Sunday, October 31, 2010

I was surprised the other day, when I was reading "Disintegrated," by Eugene Robinson, to see Soledad O'Brien matter-of-factly described as "black." Or maybe he said, "African-American." It was a couple of weeks ago that I read the book, and I've forgotten the exact term he used.

I never thought of Soledad O'Brien as black, more as a brunette. Exotic, maybe. I looked her up on IMDB-- she's the daughter of a Cuban mother and an Irish father. Except that my mom was from Puerto Rico, she's just like me. I thought maybe that Robinson, coming from the Jim Crow South, adheres strictly to the "one-drop rule." Here in California, I thought, we go more on what a person looks like. Ancestry matters less than whether a person looks better in pink or in yellow.

Tonight, Lawrence O'Donnell, on his show, described the Democratic candidate for Attorney General here in California, Kamala Harris, as potentially "the first woman and the first African-American" to hold the office. Now, Lawrence is a white guy (Irish-American, if I may guess, based on his name), who was born in Boston and currently lives in LA, so my guesses about Gene Robinson wouldn't apply to him at all. I couldn't find any information about Ms. Harris's background, but she's the same color I am.

Funny, I've always self-identified as "Latina." Now, in my 50s, the categories seem to be shifting. I'm becoming black.


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