck that shit.”

My hope is to lessen our anxiety with self-haters, to create a deeper critique of those who speak for us but do not stand with us, and to get to a point of regnition how important and difficult it is to express resistant choice in a society such as ours.

Max Julian puts it thus:

And yes, as a black person in this culture, I have struggled with confusion, self-hate, self condemnation, shame, pride, self-love, etc. But, HELLO – I live in America; WTF do you think its gonna be like here, Nirvana? And any nigga that plays holier than thou, as if their shit don’t stink, who acts like they’ve overcome all of that self hate stank, or never had to deal with it – is full of shit. This culture pumps HATE at us every day like a 24/7 sprinkler system – everybody’s at least a little damp and most are soaking wet. And I’m not talking about keeping your “message” or “rhetoric” consistent, sucka! I’m talking about that depleted uranium potent self-hate traversing the nooks and crannies of your muthafuckin’ marrow!!!!

In the American hegemony, liberation is not an all or nothing prospect. It is not the shattering application of truth. It is the careful, deliberate, and lengthy process of building an alternative social construction. It might not have “natural” borders, or a metaphysical essence. Ye, fictive can still have great reality. The US is an arbitrary chunk of land, but it’s also the most powerful nation on Earth. So as we build, we recognize the choices that bring us into community, and the agency involved in choosing to liberate ourselves.