Life Log, Writing

What Does It Mean To Be This Caribbean Writer?

I hope it’s no secret to many reading here that I don’t consider myself wholly white. Some of you reading since 1998 may know a thing or two about me, but since I’ve become published in novel form more people are coming to the blog and reading and finding out about me online and express confusion about this point.

A number of people have emailed me or stopped me to ask me “what does ‘caribbean-born’ mean?” and others are curious as to why I constantly point out things about diversity in SF. What they may not know is what others around me know: I consider myself multi-racial.

I jokingly have been called ‘an undercover brother.’ Vin Diesel calls people like me ‘shadow people,’ neither one race nor the either due to circumstances and self-identity, and considers himself one, yet another reason for my close attention to his career.

Things came to a head a couple days ago with a few emails challenging me to prove that I was actually multi-racial and not just a ‘poser’ who wanted the ‘advantages’ of being hip and multi-racial.

For some people, any attempt to identify in ways that they can’t control are troublesome.
One reason I’m private about my past family life is that I had a complicated family life and my biological parents are radically split for reasons that are none of anyone’s business except those I choose to share that story with. Growing up was not all fun and smiles on the beach, as people assume.

But I was born on the island of Grenada, West Indies, and is one of the two Caribbean islands that shape what I think of as home. Grenada, with it’s spice and colorful flowers and deep jungles and people, that is my first home. No matter how split my parents are, my cousins and aunts and uncles are all Grenadian and that is the blood that runs through my veins because of my father. I can’t deny or wish to change that, it’s simply who I am. And I’m proud to have been born there and lived there for the first nine years of my life.

People want to know something for sure, then it’s easy as clicking this link here, to see my father’s business still in Grenada. He’s the brown-skinned man in both the pictures at the bottom of the page. He’s my father that I haven’t seen or talked to in almost 20 years. Judge for yourself whether I’m multi-racial, fine.

Even better, here to the right is a crop of the one of the rare pictures I have of my Caribbean side of the family. My grandmother, two cousins and me (with my mother and father cropped out) standing on the tallest hill of Carriacou.

And yet, I’m one white looking dude. Genetics is wild. Some 7 different genes code for skin color, and when parents get together it’s a crapshoot. In this case, my sister got tan looking skin tone and I got fairly white. But that doesn’t change the fact that my father is who he is, as are my cousins and aunts and uncles. It doesn’t change the fact that I grew up playing cricket on Lance Aux Pines beach, that most of my friends until I came to Ohio were usually not white, and that I often spoke with a patois when I needed it, or a British accent if I chose. It doesn’t change that I played football, the one where you actually kick the ball, and that I had textbooks with a full complement of races in them, or that my obvious skin color meant I was the one who was not normal, but yet, I never had any trouble maintaining I was mixed until I moved to the US. My childhood was Caribbean in its nature, essence, and impact on me. Most people from the Caribbean understand where I come from (with some rare exceptions of some assholes near Grand Anse who would always yell ‘yankee go home’ at me), most grant me this without my having to fight for this. I should merely have to state it.

So, as for my identity: I’m Caribbean. An English mother and a Grenadian father. By blood, by birth, and by spending 15 and half years of my life in the islands, I can’t imagine calling myself anything else but.

Why not pass? The idea of passing is an interesting concept that tells me more about the person who asks that of me. The implicit assumption for many is that passing as white confers the easiest route, their astonishment at my not choosing that is a often an interesting hangup.

So what is up with two Caribbean Science Fiction novels? My fiction plays with a wide variety of people and genre tropes. I don’t write exclusively “Caribbean SF” but I am a Caribbean-born SF/F writer. But some of my stories are rich with the Caribbean.

Since I was in sixth grade I’d been drawing spaceships taking off from island harbors, rather than gantries. I even used some early island settings, but a lot of my early SF aped the SF I was reading: galactic empires, etc. But somewhere in ’98 when I was in college, I decided to really focus on becoming a writer. And part of that involved what I was going to write about.
I began to add pieces of Caribbean background to roughly a third of my stories. A character, a place, and certainly inspiration from island history and anecdotes. But I was nervous about using it, aware of the fact that by Caribbean readers I may be thought of as stealing the exotic for my fiction, and by other readers as some sort of fraud.

It was later in that year, however, that I sat down to write my story ‘The Fish Merchant,’ feeling that I wanted to bring together the things that I wanted to write into a short piece: one ‘Steppin’ Razor’ like badass (Pepper), a non-Caribbean but non-Western locale (China), adventure genre action, and a twist on a traditional SF trope (first contact).

When I finished my first piece that drew this all together, it was a heady rush: this was the sort of thing I wished I’d been able to have to read on the shelf. And yet, as I got accepted to the prestigious Clarion workshop on the story and started submitting it, I kept on writing more ‘vanilla SF.’ One because I didn’t want to risk screwing up another Caribbean inspired piece of SF, and another, because there was a growing feeling that I’d lost the Caribbean. A white looking Caribbean multi-racial expat, who grew up on a boat, both identifying with, but in many ways, living on the edge of, Caribbean society, who was I to write this stuff? I had a huge impostor syndrome issue. And I was still worried that even though I adored ‘Fish Merchant,’ others would not find it interesting as I did.

That changed at Clarion, when not only did many students enjoy the story, but I met two instructors who really encouraged me to take the instincts I had with ‘Fish Merchant’ and go further. Authors Tim Powers and Mike Resnick both felt that the story was something interesting and that played to my strengths. So did Scott Edelman when he visited Clarion, and it was he who later purchased the story for Sci Fi Age shortly after Clarion and gave me my first professional short story sale.

The confidence given me there led to many more stories being written over the next six years that drew my interests, backgrounds, and love of genre together:

The Fish Merchant -Science Fiction Age
In Orbite Medievali – Writers of The Future
Spurn Babylon – Whispers From The Cotton Tree Root
Trinkets – The Book of All Flesh
Death’s Dreadlocks – Mojo: Conjure Stories
In The Heart of Kalikuata – Men Writing SF As Women
Four Eyes – New Voices in Science Fiction
Necahual – So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy
Anakoinosis – I Alien
Toy Planes – Nature Magazine
The Silver Streak – Space Cadets
The Duel – Electric Velocipede #11
Manumission – Baen’s Universe (upcoming)

This represents about half of my bibliography (not including the two novels).

When it came time to write my first novel, Crystal Rain, I considered all the concepts and ideas I had, and the most compelling ones drew from many of the same sources as these stories above. As in Toy Planes, I felt that Caribbean people had a place in the future, and that if humanity were to populate the stars, that Caribbean people would immigrate in that great diaspora, and that they should have stories as well. And yet, even as there is the Caribbean take, the Caribbean’s proximity to the cultural West means that a great deal of my influences are still very much recognizable to anyone.

The reason I read genre fiction is entirely different than any other literature. I find the action, high concepts, and sense of wonder the amazing element that separates it from anything else I encounter. I like to think, secretly and to myself, that literature is the soul of humanity, its dreams. Feverish, bizarre, reflections of its processing what has happened to it so far, and figuring out how to store that, remember it, and experience it.

But the genre I work in is something different, it’s the imagination of humanity, its daydreams, its nightmares, its pleasant fantasies, it’s hopes and its inventions. It’s not like the other literatures. And I want people like me to look into the imagination of humanity and see people like himself looking back at him. I may not be perfect, but I am excited that it is something that I’ve been managing to publish and gain a readership for.

Hi, my name is Tobias Buckell, and I am Caribbean. And I’m an SF/F writer. I’m proud of both the genre I write in, and my identity.

74 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be This Caribbean Writer?”

  1. Hey, I didn’t know we had to carry our “racial identity” cards so we could present them whenever someone asked us “papers, please.” Dang, I’m going to have to dig my “Cracker, but okay” card out.
    I did find it interesting in the whole “race in genre” discussion when I would read the linked pages and some of those would say something like, “this white-writer is talking about race.” It would take me a moment to realize they were discussing you. Then I would chuckle a little, and figure they looked at your publicity photo and said, “not one of us.”

  2. Wow- it was interesting reading that. Esp since on my mother’s side I’m part gypsy, so half of my family is very dark skin and has hair and the such, while me and my brother and my sisters are fair skinned like my dad (but we kind of sort of have my mom’s hair).
    This is through my mother’s father’s mother (great-great grandmother) so I don’t even dare claim anything other than “remotely gypsy” when talking about race. If anything I talk about being Irish, even though that is just as distant. People seem to believe that a bit more. By claiming Hungarian Gypsy, it seems I am claiming some ancient mystical thing that people don’t even believe exist anymore.
    Even thinking about writing in it makes me feel odd- mostly because it’s so distant that it doesn’t feel like it’s really some part of me.

  3. I wonder if their questioning has to do with some of the side issues in the discussion of race in the US? There is a movement to define being African-American/Black in the US (which has it’s own subcategories internally) to mean “decended from (African) slaves brought to the US.” That Africans who emegrated, because they didn’t share in that history of repression, aren’t fully “Black” (the Obama question). My guess would be most African-American people was classify Tobias as “Brown” (Hispanic, Latino, Mexican, etc). “Brown peoples” have had an easier time of “passing as white.” Not as easy a time as Asians, who (supposedly) pass in the “white community” easily (just ask my niece, who is an adopted Korean, if that’s true, you might be surprised at the answer). Again, this is from a certain viewpoint and is grossly oversimplified and based on stereotypes.

  4. As a white puerto rican (born to puerto rican parents and raised on the island), I’ve encountered my share of the ‘who does this white boy think he is’ metalities, ranging from slightly amusing conversations with acquaintances to downright hostile exchanges (maddeningly enough, mostly when I go back to the island to visit). This of course leads to the identity issues you mention in your entry, issues that took most of my early twenties to sort out.
    This is one of the reasons I immediately took to Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin (that and the fact that, well, they’re damn good books). Mad props to you for putting your ‘Caribbean flavoured SF’ out there- whenever I get crap for my heritage, I think of people like you and say ‘hey, there are others out there like me’.
    So, thanks, Tobias.

  5. People are weird. It’s always amazing to me what they choose to give a damn about.
    Anyway, no need to defend yourself in my eyes, anyway.
    What I find interesting is the notion that you found your way into this type of writing.
    I suspect that those of us who find some success in writing fiction do so because we bring all these X factors (besides, say, talent and hard work) together in a way that is unique for us. It resonates for us, which then resonates for our readers.
    Or, perhaps, I’m full of crap.

  6. First off, it’s nobody’s damned business. Second, it has no bearing on the quality of your work. Third, I am under-caffeinated and cranky. Fourth, I hope to hell you at least inherited the ability to tan without burning. It’s only fair. Fifth, what was I talking about?
    Yours in chocolate & caffeine,
    Colleen
    (A Scottish/Welsh/North American pasty-skinned Celtic Mutt, who, incidentally, does not tan easily)

  7. Wow. I’m so impressed with you for sharing, and grateful. While I feel it’s crap that people call you out to explain yourself, I’m glad you decided to do so. It’s enlightening and educational, if that’s the right word for it. 🙂

  8. “Vin Diesel calls people like me ‘shadow people,’ neither one race nor the either due to circumstances and self-identity,”
    I got the double whammy going because sometimes not only do people want me to prove that I’m part Native American, they want me to prove my dad, who spent most of his life on the reservation and was a tribal role member, was a “real” Indian. When I show pictures of my dad to people, even though his skin and features were classic Native American he was standing there in a suit instead of a war bonnet. So he’s not a “real” Indian to a lot of people.
    I guess you have to prove yourself as a “real” Caribbean person by donning loud shirts and funny hairdos? I’m joking but really, when people start playing that “prove your race” game, it’s usually because we’re not living their stereotypes.

  9. I find issues of genealogy and genetics endlessly fascinating. I haven’t met too many folks from the Caribbean, but they’ve been from a variety of racial backgrounds (kind of like…well…America…)
    Just out of curiosity, did you hear about this:
    Race, the Final Frontier
    http://www.boston.com/yourlife/articles/2007/07/31/race_the_final_frontier/
    Laurie
    Pale, freckled, burns easily, most ancestors from northwestern Europe and northeastern US

  10. This really highlights how utterly superficial the concept of race is in the U.S. It’s a matter of skin color first and foremost, with other features (like hair or noses or eyes or lips) a very distant second, and everything else — like, say, your actual heritage — is invisible and therefore irrelevant.
    And really, what’s skin color? Heck, one winter when I’d been living in Boston and my mother had just been on a cruise, we didn’t even look like members of the same race, let alone close relatives. I inherited my father’s skin tone, not hers. (And mind you, that’s with her being half Scandinavian, half English mutt. I have no idea why she gets so dark.)
    But thanks for posting this. I figured you were of the Vin Diesel type, but I admit I defaulted to thinking of you as white until I first heard you say otherwise. It’s interesting to hear the story, rather than the labels.

  11. Nice topic. Thanks for the read. Being half-black, half-mexican, adopted by a white family, with two daughters having two different colors of skin, I’m always interested in hearing further annals of the “other” box.
    Race may be considered by some people to be a false concept, but it’s still part of your social identity. Say it loud, I’m other and I’m proud.

  12. I’m sure I’m repeating sentiments expressed above but it amazes me that you would have to prove this. Especially to a few ignorant morons.
    In any case, this was an intersting post.

  13. Over here, one light-skinned black parent with African features, one dark-skinned black parent with African features and shiny, only slightly curly hair — what was left of it — that probably had to do with South Asian and/or Arawak and/or Euro ancestry. I’m dark with the lighter-skinned parent’s features predominating. My brother is a browning with the darker-skinned parent’s features predominating. My extended family comes in a rainbow of skin tones, including pink-skinned blondes (of two black parents). I would welcome you to the Mothership, but brother, yuh know dey-dey from since; ah right deh-so yuh born.
    And the thing is — even if you were white, why the rass shouldn’t a white man talk about race? *Sigh*

  14. When I read the bit about people asking you why you didn’t try to pass, I blinked, astonished. Then, in hindsight, it made perfect sense. Given that being white is easier, and provides privileges, in the US and elsewhere, certainly people will wonder why you think the easy route isn’t worth suppressing or denying your heritage and past.

  15. I don’t really see the big deal about what colour/race/ethnicity the writer is or even for that matter where they born.
    No one denies that men can write credible female character or v-versa. So sex isn’t a barrier and different anatomy is a bigger seperator than the other, I would think.
    As long as your writing credible Caribbean characters who cares what colour you are? A pure white russian raised in Aruba is as Caribbean as the darkest child born to African parents and raised in Wales is Welsh.
    And why is it cool to be multi-racial? I mean, doesn’t everyone’s parents look different. Above Nalo describes two parents that are of the same race but obviously very different and judging by the other posters everyone considers themself a mix of some sort.
    Other than bringing up the question why don’t we have more Caribbean writers or stories with Caribbeans as main characters what does it matter what particular shade of skin a good author’s parents have?

  16. A poignantly-written piece, Toby. You’ve handled the situation with aplomb and class.
    And incidentally, I’ve been told I’m not really Italian, because I’m not Catholic. Ain’t that something?

  17. Toby – spot on!
    I’ve spent my life trying to explain that being Cuban doesn’t automatically make me a particular race and that Hispanic is not a race – but a more-or-less common language. It’s not even a common culture fergoshsakes.
    My own background is pretty mixed (We’re predominantly originally from Northern Spain. My father’s family were Basques, my mom’s from the Canary Islands. A few generations ago, their predecessors went to Cuba, and the intermarriages continued there. There are Asian members of the family, too. So whatever.
    I was born in Cuba, mostly raised here in the US and am damned proud of my heritage and of writing in the SF/F genre.
    Thanks so much for your brilliant essay.

  18. Good essay Toby.
    How do you identify as a Grenadian or do you just find it easier to say your are Caribbean?

  19. Will Hunter, this is the flip-side of the “writing characters of color” issue. This is the side where people are asked (as CoC become more prevelant) if the author is exploiting the CoC or is “authentic.”
    And the “men can write as women and women as men” debate also comes back up sometimes (when someone has a bone to pick with an author usually).

  20. Thanks for the excellent post, Toby.
    As an Anglo Argentine and American cross, I feel ya. (Except I didn’t live there as long, so I don’t have the cultural identity as much as you do.)

  21. Excellent bit of writing. I’ll just look upon you as a damn fine writer and human being if you don’t mind.
    On the other hand, if it matters, I’m half-French and half-German. Shaving is a genuine pain since I have this annoying tendency to throw my hands in the air whenever I see my reflection in the mirror.

  22. Wow, you guys are posting faster than I can keep up. But thank you for all your thoughts on this.
    As for Jeff’s question “How do you identify as a Grenadian or do you just find it easier to say your are Caribbean?” I identify as Caribbean, oddly enough, because I spent 9 years in Grenada and 6-7 in the US and British Virgin Islands. They’re all a part of me and I identify with other islanders on general principle.

  23. Wow. Only on the internet would someone have the stones to fire off a missive demanding you “prove” your “right” to write whatever story and characters you choose, much less that you are who you say you are.
    You have handled this with beautiful writing and tremendous dignity; more than I think I would have.

  24. Toby, great post.
    On the one hand, I appreciate it as background as I dive into Crystal Rain. Always makes the read more interesting to know where the author’s come from.
    On the other hand, I agree with most of the commenters…I’m finishing The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson, a 2nd volume in a WWII trilogy, and when someone asks you to show your bonifides, it smells of the 3rd Reich (among other not-so-memorable milestones in human history).
    On the third hand, the gene pool is quite mixed these days, so a lot of us are Mudbloods.
    Larry (part Choctaw, part Welsh, and part something that gave me three hands)

  25. I read ‘Ragamuffin’. Liked it. Will buy some more. (Tell your publisher.)
    Thanks for what you’ve said. You’ve said it well.
    My Amma (grandmother) was from Iceland, and considered herself a Viking until she died, even when we (her grandchildren) mentioned to her that that might not be a good group (historically) to align herself with. My Grandad was Cherokee trying to pass as white. Their son married my Irish (also not a popular group in those days) mother.
    Today, a little older and wiser, I am happy to name those badass mean boys (all three groups, actually) as my ancestors. They were proud, and I can be proud of them. It is what it is, and we shouldn’t have to prove / apologize for the culture that bore us. It’s only ourselves we should have to answer for. Whatever we look like.
    That said, I – like Steve – feel the need to yank out my “Cracker, but okay” card.

  26. Well said, sir. Keep cranking – and don’t let the anonymo-bastids of the Internet grind you down. Camron has it right: “It’s only ourselves we should have to answer for.” We are where we are, when we are, how we are, for better and worse; the best we can do is to make the most of it.
    From a pale mongrel whose folk are Scots-Irish, North of England, early Georgia poor, and late-emigrating Swiss. I’ll take one of those “Cracker, but okay” cards, too.

  27. My ancestry is racially mixed, but there’s nothing in my genealogy to prove it. Like many people of Eastern European extraction, my grandfather’s family had a distinctly Asian look.
    Aside from that: The “prove you’re what you claim” stuff reminds me of the arguments over which parts of southern US are really Southern, or which parts of NYState are really Upstate. (And then there was the Canadian on Usenet who wished Quebec and Ontario would secede, leaving Canada to real Canadians.)
    Or the arguments about who’s a “real Christian.”

  28. Interesting post, Toby, and thanks for sharing.
    A question: is the short story of yours, “Tides,” also a part of your interests, backgrounds, and love of genre together? I really enjoyed that one.

  29. That was well-written and well-said. (Now Ragamuffin is *definitely* going on my next Amazon buy.)
    “Things came to a head a couple days ago with a few emails challenging me to prove that I was actually multi-racial and not just a “˜poser’ who wanted the “˜advantages’ of being hip and multi-racial.”
    Man, what an utter ass-hat. Advantages of being multi-racial? Tell that to my kids (half Thai, half Anglo-Saxon). The flak they cop from some unthinking bastards at school makes me furious.
    And also, this …
    “And yet, I’m one white looking dude. Genetics is wild. Some 7 different genes code for skin color, and when parents get together it’s a crapshoot.”
    … is the truth. My oldest two sons look completely Thai, but the youngest one looks completely Anglo-Saxon. My wife’s been in tears a couple of times when people have made nasty insinuations that the oldest two kids aren’t mine. Most times we meet someone new who’s Thai, they look at the older two kids and then ask my wife why they don’t look more European.
    Making matters worse is that white skin is seen as much more attractive than dark in Thai culture, which means that the older two kids get to hear adults commenting that they’d be really handsome — if they looked more like their brother.

  30. I hear you, completely.
    I’m Rosebud Sioux and English and Scottish. I grew up in a Native American household – but my father was a university professor, and we lived a pretty middle-class life. When I was around my family, people could see the Indian connection, but mostly people would take me for *maybe* Latino. So I got this light-skinned privilege (sometimes) and people would say things to me that they might not, if they knew about my heritage.
    I also see some folks here drawing on the “we’re all (mostly) multiracial” as a kind of solidarity – and that troubles me, mostly because if we’re all multiracial, then what’s that norm we all get to compare ourselves to? It’s white. So if you do claim another heritage, it ends up making problematic that whole “we’re alike” thing. We can’t just wish it all away, and I very much appreciate the nuanced approach you’ve given to your own experience – may others learn from it.

  31. Dude. Some people’s mouths are big enough for whole sacks of feet, and I didn’t think we were at the point where we had to show the genetic evidence to back up how we define and describe ourselves.
    I’m glad you decided to keep writing the kind of work you are. There’s a lot that’s been written from that one predominant gender/class/race/geography point of view in SF, and anything that does something different from that is always so much more -interesting-.

  32. Very well said. You know, I’d really like to see what the people who expected you to want to pass as white would think if they knew how many people would rather not be identified that way. I’m from Eastern European Jewish stock, and I like to say that I’m beige, not white, just because I don’t like being classed along with the people who think that way about color. Not a cracker, but still OK.
    Every single one of us is a mongrel of ethnic and phenotypical characteristics if you go back far enough, and we’re all descended, last I heard, from a group of no more than 300 women back a few tens of thousands of years ago. The only difference is some of us are one generation from the mixing, and some are further (and probably know less about it as a result, which makes it a drawback, not an advantage). So, good for you for celebrating what you’ve been given, and not trying to pretend it’s something else.

  33. I have no words. Or maybe I have too many words. The first comment I ever got from you, I came to your blog, clicked ‘About Me’ saw ‘Grenadian’ and went ‘Woo! Another Tropical Person! and that was it for me.
    Your family picture looks like my family pictures. And I can remember people asking me if the red haired girl standing beside me was a school friend. And how I went – This is a picture of my family. That’s my cousin. What school friend?
    And well, that was the beginning of me learning about Black/White racism in America.
    I’m not making much of a point here at all, other than to say Caribbean recognizes Caribbean.
    And also, much of the internet is stupid.

  34. “A question: is the short story of yours, “Tides,” also a part of your interests, backgrounds, and love of genre together? I really enjoyed that one.”
    Paul: Tides is one of my fave little short stories. I wouldn’t mind turning that into a YA book and exploring a Dickensian magical system.

  35. I gotta say that it is some serious bullshit that someone asked you to quantify your racial background.
    That said, your story is prety fascinating. I’m guilty of assuming that folsk from the Carribean are all dark skinned. Mea culpa. I also was stunend when I met a white man who described himself as Kenyan. Had to do a little research on that one.
    Now I’m really pissed I never got your books at Readercon. Have to go order them at my local bookshoppe!

  36. I want to be suprized that people complain about you faking your background, but I’m not. There are way too many idiot people out there who get stupid over the whole race issue.
    Part of my husband’s family came over with the Jamestown founders, since then he’s had African and three different Native ethnic groups blended in. He has enough Cherokee to be enrolled in the tribe but since he was not raised in the culture he had decided not to do the the required paperwork. He spent half his life on his grandparents subsistence farm in eastern KY, w/o running water, or electricity learning to plow with a horse and cut hay with a scythe. Now he’s a research scientist working for the Federal government and had to take extra cultural diversity training because he’s a “privileged white male”. I thought his head was going to blow up when he found that out.
    Me, I have fair skin, red hair, freckles, and an ethnic surname, so I’m passing as Irish. Actually I
    mostly I’m English and German, that’s were the red hair and freckles come from. My Irish ancestors were either black-Irish, or tall blonds decended from the Danes. (My great grandmother was over 6 feet tall, which was something for a woman in the late 1800’s)

  37. I’m really sorry anyone was that much of an asshole to you. And I really admire that you brought something as lovely as this post out of it. It was a pleasure to read about your Caribbean and your sf.

  38. I was floored when I linked in from Scalzi. Just–well, annoyed and the whole thing that you have to prove your heritage irritated the heck out of me.
    That said, I know of several bigot types who check off the boxes other than white on the principle that they can’t be forced to prove it. *That* ticks me off majorly, because they’re doing it as a protest against what they see as special rights for minorities (shall we guess at what they think about non-white, non-heterosexual types?).
    One of the sideparts of my day job (special ed teacher) is that I’m on my district’s committee to monitor our paperwork compliance with State and Federal regulations. Part of that is monitoring the proportions of identified minority kids with disabilities. The catch is, we’re a fairly small semi-rural district so one or two kids in a category can skew us toward under or overrepresentation (as determined by the state and federal percentages).
    The additional catch is that we *honestly don’t know* if we’re over or under on our stats, because *we aren’t allowed to ask* when a parent fills out a form. We *may* be overrepresenting Latinos, but if the parent doesn’t check off that block on the registration form, the default is Anglo white.
    Sigh. The stupidities we go through because idiots obsess about stupid things like skin color.

  39. …the “˜advantages’ of being hip and multi-racial….
    Such a weird thought–such a privileged thought, really–and it has echoes in my own life. My great-grandmother was half Native American, and my grandfather spent his whole life saying she was a liar because he didn’t want to be mixed race–there was so much cultural baggage (still is). Only, I grew up with a rather different, sort of 70s hippie view of the coolness of Native culture, and thought that Gramps said his mom was lying because she was claiming the advantages (my perceived advantages) of the identity. It took going to college and saying something lame like this to my Native American linguistics prof–and having a bit of reality explained back to me–before I finally figured out why my grandfather was really rejecting the identity.
    Of course, I currently feel like the worst kind of cultural appropriator to claim any Native American identity after three generations of passing and denying and whatnot, plus, we don’t even really know for sure what tribe my great-grandmother’s unknown parent was from.
    My rambling tale of not-woe is mostly to illustrate to the doubters the confusion and weirdness that comes from denying your heritage.
    And also, wow, there’s some serious crazy out there, and it’s good of you, Toby, to address it rationally. I would lose my shit.

  40. Me, I’m 100% human. Nothing else seems relevant. Perhaps once we cease to dwell on our own percentages we will cease to concern ourselves with those of others too.

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