This is our truth, tell us yours
Imagine you grew up on the borders of two linguistically separate countries, adjacent to what was, one hundred years ago, the busiest port in the world.
Imagine that busy port was just across an estuary from an earlier slave port. Factor into your calculations long standing black communities with a keen sense of identity.
Imagine that the land was dotted with the marks of migration and the movements of people over two thousand years. If you wanted to rebut the follies of right wing nationalists who were inclined to talk about racial purity and the sanctity of the blood you’d laugh, and giggle, and feel proud to be a mongrel, and you’d tell them so.
That pride in being a mongrel wouldn’t make you Black, or Chinese, or English or Welsh. Your identity would be a mix of who you believed you were, and how you were perceived by those around you.
My father had a fondness I share for trash novels and would collect all the unsold books from jumble sales. Among the trashy novels he would dispose of by the bag load without even reading were the Mandingo novels by Kyle Onstott, anti-masterpieces of racism. Onstott and his co-authors were obsessed with the idea of degrees of blackness, and had a whole lexicon of words for those where were a quarter black, or an eighth, or a sixteenth.
None of the racists I encountered in real life gave a shit about degrees of blackness. You were either black or white, and life was either dangerous or safe depending on how the racists perceived you. My mongrel blood, real or imagined, was invisible.
No matter how hard I try I cannot experience being black, or being a woman, or being trans. My mongrel blood maybe a fun way of teasing imbecilic nationalists, but it’s a conceit, and nothing like the experiences of discrimination that others live, day by day.
I am not a feminist, and I have no great grasp of inter-sectionalism or the underlying theories. If I care about racism, opposing it, and defending the rights of all of us to be seen as individuals, I have to listen to those who have actually lived those experiences.
That really isn’t complicated.