Sunday Scribblings: Skin

I'm here at the Dodge Poetry Festival but I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation about skin. (Scroll down for pictures and posts from the festival.)

Being comfortable in my skin took years of practice. My perspective has always been a minority one. When I walk into a room, usually I am the only one of color. I see it in grocery stores, at the office, in my neighborhood. So to a certain extent, I've always felt comfortable with who I am because this is how it is. It also means that I have the opportunity to be the first person of color going through the door, making things happen, changing perspectives--now that's an opportunity I can't pass up.

As I sit here typing a few miles away from Dodge, I am reminded of something that one of the panelist said at a session on race and poetry. This particular panelist was (is) African American; he said (I'm paraphrasing) that as African Americans, we know more about white culture than they know about us. We've spent our whole lives adapting, changing, working to be accepted--but it hasn't been a reciprocal relationship. Poetry (and spaces like Sunday Scribblings) gives us a common ground to have open discussions, and can be a way into the lives and histories of others. From there, we can start to understand what it's like to be in someone else's skin.

So when I think of skin, I think of color, but I also think of the possibilities for change. Being able to talk about what it's like to be me through poetry allows me to start a dialogue with you, a virtual stranger. Again, it's the opportunity to walk through a new door that I can't pass up.


kj said…
hello. i really like your perspective. you obviously approach differences and challenges as an opportuntity to teach and learn.

i am now going to read about the dodge festival and drool.
Bug said…
Great perspective. I love how you make something positive out of what could be a negative experience of being the only person of color in a room.
Laini said…
I think the poet was really right who you are referencing. There isn't a lot of emphasis in white American culture in learning about or appreciating ANY other culture. I think schools try now more than they did when I was a kid, but beyond school, what is there? Television and movies, which are pretty segregated by cast/genre/anticipated audience. And also, hardly authentic. I feel like I know so little ABOUT African American culture beyond certain writers, and most of those are writers of a bygone culture. Good post.
paris parfait said…
Lucky girl! I´m sure you´re having a wonderful experience at Dodge. Your point about what the writer said about African Americans knowing more about the white culture than vice versa is an excellent one. You´ve experienced challenges we can only imagine. And I like your statement about now thinking of colour in terms of possibilites for change. Great post! Am looking forward to hearing more about your experiences at Dodge.
Kristine said…
I love this remark,"It also means that I have the opportunity to be the first person of color going through the door, making things happen, changing perspectives--now that's an opportunity I can't pass up."
I too am often the minority in the group - the sole black person... I feel similarly.
Kamsin said…
You have such a positive attitude, turning what could be a negative into an opportunity. But it is so true that through writing and reading others we can learn about what it's like to be in another's skin and appreciate our similarites and the value in our diversity.
wendy said…
Very nice January. I think one of the best things about life is appreciating differences, and looking for common ground.
January said…
Sorry for the group response. Will comment on your blogs as soon as I shake off my Dodge Hangover.

KJ--think about attending Dodge in 2008

Bug--thanks my dear! The alternative to optimism is despair, which is not an option.

Kamsim--I'm not sure if it's true or not, but that's what I believe. It's a place to start. Think of all of the literature that you have read that moved you. Did any of it change you, if only for a moment?

Kristine--I think my view is decidedly different from how my parents viewed things. Opening up a dialogue about topics like skin color and race is an opportunity to change someone's mind to the positive, which I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.

Wendy--I agree. The differences between each of us are what makes life interesting. I feel badly for those who just don't get it.
January said…
Laini--thanks for such a great prompt. As a culture have a long way to go. Many women in the Poetry and Women discussion noted that reading the works of African Americans and other ethnicities helped them gain a better understanding of other lives. Too bad more people don't read. But the fact that we have this great online community of readers and writers willing to see different perspectives gives me hope.

You do realize you are making a difference with Sunday Scribblings, right?

Tara--thanks for the kind words. Coming to your blog and hearing your perspective from abroad has helped me understand the global community better. For that, I AM a lucky girl!

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