There have been many panels that have been presented at KSU, but this is the first one I ever attended. the topic is not one that would usually incline me to excitement, but it was fairly interesting. While I am certain that many from our class will surely write on the feminist aspects, for which the presentation was focused, I was actually more interested in something that came from a place I did not expect.
A bit toward the end of the discussion, the panel opened up the floor for the students in the audience to ask questions of the panelists. One female student began to tell her story, from an interesting perspective: of someone born from interracial parents. The one thing she said that was interesting to me was that her struggle was in finding out what it means to be “fully black” when you have one parent who is, and one who isn’t. It is an interesting thing to think about on the one hand because I know that my future children will probably ask me similar questions. On the other hand, it is interesting to me, that she chose one side, over the other, when she is both equally.
As a thought experiment though, it truly is fascinating to see what people come up with, when thinking of such a question. Especially when we consider that very few “black” people in America (whose ancestors have been here for generations) are actually 100%, or “fully black” to use the young woman’s words. In actuality, most are a mixture.
This fact hit home to me when I started doing our family ancestry and I found out that I, myself have about 20-30% European ancestry, 60% African ancestry, as well as Cherokee ancestry. Though these results all matched with the oral familial stories we have been told for years, it was interesting to see them put in actual number form. This gave me a bit of a more nuanced view of what it meant to be anything because truly, we are all a mixture of the beautiful intricacies of those who came before us, of those who lived rich and diverse lives, and of those who traversed the world to bring us to where we all are now.
This question of what it means to be “black” falls short, in my estimation, of the real question that should have been asked: what does your heritage tell you about being a human in this diverse and nuanced world, of which we are all apart? At the end of the end of the day, the immutable comes to little meaning. Skin may influence culture and it may place you in a community where you have an obvious aesthetic commonality, but it does not determine intelligence, worldview, where a person will end up in life, or that person’s worth. There is beauty in every living being and to me, there is a subtle beauty in seeing that which is at odds, come into oneness. But as humans do, we tend to focus on one part of ourselves, rather than on the self, as a whole. In seeing ourselves in such a way, we fracture ourselves; disregarding the intricate strands that makes us who we are. Who we are is not found on the outside, but just a bit deeper beneath the surface.
This panel was quite interesting to me because I do enjoy seeing the perspectives of other people. Though the panelists had different experiences and worldviews than my own, I think there is something to be said for allowing those perspectives to flourish, so we can learn from one another and broaden our own views. This is what allows us to become more effective rhetoricians, as we step onto our respective rhetorical stages in life.