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In college, I told one of my dearest friends, a black woman, that I thought she was limiting the huge potential of who she could be as a human being by sticking so resolutely to her self-identification as a black person.  Not in so many words, and with an effort (failed) to express this "sensitively".  I will never forget the shock and hurt I saw her in her face.  So much of who she was, she told me, was tied fundamentally to her being a black woman.  What I was telling her, she said, was like asking her to abandon huge chunks of who she was.

On the one hand, I still believe what I said was right, in some way.  I saw her as this amazing human being, and compartmentalizing that amazing person into a box labeled "Black Woman" seemed like such a reduction of who she really was and who she could be.  On the other hand, who am I to tell her that she should abandon -- or "transcend" -- her black identity?  How could I -- a non-black man -- possibly understand what her experience was like, much less judge how she decided to view herself?  Virtually abstract questions for me, but very concrete, urgent questions for her.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 at 08:22:46 AM EST
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