Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Modern Creole in the South

A Modern Creole in the South

The original All-American Mutt, Creole’s are an interesting sort that have an interesting place in this country. Traditionally found in New Orleans, LA, Creoles have branched out across the States as inter-racial/ethnic relationships have flourished. Given the rise in popularity of mixed breeding, Creoles and other similar human mutts should have their own niche formed in the fabric of our societies. Unfortunately, this niche is not always accepted by more traditional societies and persons.

Is a person less of a person if their skin color is different?

Racism has been an issue in this country for centuries and world-wide since the beginning of our existence. The mentality that one person is better than another based on skin color is abhorrent in most of this country’s more open-minded societies. However, there are still areas that follow the old ways of ignorance and closed-mindedness. While these segregated societies are hopefully on a decline, their impact upon the local culture is longstanding. Once set in a way, people are hard-pressed to change their minds on something they believe is the truth. To be fair, those of the open-minded persuasion have no more place to judge a closed-minded person as the vice versa. However, there comes a time in which one would wonder if a closed-minded person could ever open up enough to see a person beyond their skin color.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

When we stop our observation of a person at just the superficial surface, we do that person and ourselves an injustice. We do not consider all points of the person, from the core to the subsurface to the higher functions. By halting the observation process, we are labeling and stereotyping that person without really knowing anything about them except what physical traits they have inherited. Honestly, there is always that chance of the person following those stereotypes to heart but there is also that chance of the person being the complete opposite of the stereotype they’ve been labeled. When Creoles and similar mutts are observed, we are often labeled Hispanic or African-American because of the different features we possess. This is certainly not fair to we mutts who really belong in no lumped category. Our cover is camouflage; we can blend and mix with any crowd. Sometimes a Creole is darker skinned, sometimes lighter skinned called ‘passé blanc’ or passable as white. Personalities and interests range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Therefore, we do not fit within any stereotype, making it disrespectful and obtuse of the stereotyper. Take the time to open the pages of a mutt’s book and you just may find a pure, kind-hearted kindred soul.

Sweet Home Alabama

From my personal experience, Alabamians are a mixed sort of folk. More often those that live in the cities and attend the universities and have daily interaction with folks of every sort are much more open-minded about color differences. Most often, the closed-minded folk are the small-towners, those with little interaction with the freethinking folk of the city. This spread of thinkers is quite natural and, for example, affects not only open- and closed-mindedness but also dialects and cultures and religions. Having lived in and attended a university in a small city for four and a half years, I was able to experience both sides of the minded spectrum, and even a few in between. I was able to also spend much time in a small town of northeastern Alabama, where I learned first-hand that stereotypes are just ignorant categories. By the by, the folk of Alabama, from either persuasion, are the friendliest and most kind-hearted people I’ve met in my travels and living. Even those who were hesitant to meet me due to my skin color were pleasantly surprised when they actually talked with me and learned that I certainly don’t fall into the stereotype they’d thought. This mind opening experience needs to happen more often to show people that there’s nothing to fear in holding back a stereotype in favor of getting to know the person in question.

My story is an open book.

Being Creole, I’ve had to struggle all of my life to find the people that I fit in with the best. Early school years were the worst of my struggle while attending a predominantly African-American public elementary and middle school. I quickly learned that I didn’t fit in with that crowd. It wasn’t until I attended an all-girl Catholic high school that I finally found my fellow soul-mates. We were a mixed crowd of crazy teens, pale, yellow, red, brown and more. We fit together, we grew together, we laughed together and we graduated together. As I entered college, I was able to find new friends along the same personalities whose hometowns ranged from backwoods to big city Alabama. We were inseparable then and many of us are now. We each brought in pieces of ourselves that stuck with each of us, from 80’s hair bands to hand-drawn tattoos to Nintendo to comic books. I’ve been included in different cultures, heritages, families, communities and relationships. Even the times when I’ve been excluded or prejudiced against have enriched my life and, most importantly, have made me into the person I am.

I offer what I’ve learned to help teach those around me.

Through thick and thin, I’ve taken all of my life experiences and made them a part of myself. The journey was often so tough and heart wrenching that I was tempted to just turn around and quit. But I never did, I never could, and I never will. This is my advice for the downtrodden and prejudiced. Stand tall; it hurts inside and you’ll shed many a tear, but take heart because you are you and no one can change that. With perseverance you can overcome any hurdle put before you and add it to who you are inside. Also remember, when presented in a situation where you’re unsure of how you’ll be accepted, respect and kindness go a long way and can make a difference. For the closed-minded, I offer you only a book and ask that you take the time to learn the inside before judging the outside. A person is more than just a skin color and you may just like what you find underneath.