Monday, January 30, 2006

Bizarre thoughts elicited by ABC.

Most of my childhood was spent in small working-class towns in the Northwest, but for a couple years my family lived in Storrs, CT, while my then step-dad was going back to school. This 3-year stint in a fairly progressive, pseudo-diverse college town did interesting things to me during a very impressionable time in my life.

My three brothers, mom, dad, and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment for over a year. I slept in the living room, the two older boys shared a bedroom and the baby slept in my parents' room. This apartment complex was a mix of lower-income single-parent families, young college kids, and college students with families, and oddly enough all of the other children my age were boys. Or, now that I think about it, all of the other kids that liked to play Smear the Queer, baseball and rugby in the big, grassy common area were boys. One of them was my first kind-of boyfriend, and the only black person I've ever kissed (I know it's shameless name-dropping to link to him, but I'm just so impressed with the way he turned out.) He was so cute, and I adored his trumpet case that he wore casually slung over his shoulder by a long black leather belt. Of course this relationship lasted only for as long as we shared homeroom in 5th grade, and soon I was on to a series of no-talking, no-eye-contact relationships with three boys, all named Chris. But anyway, Cheo was the beginning of a lifetime of fascination and adoration of people of color.

I admit I am jealous of people of color. Is this un-PC to say? I have no idea and no perspective. Obviously the hurdles people of color face I will never fathom. Anecdotes I've heard from a black female friend and an Asian male friend make me cringe, but I will not be detered. I love the idea of a rich cultural heritage, and I have none of it. My ancestors were run-of-the-mill white European immigrants. Geneologists eat that shit up, but... zzzzz... oh, sorry, what were we talking about? I want a chieftan grandfather or a concubine grandmother. I want something to make me dimensional besides my off-color jokes and ability to juggle basketballs. I want cocoa skin and an afro, or speak Hindi and look normal with a earring in my nose. And, hey, I don't even want to be a beautiful person of color. If you're an ugly white girl, you're just fucked. If you're an ugly East Indian woman, at least you're still exotic.

And do you know what makes me really sad? That I will never have a little baby of color. And do you know where this all came from this morning? That damn Grey's Anatomy! That's what! The beautiful young black woman giving birth to that gorgeous baby... Cheo, are you out there? Do you and your wife need a surrogate? Maybe I do have a chance...


Blogger Jaye Wells said...

In high school all of my friends were Jewish. Being a preppy white Catholic girl, I felt my generic self was inferior to all of these friends. Many of them were white too, but they had this amazing cultural and religious heritage behind them. Plus the guys were really hot, especially the olived-skinned Israeli boys. This period in my life sparked a life-long fascination with Judaica. I think now that this interest stems form a desire to belong to something greater than myself. To be able to pull from a rich tradition passed down through the generations, linking me to the past.

1/30/2006 9:14 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

I have an earring in my nose and I think I look normal...


1/30/2006 10:55 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I married the black guy. It makes me hip by association. Well , not really, It just makes me more obviously white. But the Detroit peeps love me for all my kooky whiteness.

My daughter quite proudly tells people she is "biracial". No tragic mulatto shit in our house.

1/30/2006 11:19 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

dawn, you're the shit. I love your blog and I'm claiming some of that "by association" street cred, just because you've stopped by. so what does this mean for me in Missoula? I think I saw a black man last month...

mama T, if you could see how white bread I am, you would snort out your diamond-encrusted nostril at the thought of me with a nose pierce.

Jaye - exactly!

1/30/2006 12:34 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

You may not have a baby of color, but you can always hope for randkids.

If my daughter follows her current plan and goes to UCONN, maybe she'll be living in your old apartment!

1/30/2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Grandkids, not randkids...

It's three-thirty in the afternoon...You'd think I would have had enough coffee by now to be able to spell properly!

1/30/2006 12:37 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Dood. You do realize, of course, that the vast majority of people of color are not descended from chieftains and concubines any more than you are? Just saying.

The gardener is right—if your kids get out of MT, they could give you multiracial grandchildren. I think that sort of thing gets much more common with each generation.

1/30/2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

LOL Mignon -- I've always, always worn a very small silver hoop. Ain't no diamonds in my nostril. ;)

1/30/2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I meant to say the possibility that a white European ancestor had a unique and intriguing life is limited. In fact, I'm drawing a blank. Even if they were respected and successful, that would be, what, a duke? An inventor? snooze,,,
I would be happy just having a great-grandparent that spoke a foreign language or to be able to buy a different color foundation.

1/30/2006 4:56 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

" I meant to say the possibility that a white European ancestor had a unique and intriguing life is limited."

I really hope I'm reading you wrong and you aren't saying that whites have done nothing interesting in the history of civilization.

1/30/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Jaye, that's exactly what I'm saying!! I mean, who really needs astronomy, penicillin, lights, or the internet for that matter!
Sailed to the Americas? So what!
Created the telescope? ehh..
Borne of a virgin and started a religion? ho hum..

Naw, not really... I just mean I'm bored of all the same old dead white man history we're always force-fed in school. Why is Western Civ such a huge part of undergraduate curriculum anyway? I feel like we're led to believe that Europeans originated thought, as if the same discoveries and theories weren't taking place around the world. It seems like a lot of forward, scientific thinkers were actually held back by the power of and fear of The Church. I'm sure other cultures actually encouraged their great minds to learn and discover more. But what do I know. Engineers don't study that stuff.

(my word verification is magot!)

1/30/2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

I am absolutley all for recognizing the contributions of other cultures, but I disagree with putting down our own history. Isn't the idea behind equality that we're all equal? It doesn't mean that we idealize other cultures and bash our own.

1/30/2006 8:23 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

I have always wished that my school curriculum had been ighter on American History and rounded out with some ancient civ or history of another culture besides US. How is it that Canadians know so much more about our government than we do about theirs.
Opening our eyes to the hundreds of other races and cultures that exist on this planet is never a bad thing.

1/30/2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

I always wondered what happened in Asia, weren't they creating beautiful art and far more advanced that the Western world, at the time my ancestors were still completing human sacrifices?

I used to think like this as well...but I was raised in Utah and like MT, there was a -.01% ratio of non-whites in that state. Greeks were exotic in Utah.

1/30/2006 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a misguided white woman, who needs to get a grip. You could never be a caring of a Black Child, because you have no idea of what they need. You don't know because you've used no depth. That is the reason why you needed to link your blog to that imdb site. I sure that man would be aghast to read your interpretation.

Many whites consider the beauty of the colour, but a culture and a destiny comes with that shade.

Some fantasies should stay as such, and I pray to God that you never have the opportunity to share your ignorance to any child of colour, a child of a particular promise. They usually spend the rest of their lives healing from those experience.

If you want colour, stick to the patchy cows. And yeah, I'm bitter...

1/31/2006 3:37 AM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Hey anonymous-
I'm not sure what you mean by Mignon not knowing what a black child needs. Do you mean how to take care of their hair, and teaching them about their culture and all? Because I'm sure she would to the research to find all that stuff out if the opportunity presented itself. If that's not what you meant, please elaborate, so we can understand you better. It's obvious you're angry about something, but it's not really clear what.

Also, is there a reason why you're hiding behind the "anonymous" identity?

1/31/2006 5:37 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Hey anonymous - get over yourself.

I think you would look wicked with an Afro. Black power!

the whitest girl in the room

1/31/2006 5:48 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

Sigh. Can't we all just get along?

1/31/2006 6:03 AM  
Blogger V said...

I gotta say, I read this yesterday, and I just don't even know what to say.
I think the bottom line though, all racial things aside, is that our culture is pretty damn empty and that its naturally gonna make us crave ~something~ else, something richer with rituals and traditions that make us who we are. Maybe we perceive other's rituals and heritages correctly or incorrectly, but from the outside they look full of life.
It gets tiring to recreate everything without any strong (but yes sometimes freedom squelching) background to root it in. Sometimes you just want to be able to embrace something that is so clearly who you are that it feels...perfect. There's not a lot of that in the way of US culture. Return to and embrace what....McD's?

1/31/2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Anonymous, I can't for the life of me see what's wrong with admiring other cultures and thinking their peoples are beautiful.

1/31/2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger V said...

Ok....I came up with ~something~ to say. Lol...shut her up!

1/31/2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I have muddled through the hair care needs of my Black child. You get though it. I suppose I would figure out how to care for a son's penis - if I had a son.

First. White and Black people need to get their collective thumbs out of their asses when it comes to talking about race. As Paul Mooney said on the Chappelle Show "Everybody wants to be a nigger, but nobody wants to be a Nigger"

His point, Non white people tend to have flava. Style. Everybody wants it, but nobody wants the hassles that come with the black skin. And Yep. There are hassles. Lots of them.

My husband and I can not afford to get all Black and White on each other. You can't have a marriage that way. But I do have to teach my daughter that some white people are real fucked up and some black people are too.

May I suggest some books? "Lies my Teacher told me" is an excellent start about History in the US and how it has been whitened. There are also some VERY good explorations about White Priviledge in our society - which I am happy to suggest.

And any baby who is well loved and wanted is at home in any family. Race isn't the issue.

1/31/2006 6:55 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

(sorry... just woke and up and missed the fun)

Thanks for weighing in, all of you.

Anon, you must think I'm some cracker in a field of cows wanting an exotic baby to wave around like a trendy handbag. No, that's not me. I love the idea of having a baby of color because of the beauty of their skin. The reality of having a child of color is very different and I will not discount the work families have in front of them that do choose to raise children of mixed race or entirely different races. Don't think I'm ignorant when you don't know me.

I appreciate the response, Dawn. As I was writing the original post I wondered if it would come off as racially insensitive, and apparently I have, to some extent. Can a white person ever be sensitive enough while talking about non-whites? I can't empathize the struggle of being a racially minority, but I do acknowledge that it is a struggle. In the end, isn't that all I can say.

However, after all that, I stick by my original statement. I admire people of other races for their cultural heritage and the beauty of skin.

1/31/2006 7:17 AM  
Anonymous M'B said...


I wanted to weigh in on this, because I like to check in on your blog (Janet hipped me to it) and I generally appreciate what you have to say.

As an African-American woman, I was rendered speechless by this post. Utterly speechless. And I had to get some clarity on it because I did not want to get dismissed by your blogfriends simply because this is not a feel good entry.

First, let me say, you have a rich cultural heritage. White people do not admit this, perhaps because rich and cultural in this country is associated with brown folk. Or perhaps because brown people who came to this country, or were enslaved, HAD to create their own culture in the face of what America had to offer (i.e. hip-hop, jazz, etc.) But you DO have a rich heritage, one that may very well have some sort of oppression in its history.

What annoys black folk like me, is when educated white people make the "I don't have culture" statement. Because, while you may think you are complimenting us, you are reinforcing a cultural dominance that white folk possess. When you are saying "I wish I had brown skin and an afro. Oh well..." you are accepting the flawed notion that these traits are not mainstream, they are not the usual. But in America, this IS THE USUAL. America represents all kinds of people, but many Americans refuse to accept that the All-American may very well have brown skin and an afro to boot. By subscribing to the "Brown is Exotic" notion, one has to believe that their own looks are the norm (hence the political fallout over the term "Oriental"- what's occidental and oriental depends on where you are standing.)

When you speak of a concubine grandmother- are you saying there is not enough pain in your history? Do you really want a great-great-great uncle who got his left leg chopped off because he tried to run away from massa? How would that give you more depth? Could you not achieve the wholeness you seek by learning, in depth, about other cultures and bringing this knowledge to your surroundings?

Your post is a challenge because, unfortunately, it takes the tone of "aw, a little brownie- can I have one, Ma?" And I have to say that is not an admiration that incorporates appreciation of the culture, the struggle (which continues and at any time you can commit to ending it- see Dawn's book recommendations), the history, the beauty of people of color. What you have sounds like a good old-fashioned fetish. You can have a baby of color a la Angelina Jolie. The question the anonymous poster makes is what on God's green earth would you do with it?

You are more than one-dimension, Mignon, I am learning this about you from your blog. And remember, Black History Month is coming up...


1/31/2006 8:28 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Thank you, MB! I knew as I was saying it there was something fundamentally wrong with it, I just didn't have the perspective to figure it out. But let me clarify a couple things...
I don't want a "little brownie" for my very own. I like idea of giving birth to one, hence my note that I wouldn't mind being a surrogate. (In fact, after I wrote that, I thought quite a lot about it. I hated being pregnant, but I really enjoyed giving birth, and I think I really would consider being a surrogate if someone I cared about needed me.) I can't help thinking newborns of color are beautiful. Period. Newborns. I would pop one out and hand them over to a loving mother. Whomever she may be. (BTW- Angelina Jolie treats her children as accessories and props for photo shoots and I think she should be vilified for this rather than lauded as their "saviour.")

When I mentioned a concubine grandmother I was actually thinking "geisha" and mistyped. That's a big fuckin' oops. I apologize for that. No, I don't want to brag about ancestors that were brutally subjugated.

You point out that white people do have rich cultural heritage, and I'll have to take your word on that. This may be oversimplifying, but I feel the same way when people gush about the beauty of Montana. Do you know how boring jagged, snow-covered mountains can be? It reminds me of how Montana locals throw garbage out their car windows and leave beer cans in most pristine settings. They're so used to their gushing rivers and lush forests they treat them like shit. That's me. That's what I'm doing to my culture. I admit it.

But the most important thing pointed out to me was that "By subscribing to the "Brown is Exotic" notion, one has to believe that their own looks are the norm." Unfortunately, that is the norm here. Last week I saw one black man in Barnes and Noble. That was the last time. So maybe I would think differently in Philly or Dallas. You know, I just had a thought... the only non-white race seen regularly in Montana is American Indians, and I don't feel like they're exotic, or enviable for that matter. They're just normal. I guess my insensitivity is a product of my environment, and I apologize for that. I don't want to be the ignorant redneck. I have to remember how important it is for me to expose my children to more than rodeos and football games.

Well now, there's too much more to say/explain/ask, and apparently my children are hungry, and what's that smell?...

1/31/2006 9:35 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I think I understand what you're talking about, Mignon. I mean, I get what you were trying to say.

White's been held up as the gold standard for so long that it seems to have lost its uniqueness. Furthermore, people in this country have gotten by for years with claiming that to have a pedigree, one's people had to have landed here in the 1700's and they haven't been anywhere since then. Sorta wears out the old gene pool, doesn't it?

It's like knowing that "blonde" has always been held up as the paragon of beauty, but to me, it's just really, really boring. Maybe that's what you were saying about being white.

M'B's right, of course. You do have culture. But I don't think you have to apologize for admiring what you do about people who descended from other cultures. It's always more interesting to be from someplace else...even if the circumstances for bringing them here are shameful.

But 200-year old pain doesn't make one set of people more interesting than the story that brought you to this country. Hopefully, that's what M'B was trying to say when she chided you for saying what you did.

The thing is...most American blacks today ARE from here...just like you. Their culture isn't any less Westernized by generations of being in America than yours is. Or mine. Marginalized...yes...but no less Westernized. I mean, hell, my father's parents are/were European...I'm just an American. So are you. So is M'B. I'm not German-American. Just American.

Anything else just divides us. As it is, it's not such a hot thing to be from her right now anyway...white, black or otherwise. I thought you were trying to express something inside of you. I didn't think you want an afro anything else. It's not afro envy, for Christ's sake. It's just longing for something different. I got what you were trying to say.

1/31/2006 3:38 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...


It's pretty damned easy to attack from behind the "anonymous" label. There's a lot of stuff running through my mind right now, but I'm not gonna say it. Suffice it to say that it's a low blow to spew your crapulous assumptions about someone you don't know. Take your bitter "assvice" and shove it. Or come out from behind the cowardly mask and engage in a real conversation. Bitter doesn't give you the right to be a bitch.

1/31/2006 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...


I admit I read this yesterday -- before no one had commented -- and I didn't want to be first. Did not mean to be cowardly, I just wanted to think about my words before writing and maybe see what some other people had to say.

I grew up in a very culturally homogenous community, with only a handful of non-white and/or non-American born families. There was ONE black family in our town -- and everyone wanted to be friends with one of the two black kids. To me, even then in my naivete, that seemed false -- like people did want a token friendship to flaunt. My town was not outwardly racist, that I was aware of, just isolated.

In college and beyond I have been exposed to so many more cultures, races, and religions than I was as a young girl. I am always fascinated by how people's environments -- family life and upbringing, genetics, etc. -- influence who they become as people. And that's what I read into what you are trying to say (maybe I am wrong): that you'd like a better understanding of the richness of experience and history behind different cultures. One way to do that would be to experience the different cultures firsthand, by being married to/involved with someone whose background was (excuse the term) less "white bread" than your own. Is this a somewhat correct interpretation?

However, I must respectfully disagree with your insinuation that the European immigrants have an uninteresting history. I am the granddaughter of 1st generation Swiss-German immigrants, and they had amazing stories. Plus there's a twist in my family history: out of nowhere I inherited a genetic disorder that's prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. And no known Judaism in my family history. Except we don't know the background of my great-great grandmother who was found under a tree and adopted... So you see, it's interesting, just DIFFERENT interesting.

I do agree with other commenters that it would have been nice for Anonymous to identify his or herself. If you're imparting a message you increase credibility by making your identity known.

1/31/2006 5:22 PM  
Anonymous 1 of 2 Dads in Dresden said...

First - I have found this post, and the comments to be really engaging and educational. Thanks for starting this off, and thanks for the comments as well.

Second - some personal observations about our dear weblog hostess, if I may...

Mignon and I had some long discussions together back when she was thinking about having her first child, and when my partner (now husband) and I were thinking about adoption. It was great to share our thoughts about enriching our families with children.

I really respected her for telling me that she had some concerns about two men caring for a baby - and a possible shortfall of motherly nurturing, bonding, ... Many people would have said "how nice", without mentioning their concerns (or alternatively, "how can you do that to an innocent child, you twisted sodomites will both burn in hell for all eternity, ...and so on").

This friendly, open engagement allowed us both to do a lot of thinking, and over the longer term a lot of learning about love, families, and parenting.

If you want someone to blog along with who will always be saying "how nice" instead of telling you what she really thinks - IMHO - you would be better satisfied elsewhere.

I love it when people are open about their views. This is often challenging, but ultimately much more interesting and valuable than "how nice...".

And last - different is interesting, or at least curious - almost by definition. Being different from most others is also interesting - but quite often in painful ways. I can certainly understand longing for something more different / interesting, as well as comments along the lines of "yeah, being different sure is interesting, and it often hurts like hell."

2/01/2006 12:08 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Thank you for the endorsement Mark. That means a lot to me. I miss you!

2/01/2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

A couple thoughts for you, Mignon: First, have you ever done any genealogical research into your own roots? If you still have living grandparents, get all the info you can (names, dates, relationships, locations), and ask for interesting stories. Looking up things like census records, birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses for your ancestors can yield some interesting stuff. I found out how often people lie to government representatives! One guy was born in Ireland, claimed to be born in NY. A 33-year-old man marrying a 19-year-old woman, claimed to be 29 on the license to look less pervy! One of my ancestors died in his late 30s of pneumonia, in the days before antibiotics; he ran a livery stable (horse and carriage). An Irish ancestor, tired of her drunk husband drinking up his paychecks, made the family move to the US. These things aren't "exotic," but it's cool to flesh out your own background with the stories that are there. Why did your ancestors come to this country? What did they do in Europe?

Second, there are a zillion kids' books that will help teach your kids about other cultures. When they're older, maybe the family can vacation in more "exotic" places--San Francisco's Chinatown and Haight Ashbury, BBQ and the blues in Kansas City or Memphis, Mexican art at the art museum in San Antonio, anything in NYC...

Diversity is one important reason I live in Chicago--my family contains more than one race, so we feel it's important to live where our son can interact with a variety of ethnic groups and not feel "different." My husband grew up in a predominantly white area and did feel "different" at times, and it's a shame for any American to feel that way because of their skin tone or background. (It's totally appropriate to feel "different" because you're a dork, of course. Been there, done that!)

God, I'm a sanctimonious prig. Should I do some poop blogging now to atone?

2/01/2006 3:50 PM  

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