Friday, July 08, 2005

Mulatto America

I am reading a very interesting book on the history and dynamics of Black/White relationships over the centuries called, Mulato America. A mulatto is someone mixed with Black blood, even as a Mestizo is someone mixed with Indian blood.

In chapter one the author deals with the history of White slaves that existed alongside African slaves (most as a result of White slave owners taking African women who continued to become more light skinned, but others who were Caucasian, but were sold into slavery).

The author, Stephan Talty contends that one of the factors that finally moved Whites to oppose slavery, was seeing and being repulsed by the sight of White slaves. He also writes about a book written by a White author, who tells the tale of a White slaves life, as if it were a historical autobiography.

Here is an excerpt from this book:
"Instead of his fresh and rosy Color, a livid Paleness overspead his Cheeks--his eyes lost [a] great part of their former Luster, and were continually cast down--his Sprightliness was converted into a kind of dead Sloth--a melancholy which is not to be express'd hung upon his heart...He knew what he ought to be, and to think he never could be what he ought...was a Dagger to his Soul, which gave wounds too severe for anything in the Power of those he was among to heal."

When I read this, it tore my heart apart. Here is this White slave lamenting that although he was White, he would never be allowed to live up to his potential as a White man, being that he was a slave. So many mestizos in our country feel this same regret. Although we know what we ought to be (fully created in the image of God to leave a mark in this world) think many Mestizos will never be what we ought. And, this does feel like a dagger in our souls, with many of us longing to believe that in Christ and in the Church, His redeemed community, we may finally find that healing that has left us wounded.

The strategy that the abolitionists used, says the author, was to try and move Northern Whites into feeling the pain and suffering and condition of Black slaves. Empathy, that would lead to understanding, that would lead to conversion, that would lead to justice. Many paid a great price for working to change the status quo--many lost their own lives. But, once they had seen and felt the despair of their fellow human brother and sister, everything changed.

One of the deepest works of mestizaje is to push us all to enter into one another's pain and suffering. Finally, anything that strips human beings of the hope of becoming who they were created to be, must be opposed with all of our might!


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