Expatria · Istanbul · Television · Travel · United Nations

she keeps on passing

My little sweet Tommy.
My little sweet Tommy.


so many days have passed since i have been able to write. our internet connection is shaky at best and i am trying my luck to post this.

yesterday, i had my first physical contact with Tommy, the stray cat who adopted us and is now a part of our family. he is the sweetest little thing and certainly one of the more interesting beings i have met as of late. he has a hole in his throat from where the cats tried to kill him, but he never cries and never complains. he only asks for food when he sees i am already getting it ready for him. he is one brave little man and i love him to bits. i have never seen something in so much pain who doesn’t say a word. not a whimper not a cry. i could learn a lot from him and we decided that he would be staying with us permanently. i couldn’t bear to abandon him to the mean streets; i can barely sleep as it is and if we left him i would probably not sleep a good night for the rest of our time here. i would always wonder about him. so he is staying put with us. just call me Mama Sezin.

speaking of staying put, i have not been venturing far from home at all these past days with the food poisoning and steve’s cold. this is fine with me. lots of time to think and take care of my little man, Tommy the recovering pinball wizard. last night, ‘barton fink’ was on tv and it got me thinking about passing. passing in the sense of people who are not a particular race but are able to ‘pass’ for it. john turturro has an italian background, yet feasibly passes for white, jewish, mexican, and a host of other races. he has one of those faces and personas that makes his various characters beleivable. he is one of the few true shapeshifters.

but then i got to thinking about people like jessica alba, a mixed-blood latina, who is being marketed to pass as white. in her recent films she has sported blonde hair and is meant to be passing for white girls. i don’t know about anyone else, but i find that quite insulting. she doesn’t look white in the least. she looks mixed and who do they think they are fooling in presenting her as a white girl? it would be like casting sandra oh as rosa parks or keanau reeves as the Lord Buddha…completely inappropriate and quite openly racist. like shakira’s transformation from colombian dark-haired rocker to blonde pop star. i am not saying that people should be limited in their choices as actors due to race. but rather i am disturbed that because jessica alba’s features leave her in a borderlands outside of white or latina, her hair is dyed blonde and we are to suspend our disbeleif that she is white and not something else that has no easy label. why can’t she be something else and that be okay? in her first film, ‘idle hands’, she had dark hair and looked much more latina, but that was her only role in her natural form. is her fame predicated on her dyed blonde hair like shakira or beyonce? this barbie syndrome is grotesque.

on the opposite side of it, i am exposed these days to quite a few Runaway Travelers, those who have escaped their home country for whatever reason to inhabit a safe-space in a foreign country in which they are surrounded by people from their own culture. two of the americans i have met like to recount their ethnic ancestry all the way to adam, more or less, and like to stress their native american roots. the chick is a redhead and so white she is almost transparent. the guy is a jewish muslim-convert with blond hair and blue eyes. in recounting their ethnic history they seemed to take pride in their native roots, but when i began to talk about the little i know of native american history and culture, or ask them questions about their roots, they looked at me with blank faces. they had no idea! and yet they were claiming indian roots! this has to be one of my most pet of peeves, people who claim an acestry that they know nothing about. do white people do this because they consider their white priveledge to be boring and they need to spice it up with my greatgreatgreatgreatgreat grandparents were from germany, scotland, ireland, lithuania, poland, russia, spain and i also have some indian blood, cherokee? are they ashamed to simply be white so they need to spice it up somehow? has simple whiteness becoming boring to white people?

in my years at the UN working with indigenous peoples, i met many indians who could pass for white but were heavily involved in their traditions, history and culture. i met white people who identified with native american traditions, but they never claimed indian blood even if it had been in their distant past. i also met people with indian heritage who were rediscovering their ancestry. i have respect for all of these people. i do not have respect for people who claim blood heritage when they know nothing of ‘their’ people and abuse their history to impress people or present themselves as more interesting.

this is why my Tommy is the coolest person i have met in ages and i will do what is necessary to keep him around. he is unassuming, humble, grateful for what he is given and only asks in return to be cuddled occasionally. this makes me want to give him all i can and time spent with such a wonderful and brave little man could never be considered a waste.