Monday, November 5, 2012

The Idealized

I was drawn to the concept of multicultural love almost instantly, being the child of a native Peruvian immigrant and a white American and of course I found it an interesting topic to consider, especially in light of my own circumstances (although my family lived predominantly in the States, we undertook yearly trips to Peru that lasted about three months (during the summers, always)). But I was a bit confused by the development of the argument - it seemed to focus much on actors and much on victims, but only tangentially on those people (mixed-race persons) appropriated as symbols.

By recognizing that the nation is prone to fetishizing the multicultural person as an object of love, an affect it might pride itself in, Ahmed seems to ignore the actual subject that is fetishized; by discussing the white nation, and the ethnic minorities that do not meet the fantastic ideal of the mixed-race person, those same persons seem slightly ignored.

If what Ahmed says is true - if the nation has "confirmed" its "whiteness" in the ways it "incorporates and is 'coloured' or 'bronzed' by others" (137) - then what position do those mixed-race individuals inhabit? This is, of course, not a question that Ahmed is required to answer (given that her work primarily discusses politics and nations), but it is an important one to ask nevertheless. Idealization is bad, yes, and forces those who do not meet idealized "goals" to be positioned as inferior.

But those Genevieves must, of course, exist - and they cannot, of course, be considered lifeless objects appropriated by the nation for its own benefit (even if the images of their bodies, at least, are). As a mixed-race person, I was nevertheless raised as "an American" (we shall avoid the pithy argument that all people of the Americas are "American" and accept that the other options available to me were "Peruvian" and "Peruvian-American"). I was taught, even as the symbol of a multicultural, "hybrid white" nation, to love that nation. And yet, while I cannot speak for others, I find it interesting to note that (at least in my experience) even mixed-race people are sometimes seen as falling short of the ideal - can still be the target of scorn, ridicule, hate and racism even while being appropriated as a national symbol in broader dialogue.

Obviously it is not surprising to say that the project of multiculturalism, insofar as it is achieved through "multicultural love", is not exactly a rousing success. But the results of that multicultural love, the mixed-race offspring who are later appropriated as symbols are not just symbols, of course. They are people who experience the same narratives and pressures, but are positioned in a radically different place than either of their parents. Although I hold no claim to know what the "common experience" there might be, I still believe that an experience, at least, should be discussed, even tangentially.

No comments: