In my childhood I learned “variety is the spice of life.” Because I was born into a culture in which spicy food is revered, variety, to me, was a good thing. I spent my entire childhood in what was then British Guiana — Guyana since the country’s independence in 1966. On my father’s side, my blood is pure, undiluted African, said to be that of a Ghanaian people. On my mother’s side, there’s a mix of African, Portuguese and East Indian. Blood cells, thank goodness, seem to have no quarrel with ethnic diversity. The idea of my blood cells slugging it out with each other….
The last time I visited Guyana, after an absence of twenty-two years, an immigration officer took one officious look at me, declared me “mixed” and recorded that very word in the line specified “Race.” No questions asked; comment decidedly not to be volunteered. I kept my mouth shut. This was not a fight to pick. In Guyana, “mixed” as a racial descriptive was as ordinary as rain in the rainy season. Being “mixed” had no bearing on the speed or courtesy with which I would be taken through the customs and immigration process and getting through that process as speedily as possible, with the least amount of grief possible, was my goal.
In today’s eminently diverse United States, I am Black, female, immigrant (South American, not Hispanic; Caribbean, not from “the islands”), non-veteran, non-lesbian-gay-bisexual-or-transgender. Whichever of these takes precedence in the way I am viewed at any given moment depends on the box into which the viewer — be it a government, corporate or social viewer — needs to put me in order to feel comfortable and engage in the specific behavior he or she reserves for people in that box, including extending, facilitating or denying me certain benefits. In my book, I’m just spicy. I bring my special spice to life in this town. I like my book.
The other day, I was engrossed in Esther and Jerry Hicks’s book Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires, when up came a whole section on spiciness, er, diversity. Here’s some of what the section said: “Imagine yourself as a chef in an extremely well-stocked kitchen that contains every imaginable ingredient. Let us say that you have a clear idea of the culinary creation you desire, and you understand how to combine these easily accessible ingredients in order to fulfill your desire … . Some of the ingredients in this well-stocked kitchen are harmonious with your creation, and some of them are not. But even though adding some of these ingredients to your creation would absolutely ruin your pie, you do not feel the need to push against those ingredients, or to ban them from the kitchen, because you understand that there is no reason for them to end up in your pie unless you put them in it. And since you are clear about which ones enhance your creation and which ones do not enhance it, you feel no concern about the great variety of ingredients that exist.”
WANTED—for a society well stocked with diverse ingredients: Clear-headed chefs. Must not be intimidated by the great variety of spices that exists.