Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lisa Lerner: Sweet Child O' Mine*

There's an unsettling essay by Lisa Lerner on Alternet about her dismay on realizing that the little girl she'd adopted from India was darker than “even Blacks and Indians” whom she knew. But really, the only thing offensive about the essay is its outrageous, and misleading, title: A Mother Adopts, and Discovers Her Own Racism.

To me, Lerner’s love for Vaishali, her child, is evident in her detailed scrutiny of her feelings and her courage in airing those politically uncomfortable feelings publicly. I strongly believe that she is/was upset for her child, her child’s prospects and acceptance in the world, rather than upset about the child herself. That is, her involvement with racism is not that she is invested in it but rather that she is aware of it, fears it, and is afraid of the implications of racism for her child.

Nevertheless, it’s more than a little odd for a child--infant really--to have to jump through the hoops of racial aspect--fullness of lips, straightness of hair, etc. Children are typically above and beyond the boundaries of race; they fly under the race radar. That's how they're frequently able to insinuate social reform in a Trojan horse kinda way--I’m thinking here both of strategic movements such as the school integration of the 1960s, as well as the fortuitous ways in which class and race are backgrounded when children socialize at school.

True, Li’l A likes to shoot me a sly, sidelong glance and reproach me for being overly fond of “all baby things;” I must admit also that that my own unhyphenated, doted-on childhood existence makes me experientially ill-equipped to comment on the challenge that childhood is to many. Still, at core, I’m convinced that in those of us unscathed by extreme insanity or crippling scarcity, children awaken impulses of love, good faith, and endeavor.

As for Lerner, perhaps I should lend her my dad for a few days. If I ever heard something about how it was a pity I was so dark-skinned, he always had plenty to say about how the goddesses and gods famed for their beauty--Parvati, Lakshmi, Krishna, Balaji--were dark, how south-Indian temple idols are always carved of black granite, how dark skin makes facial features more beautiful...

Happy Birthday Dad : )!
* McSweeney’s TFF! snark attack on the Axl Rose track lies here.

Finally, Axl, I think we might have had a misunderstanding regarding my previous notes. When I wrote in colored pencil "Where do we go now?" I wasn't offering that as a lyric. I was simply observing that, in narrative terms, the song needed to progress in some way. You love the girl, she's helping you work through some issues, whatever. So where do we go now? But instead of providing a satisfactory conclusion, you simply took my note and repeated it over and over again before ultimately just stating the title of the song. This is unacceptable. Don't ask us, the listeners, where we go. That's up to you as the writer! Tell us where we go now!
Also--and apropos of mostly naught--really, let the record show that i don't find "irony" an interesting substitute for intelligence or beauty or talent anymore.

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