Who am I?

Who am I?

Middlebury Magazine
Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont
Winter 2010

Kevin Charles Redmon, [class of 20]10

As Janet Mondlane Rodrigues [class of 20]12 grapples with her own complex racial identity, she implores others to take a look in the mirror, as well, and ask themselves this loaded question.

Early in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, before clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s more polemical sermons looped endlessly on cable television and Obama was forced to publicly denounce his pastor, the neologism “postracial” was on a lot of lips. A hopeful word with an elusive definition, it seemed to have as much to do with Obama’s fair skin and poise as it did with any message he espoused. Indeed, postracial was more about what the junior senator didn’t say than what he did—here was a man of color who appeared to transcend his mother’s whiteness and father’s African heritage, an editor of the Harvard Law Review who could acknowledge the tribulations of being a black man in America without letting it consume him. In short, a man who had moved beyond race. The implication being, so should we.

Janet Mondlane Rodrigues ’12 hasn’t moved beyond race, and she’s determined not to let others move beyond it, either. Mozambican born and Brooklyn raised, she shoulders a complicated identity: Her maternal grandfather was a black African revolutionary, her maternal grandmother a tenacious, white Indiana girl. Her mother is a multiracial world musician; her father is white Portuguese. From this vantage point, Rodrigues sees an America and a campus still struggling to address racism and privilege. To her, talk of a post-racial era is a way of silencing an argument mid-sentence…

…In high school, Rodrigues was already probing what it meant to have a multiracial identity, particularly in a borough so heavily segregated. With her Latina friends, “I was known as the white girl, because of how I spoke.” Others mistook her for Dominican or Puerto Rican. “By the black community, I was seen as privileged because I didn’t have the hair; I didn’t have the totally dark skin; I could pretend like I didn’t have this black identity. But among whites, I didn’t have the privileges they had; I didn’t go to private school.” Indeed, race was as much about the deep chasms between socioeconomic classes as it was about skin color…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,