Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Color Am I?

For years it's bugged me when I’m required to choose the color of my ethnicity. I usually end up checking “White,” but it’s never a happy – or accurate – answer.

Few people have paler, more tan-resistant skin than I. And it's true that I’m descended from European stock – Scottish (my grandmother would have said, “Scotch”), Irish, English, and Danish. Although a cousin, who has done more research than I, says we are direct descendants of the Emperor Hadrian. She’s seen the proof; I haven’t. But my mother may be a throwback with her olive skin and dark, dark eyes. There’s nothing at all Scottish about her appearance! And she always told me, “You must have some Italian in you, since you wouldn’t be able to talk if you couldn’t use your hands.” Ends up, I might, and it’s from her dad’s side of the family!

Still, I'm all European, as far as we know.

I understand the government uses this information for statistical purposes and it’s probably necessary, but I still resent that we continue to ask this question which puts people in categories.

Why, for instance, isn’t there a “Mixed” category? I know lots of people who don’t fall neatly into any group.

What about my friend’s beautiful son and daughter? Their dad would be classified as “White” and their mother as “Asian.” What does that make them?

Or what about another friend who is herself 100% Japanese, and whose husband is mostly Japanese except for the Portuguese trader ancestor several generations back? His last name is Latin, but he's predominantly of Japanese heritage. What category does he fall into? How about his children?

What about the children of other friends whose mother is Vietnamese and whose father is European? And what about those whose ancestors came from South Africa? Does that make them “African” or “Black”?

What about some Americans, like Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, or the president? Why must they classify themselves as “Black,” when they are clearly of mixed racial heritage? Very few Americans with ancestors from Africa have inherited DNA exclusively from that source.

Besides, I have known few “Black” people whose skin could accurately be described as that color. My friends, who have ancestors originally from Africa, range in color from light beige to deep coffee.

While I am pale, my skin is light pinkish beige, not white.

My friend, Pat, actually came up with the perfect solution. Instead of the usual classifications, she suggested we could all use “Blue”. It’s the color of the blood that runs through everyone's veins. That’s a commonality which better defines who we really are.

Despite some very small differences, all human beings share about 99% of our DNA. We are more alike than different. I stopped pigeonholing people, particularly my friends, (if I ever did) a long, long time ago.

People are people, are people. Not black, or white, or brown, or yellow, or any other color we might want to use to separate them.

So the next time I’m asked to choose a label, I just might check “Other” and write in “Blue”. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I Love Facebook

Okay, I admit it. I’m an addict. I got onto Facebook several years ago when a marketing pro said that, as authors, we had to have a visible web presence including a website, Twitter, My Space, Facebook, etc. I’ve since all but abandoned My Space and only occasionally tweet, but I’m very active on Facebook. Why?

1. I’ve reconnected with family members I haven’t seen for many years, including one cousin I’d never met. We’ve formed new bonds, which would have been impossible without this resource. In comparing notes, all of us have learned a great deal about our shared history.
2. I’ve found old friends. I’m now in touch with grammar school and high school pals, most of whom I haven’t seen since graduation. I had lunch with two of them a week ago, and we had the best time! I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
3. It’s a great way of spreading important news. Recently the daughter of our friends died unexpectedly and much too young. She was my friend on Facebook. So as soon as I got the word, I posted the news to her page. What a great forum for sharing our collective shock and grief. Many of her friends and family left notes and remembrances. I was able to publish the time and date of her service, and the turnout was overwhelming. Her folks were able to post their thanks there as well as the information about a memorial fund created for her sons. All of this contact would have been impossible using normal methods.
4. We can share common experiences – positive and negative. When my friends experience a special event, I know about it and can celebrate with them. When there is difficulty, I can experience that as well. Many calls for prayer have been shared as well as births, deaths, and everything in between.
5. I can remain in touch with former coworkers. Most of the companies I’ve worked for no longer exist, but many colleagues from those firms are my friends on Facebook. Several of those organizations were like extended families. We grieved the loss of the companies, but even more, we grieved the loss of those treasured daily relationships. By seeing the posts from each other, we can maintain a sense of connectedness. Sharing recent photos and events makes it seem as though we’ve never been separated.
6. We can share history. A couple of the sites I enjoy are those established for those of us who attended the same high school and grew up in the same town. The shared memories and photos really bring back wonderful memories. Photos and information are posted about friends, neighbors, and classmates who are lost, and we can share our special memories of them.
7. Keeping our fans aware of our current writing projects. We send announcements of the publication of our books to our mailing list, but we are able to let our friends know about our progress on our current work through Facebook. It is a long time between new books, but we can keep interest active by reminding our readers of what they can look forward to in the near future.

Social networks have revolutionized how we interact with each other by providing immediate connection never before possible. I, for one am delighted to have this means of connecting with friends.