stiamo tranquilli…

La verità su mio padre [EN]

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Per chi ha tempo di leggere, il New Yorker pubblica la storia di David Wright Faladé, la complicata vita di chi crebbe nel Texas degli anni ’70, figlio di una donna bianca e di un uomo nero.

Mom was tough, much larger than her five-foot-one-inch frame. Still, she felt that I needed a Black male presence in my life. She met my stepdad, Ed Wheeler, who had escaped Jim Crow South Carolina by joining the Army, which deployed him to Vietnam. He was decorated for his service, and, when he returned, we followed him to Yuma, Arizona, then to Lawton, Oklahoma, then, on his retirement from the military, in 1976, to Amarillo, Texas, where he’d taken a job working security at Texas State Technical Institute. We were now a family of five—my younger sister, Chantal, was two years old when we moved to the Panhandle.

In choosing a difficult path for herself, Mom necessarily set us, her children, on one, too. “Biracial” is the term of use today. When I was growing up, we were referred to as “mulatto” or, when the speaker was being considerate, as “mixed race” or “mixed.” To white society, though, either expression meant Black, full stop. Mixed-race people went largely unseen, made nonexistent by the one-drop rule.

[…]

In this world of complicated identities, where navigating my way through potentially hostile environments was becoming second nature, sometimes the animus came from close to home. Though in the eyes of society at large I did not exist as a biracial person, only as Black, Black friends sometimes referred to Myriam and me as “mixeded.” In so doing, they weren’t saying we were not Black. They were, however, making a distinction, one that seemed to confer a certain privilege. The distinction could also lead to conflict, should Myriam or I, however inadvertently, seem to act as though our light skin made us better. I understood that I was an insider-outsider among Blacks, too, despite claiming Blackness as my identity.

The line between keeping on to keep on keeping on and being an Uncle Tom was exceedingly thin. I learned this, too, through the example of my stepdad. I had to join him one Friday at a happy hour at the furniture-and-appliance store of his best friend, Stonie Ferguson. We were the only Black people present, and I, largely invisible in a chair off to the side, was the sole minor. Several local businessmen drank whiskey-and-Cokes or whiskey-and-sodas and told tall tales and laughed. One told a “nigger joke,” never pausing, not seeming to notice that among them was a so-called nigger—two including me, on the periphery. I watched as my stepdad laughed along with the rest of the guests.


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