First and foremost as a way of using language

Weird Al Yankovic – White and Nerdy Live

Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, has been working on the question for the last 12 years.
She has gone to high schools and colleges, mainly in California, and
asked students from different crowds to think about the idea of
nerdiness and who among their peers should be considered a nerd;
students have also “reported” themselves. Nerdiness, she has concluded,
is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are
considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it,
“hyperwhite.” […]

That's how Benjamin Nugent's New York Times essay "Whos [sic] A Nerd?" begins.

In other words, black is whatever we say it is

[…] Consider this: Just 40 years ago, one could make certain
assumptions about the average Negro, or black American. She
was probably no more than one generation removed from the
South; whether a Northerner or Southerner, he had first-hand
knowledge of Jim Crow, or segregation; when it came to
religion, he or she was most likely Protestant.
But scholars like Vernellia Randal, a law professor at the
University of Dayton, point out that those assumptions have
fallen in the face of urbanization, migration and
integration. […]

Afi-Odelia Scruggs' Cleveland Plain Dealer op-ed "Obama's identity crisis"

[…] "I think it could very well be generational—that people like myself,
who are older and more established and have these relationships, will
stay with the people that we know. Whereas younger people, who don’t
have these relationships, will say that this fellow seems to be an
outsider too—and so, therefore, they are attracted to him." […]

Ex-New York State Comptroller Carl McCall, quoted in Jason Horowitz's New York Observer article "Clinton, Obama Vying for Black Power-Brokers"

Update:

[…] According to Census Bureau figures, in 2004, African-Americans cast
14 million votes nationwide. Now comes this stunner: Because
African-American men not only are fewer in number but also register and
vote at much lower rates, black women cast almost three of every five
of these votes – 59 percent, to be precise. White women also outnumber,
out-register and outvote white men, but the disparity is smaller (53
percent to 47 percent). […]

[…] Senator Obama's allure may be perceived as more
generationally prospective, whereas the appeal of Senator Clinton – the
former first lady married to the man novelist Toni Morrison once called
the "first black president" – is deemed more historically
retrospective. "He brings a lot to our heritage and culture, especially
to our youth," said Victoria Haynes, a 47-year-old Denver native who
worked on the campaign of newly elected Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr.
"She brings a lot of strength as a woman who came from behind her
husband to lead as a woman." […]

Thomas F. Schaller's Baltimore Sun op-ed "Black women face dilemma in Democratic primary"


James Kim

Mat got me thinking about why I care. I don't know James Kim. I guess it is possible I could have known him at some point.

The outcome is a small obscenity. His wife should still have her husband; his daughters should still have their father; his co-workers should still be laboring beside their colleague.

I don't think "it could have me," not literally. I've never driven through that corner of Oregon. I am thinking about ways that the Arizona/New Mexico drive A. and I took a couple of years ago could have gone differently.

I feel proud of him for trying to save his family. That's the measure of a (hu)man, not some knuckle-dragging masculinist caricature but the do-anything-I-mean-ANYTHING attitude of looking out for and watching over one's loved ones.

And I liked seeing the media flooding the zone over a missing person of color. It made me feel stubbornly better. It feels a little bit like one of those victories that still fucking sucks. The flood of warmth you feel right before you realize you've gone and pissed all over yourself. That's seeing race where, say, in this instance, rescue personnel and sheriff's deputies and the great, great majority of people hearing about the family don't give a shit.

They just wanted James Kim home.

All ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

[…] There is one moment in my teenage years when I remember being
ethnically accepted. I was shopping for a television with my father at
Price Club, when one of the salespeople, who was Latina, mistook us for
her peers and graciously — in Spanish — told us that the TV we were
interested in would be on sale in two weeks. It seemed as though she
was giving us the inside scoop because we were comrades, members of the
same club. Luckily, I'd taken about five years' worth of Spanish, so I
got the gist of what she was saying. We came back in two weeks and got
the TV for 15 percent off. And it felt great. […]

Kevin Sintumuang's "The Curly Cue"

[…] The 34F does not mess around. It might look like the curtains, but
it is made of chicken wire and upholstery. You would lose a fight with
this bra. It is the Rambo of bras. But for all its toughness, it still
exudes a come-to-Grandma sexiness.

Still, it's mine now, and I am
at peace. And not, as some people think, in pain. I am architecturally
sound — tall and broad-shouldered and hippy enough to have basic
structural integrity, with triangulate distribution of weight-bearing
loads. The edifice is sturdy. The center can hold. So, no, there is no
need for surgery. There's only one way out of this, and that is down. […]

Rachel Manteuffel's "Getting an 'F' in Biology"

[…] So, on the one hand, I'll never know what Julia Roberts looks like.
On the other, I loved when, during a viewing of "Erin Brockovich," my
wife leaned close and said, "Oh, I wish you could see what they've done
with Julia Roberts's cleavage." I admit that I will always have to
imagine Ms. Roberts's achievement. But I do have a good imagination. I
don't mind the work.

I get turned on by your accent, your
fragrance, your laugh, your enthusiasm for almost anything. Strictly
speaking, I don't even know what my wife looks like. Instead, I live
for the thrill of the touch of her lips, and my hands are privileged to
see her. My wife lives in a luminous blue corona of light, and that is
good enough for me. […]

Stephen Kuusisto's "The Beauty Myth"

[…] What's more, beauty is now a mass phenomenon, almost as ubiquitous
as electricity or water. Hard to remember, but high-speed, high-quality
color printing is only about 50 years old (the same is true for color
television). Our world, in which ordinary people view hundreds of
lifelike, full-color, drop-dead gorgeous images daily, is entirely the
product of that brief period. For most of history, ordinary people saw
few, if any, deliberately beautiful images in their entire lives.
Paintings and sculptures were for palaces and cathedrals; most human
beings until recently lived on farms or in isolated villages. If they
visited town and saw a beautiful statue in the square, the sheer rarity
of that experience would heighten the sense that this beauty was in no
way related to their common lives.

Now, movies and television
give us beauty as an everyday experience. We watch stories set in
offices, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods just like the ones we
inhabit ourselves. We're encouraged to relate as peers to the beautiful
people who act out these stories. That's my life up on the screen! Or,
I feel as if Julia Roberts and I could be best friends. Or, why can't
the boys at my school be more like Zack and Cody? Other media, using
still more beautiful models (airbrushed and Photoshopped), cheerfully
explain to us how to eat, exercise, dress and groom so that we can be
beautiful, too. […]

David von Drehle's "Looking Good" (with discussion)

[…] So, at this very moment, how do I appear to myself?

It's the
morning after my rendezvous in the kitchen with Stephen. In the door
mirror of our home office, I stand straight, feet together and
shoulders back. I see an attractive woman in a white linen blouse and
an apple green cardigan that fits her full bust to a T. The blazer
drapes gracefully over her waist. The skirt will soon sway like the
perfect pendulum over her ample hips. The sweet chocolate open-toed
wedgies on her feet keep her balanced. The look she gets from her
husband makes her late for work.

Carla Broyles' "A Well-Rounded Woman"