"The Ideal Breed"

by Curt Darius Williams

 

 

     
 

"We white people are a dying breed."

I couldn't believe she said this to me, this woman standing next to me in the grocery check-out line --- this woman with the privilege of autumn leaf hair, a thin nose, thin lips, and high cheek bones, all layered beneath apple-flesh skin. To me, a quiet brown man. This white woman, my friend. I give her a confused look and she points to the cover of a fashion magazine. "See," she says.

On the cover is the nude torso of a young woman. She is standing in the middle of the desert pueblo land, somewhere in the American Southwest. Her shoulderblade-length hair is a rainbow of browns. Her eyes dark, lips full, cheek bones high. All layered beneath hazelnut skin. The caption reads, "The New American Ideal."

"See what I mean," my friend continues. "The American Beauty isn't blonde, blue-eyed and white, anymore. She's brown." I pick up the magazine and look closely at the cover. In the upper left hand corner, floating above a cloud, is a small computer chip. I turn to the contents page and read the cover's explanation.

She's a fake. She's the child of electronic sperm and a micro silicon chipped egg. Better than a test tube baby, she's the product of solid state technology. She's the composite of what the editors of this magazine believe to be the characteristics of the new American beauty. She is a multiracial woman, born from a computer. She is the child my friend and I could have.

I look around this Boulder, Colorado grocery store. This could be almost any town, in many countries. I am the only brown-skinned person as far as the eye can see. But there are many similar copies of my friend, the dying breed. I look towards the entrance, and three couples are walking in. One is a Latino-looking man, long black hair pulled into a pony tail, holding hands with a long-haired blonde woman. Another is a pony-tailed blond man with an Asian American woman. The last is a brown-haired, average-looking European American man with a woman with jet black hair and molasses colored skin.

The dying breed.

 

 

When we make love, there is a fear of being eaten, of being swallowed whole. There is a fear of darker-skinned people swallowing up the lighter ones. That our genes are dominant. Like the Public Enemy rap, there is a fear of our planet turning black: white man, white woman, white baby; black man, black woman, black baby; white man, black woman, black baby; black man, white woman, black baby. My friend is infected with this fear. But instead of running from it, she runs into it. "The revolution is coming," she says, "and I'm glad I'll be on the winning side."

She is still entranced by the model. "She's so beautiful, so exotic," she says. "I wish I was like that." I stare at her again, in disbelief. But, I understand her. She wants to be herself, but be like me, "interracial." She experiences this through our relationship. The child we could have would fulfill her wish.

She has nothing to fear.

The computer-generated model on the cover of the magazine is a sign of absorption, not destruction. The "white race" has nothing to fear. They are not being eaten. They are eating. We four couples in the grocery store lay out the meal. All of us are in "interracial" relationships, but they are all the same, "white" with "brown," the common form of mixing out.

But I do not know these other couples; I am placing them based upon their skin. The terms "white" and "brown" define fluid boundaries, which many of us cross. There are light-skinned Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, as well as dark Europeans. An "interracial" person is exotic and desirable, but a threat if you can't categorize them. So, we are coerced to choose sides.

 

 

Any of the "white"-looking people could be "brown," and not mixing out. They may not be aware of the privileges of their skin, and of how, like my friend, they seem to be running back to "the winning side." How like me, their molasses-, honey- and hazelnut-skinned mates seem to choose to ignore that we are in vogue, and are shocked when our skin becomes an issue between us. Of how our children will look something like the fashion magazine's computer model, how she encourages us. How our unborn will be absorbed into the "New American Ideal," and made into white people of color.

There is nothing to fear. If the model were real, she would probably follow the current trends: talk about her ethnic pride, "date out," have a lighter- skinned mate, and say ethnicity isn't an issue between them, though it is, as with Mariah Carey, Amy Tan, Michael Jackson, Linda Ronstadt, Alice Walker, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Federico Peña, Clarence Thomas, Lance Ito, O.J. Simpson, Iman, me.

The dying breed. You are what you eat works both ways.

 
     

 

 

 

"The Ideal Breed" © 1996 by Curt Darius Williams
 
     
 

Original Graphics © 1996 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
and Canéla Analucinda Jaramillo
 

 

 

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