Upholding interracial marriage as proof that we have overcome racism reinforces the idea that racism is primarily about individual acts of prejudice, rather than about systemic (and collective) vulnerability to state violence.
BY LISA HOFMANN-KURODAThis year is the 50th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, the famous Supreme Court case that officially overturned state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Predictably, this has been accompanied by a flurry of events, films, articles, and even songs celebrating this moment as a milestone in the history of America’s journey toward racial equality. At a mixed race conference I recently attended, larger-than-life photographs of Richard and Mildred Loving, the white man and black woman whose relationship inspired the court case in 1965, adorned the walls. There and elsewhere, the Lovings were portrayed as “heroes” whose love valiantly overcame the racism of their time. Just today, the New York Times proclaimed that interracial love was “saving America.” Statistics show that interracial marriages in the U.S. are on the rise, and this undoubtedly reflects a shift in attitudes toward race in the American population overall. However, there are several reasons why using interracial marriage as proof of racial progress in our society is not only misleading, but harmful. First, state recognition of partnership often functions as a superficial symbol of progress, obscuring deeper issues of violence and inequality for the most marginalized members of a community. For example, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, many heralded this as proof that queer people had finally been accepted into mainstream society.
I’ve had my ethnicities erased, fetishized or insulted and my bisexuality has been erased, fetishized or insulted. Different parts of who I am are attacked with similar tactics.When bisexuality isn’t being mischaracterized as being indecisive or greedy, it is being erased by cisgender, heterosexual folks which is partially why bisexual women face some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. As someone who has written thousands of words about sexual assault and been vocal about being the victim of rape, I am not going to describe my pain or how I was raped – I am not here for a voyeuristic lens focused on violence inflicted upon my body – I am here because I want to discuss being bisexual and multiracial and how those two parts of my identity are pushed against in similar ways.
Related: STOP WEAPONZING BIRACIAL CHILDREN
Reclaiming and retelling our stories is the first step toward decolonization--this shouldn’t be forgotten even and especially when we are speaking about fiction.
By Lisa Hofmann-KurodaRecent discussions around cultural appropriation have, for the most part, centered on tangible cultural products: clothing, food, hair, dance, music, language, and visual art are among the most commonly discussed items on the agenda when it comes to cultural appropriation and the way in which it actively harms marginalized communities. However, many people seem to have a harder time drawing the line when it comes to a less tangible form of cultural production: fiction writing. Recently the Guardian ran an article called "Whose Life is it Anyway," which featured a variety of perspectives from creative writers on the topic of cultural appropriation in the realm of fiction. The overwhelming consensus in this article is that there should be no limitations on the imagination when it comes to writing fiction. Fiction writers, the article argues, should be able to write novels and stories from anyone's perspective, regardless of whether the identity of the character whose perspective they are writing from matches their own racial or gender identity, let alone class or ability. This is because, according to the article, one of the main purposes of fiction is to cultivate a sense of empathy for others by imaginatively inhabiting their perspectives--especially those of others whose experiences and identities differ from our own. To insist that we only write fiction from our own perspectives would be to hinder the freedom of expression. And yet, just as in life, not all voices and perspectives are interchangeable, even in the “imaginary” realm of fiction. The imagination is not a disembodied entity separate from the realm of experience–it is continuous with and grows out of it. That is, our imaginations are always conditioned by the kinds of identities and experiences we ourselves have lived. It matters who tells whose story. Good fiction doesn’t depend on distancing ourselves from our our own perspectives and experiences, but on examining them more closely (the dictum “write what you know” applies here). The cultivation of empathy doesn’t depend on imaginatively inhabiting other people’s perspectives, but on listening to their perspectives and stories in the first place.
My fear is that by televising the Pride Parade, mainstream queer culture will continue to center itself on normalizing the queer experience for heterosexual people, who ultimately act as voyeurs to the queer experience. June is Pride Month — for many,