“I’m not responding to ‘black’ anymore,” I jeered one fuzzy weekend night in the even fuzzier basement of my friend’s Montreal apartment. I was frustrated with people – my friends even – and their inability to show understanding for the identity crisis that I live almost daily, and what’s more, their readiness to exoticize my existence, as sometimes the only woman of colour in a white-dominated crowd.
I didn’t mean that I wasn’t black. Of course I didn’t. Or maybe I did. I don’t know. One thing I do know is that my dad is black and my mom is white. And, like Victor Vazquez of the Brooklyn-based rap group Das Racist said in a New York Times interview with Deborah Solomon, “I don’t know if I am neither or both.”
A few weeks ago, I called a community worker to interview him about Black History Month. Within minutes of our conversation he asked, “Are you black?” I answered truthfully. Yes. Half, if you want to be technical. “You don’t sound black,” he stated matter-of-factly. Judgments about how “black” someone’s self is or isn’t are thrown around like it’s nothing, partly due to how society’s construction of blackness is one that is heavily dominated by the media.
For the most part, the title of “culture columnist” in the mainstream has been reserved for the Leah McLaren type: women who write flippant, semi-entertaining articles on things like sex, friends, work, books, film, art, et cetera, and whose articles are precisely what come to mind when you think of the term “fluff.” In journalism, women dominate, and at the same time are exiled to, this type of culture and life writing. The “hard” stuff is saved for the politics and business sections – and for men. But why can’t culture columnists hit harder? Why can’t culture, politics, pop culture, and issues of racism, feminism, and representation be addressed in a single column simultaneously?
This column will attempt to do just that. Using my own experiences as a jumping-off point, I hope to start a critical conversation on campus about issues of race, gender, and representation. My main focus will be on how blackness is constructed in the media and the effects this has on one’s own identity formation. Consequently, my own personal struggles with race and identity as someone of mixed race will feature prominently in this column, alongside more abstract meditations on racial issues within society.
Culture is power. But accessing power isn’t simply about claiming a space in culture. It’s not only about consumption or creation. It’s also about digging deeper to the culture that you consume or create, and recognizing the ways in which it can, and sometimes does, oppress you. By critically engaging with the culture around us, this column aims to reclaim and redistribute that power.
This is the introduction to Tiana Reid’s blog. Find further posts every Wednesday at mcgilldaily.com/blogs