Unbelonging by Gayatri Sethi launched yesterday. It is a brave, daring affirmation of complex identity in a world that has yet to let go of static, out-dated perspectives on who deserves to “belong”.
Important among these are the insights it provides for those of us raising multi-racial children, particularly those of us raising multi-racial Black children in 2021 america.
Ponder the implications of the 2020 US Census that was released last week. Behind headlines such as “Behind the Surprising Jump in Multiracial Americans, Several Theories” (New York Times). Surprise (that’s all you got?) — and after a double take you get the sense that they’re trotting out the old “post racial america” congratulatory theme again. Stop the bakwaas.
But the challenge of raising children who accept and treasure their many identities — much less children of Black identity who have to navigate a nation that still very much embodies anti-Blackness — is not addressed at all in any of these analyses. That reality is very much silenced, and then so we are back to the old themes of silencing and erasing these most precious gems of our future.
In reflections such as “Together Family”, the real world is confronted
The beauty of Unbelonging is that it provides a resource and active starting point to many youth and parents who are trying to navigate these challenges — through verse, prompts for reflection and action, affirmations, extensive readings for followup, and much needed prayers.
The meticulous, specific nature of the love needed to create the world of acceptance is immense. The gift of this book is putting it all into the song and rhythm of daily practices, as evident in this excerpt written to our daughter:
“Her diasporic desi mother raised her to love her Black self
completely. In a racist world intent on her erasure, she was
taught to love & claim herself as Black first & foremost. She has
been taught that she is everything & she is who she decides
she is. Let us also be clear that her Black kin have embraced
her in ways desi misogynoir never can. Could we own up to
how desi folks harm biracial Black kin? We cannot demand any
performance of singular identity or affiliation from them.
Identity policing is violent. Biracial and multiracial
Erasure is a form of racism.
Stop this bakwaas.”Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging
It is a book that embraces the challenge of creating this future with full fledged joy, love, truth, and bravery.