December 16th 2008 01:59:38 PM
In a neither-here-nor-there AP article titled “Obama’s true colors: Black, white … or neither?”, someone named Rebecca Walker is quoted on mixed-race. Not immediately recognizing the name, I was intrigued by the ethnic background of this commenter:
Rebecca Walker, a 38-year-old writer with light brown skin who is of Russian, African, Irish, Scottish and Native American descent, said she used to identify herself as “human,” which upset people of all backgrounds. So she went back to multiracial or biracial, “but only because there has yet to be a way of breaking through the need to racially identify and be identified by the culture at large.”
“Of course Obama is black. And he’s not black, too,” Walker said. “He’s white, and he’s not white, too. Obama is whatever people project onto him … he’s a lot of things, and neither of them necessarily exclude [sic] the other.”
What intrigued me was the notion of a black woman who had “Russian” origins. I looked at the name again and realized that this is Rebecca Walker, daughter of The Color Purple author Alice Walker. I mentioned her in a blog post earlier this year in the following context:
Children of mixed marriages seem to consistently choose their black half, invariably blaming “society” for “imposing” that choice on them. Another biracial child who made this choice is daughter of Color Purple author Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, whose father is a Jewish civil rights lawyer named Mel Leventhal (the more hands-on parent while Mom was out being famous). When Rebecca…grew up, she switched to her mother’s last name instead of her father’s, supposedly to preempt his rejection of her, which she always felt, rationally or not, was impending.
Notice that nowhere in the extensive racial/ethnic description of Rebecca Walker’s background cited in the AP aritcle does the word “Jewish” appear. I realized, then, that the “Russian” part is most likely a reference to her Jewish father’s locational origins — that his family hailed from Russia. In other words, “Russian” is being used as a euphemism for “Jewish” by someone who isn’t keen on advertising her Jewish connection. This is a change from her 2002 book titled Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self — though even in that book she comes close to rejecting her Jewish part. By now, amid the rising, post-9/11 anti-Jewish tide that has reached a crescendo, it appears that what Ms. Walker-Leventhal’s shifting self has done is shift as far as possible from her Jewish roots now that it’s even less popular to be Jewish than it was in 2002. Indeed, the missing minority from her five-ethnicity description happens to be the one that is politically unpopular — at a time when Jews are as vulnerable as they were in the 1930s.
Someone should tell Ms. Walker Jr. that any Leventhals from Russia would have gotten there via Austria or Germany, given the German etymology of the last name. So Walker should add German to her African-Aryan identity. No wonder she’s purged the Jew out of herself. So much for the lessons of “The Color Purple.”
I see the Jewish and the black here. Less so the Irish, Scottish and “Russian”:
A family photo including the Jewish do-gooder intent on going where he is not welcome (daughter rejects his Jewish roots; wife becomes a lesbian):