Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why doesn't anyone at Burning Man 'look' like me?


Because I've almost never, EVER been around anyone who has 'look'ed like me.

I say almost never because I did recently meet this cute guy on okcupid whose mom was filipino, like me, and whose dad was black, like me.

But what does that even mean, people who 'look' like me, because we don't just mean looks...and the only one I constantly get is people telling me I look like Usher. Well, no, Usher looks like me. I know he's older than me, and that's not the point.

But I digress...

This whole, people hang around with people who look like them (I'm not going to debate how true it is or isn't) but we don't just mean look, we mean sounds, we mean appearances, we mean musical tastes, we mean so many more things than just "looks"...and I think we all understand on some level that "looks" means more than appearances.

Because despite how I look, I don't sound the way some people expect me to sound. And what's worse is that sometimes I've felt the need to qualify or explain it by mentioning that I went to a small, all-boys, private school (conversational code for predominantly white / not black).

But I'm so stuck in my head because I can't even honestly relate to that false cultural/racial/social binary because I'm so frickin' Filipino. And what's crazy, sometimes I can anticipate how much I have to defend/explain that based on the perceived background of the person I'm talking to.

Actually, no. I had one man (and I won't describe him by certain characteristics, because I wouldn't want to then be seen as generalizing and stereotyping all men who share those characteristics) who tried to tell me that I couldn't possibly be part Filipino. And he knew, because he actually lived in the Philippines for several years and knew what they (including my mom?) looked like, and I didn't "look" like them.

I didn't look like what he thought a mixed Filipino/Black man should look, which obvisouly trumps any genetic truth, not that race itself is anything more than a social construct. So yeah, what we "look" like is completely objective and not based on perceived stereotypes at all.

But I digress...

I've never been around people who looked, sounded, dressed like me.

Based on my background alone, I grew up with the assumption that I have absolutely nothing in common with anyone around me. And that was true, until fifth grade (or B Form) and the National Cathedral Boys Choir. I sang...I had that in common with all the choristers who'd ever sung there. I loved to sing...I had that in common with the  close to twenty other guys who I'd be singing there with. I was good at singing...I didn't realize I had that in common with the three others in my class who also joined the chorus that year.

And I realize that that is where I find the people who "look" like me, not the passive "look" referring to physical appearance slash all the other things we really mean when we say that, but the active "look" related to examining, considering, exploring the world around us, and ultimately the other...

And finding, despite this sometimes overwhelming gap between the self and the other, things like singing to bridge the abyss, to connect with others.

I have found people who "look" like me, and they look at a world of creativity and possibility, a world where we are shaped by our past and our environment, but bring our own intent and values to move forward. They "look" at each other, with all their sorrows and joys, the ones they can relate to and the ones that they can't. We "look" at ourselves, as we work on the best of us and hope others will see it too.

There is no one at Burning Man that looks like anyone else. To even make such a comparison is the beginning of a path that leads to generalizations and stereotypes. What Burning Man is full of, is people who look at each other...for the most part. And herein I realize the irony of making a blanket statement out of a specific observation and experience.

But I digress...

Why doesn't anyone at Burning Man "look" like me? Because I'd like to believe that most of the people who look AT me, get to know ME and wouldn't think I look like anyone else BUT me.

Except for the few that asked me if anyone's ever told me I look like Usher.

- Nexus
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