Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Anzaldúa & Rushin: Identities
Everyone possesses multiple identities, whether those involve one’s position in a family, work place, age group, social environment, etc. These identities can act as fluid markers depending on the context, add to the complexity of individuals, as well as present difficulties to a person when separate identities clash. When one is classified as the product of a plurality of races, the tension that often can arise from conflict of identities is tremendously augmented. Gloria Anzaldúa’s La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness addresses the unique and distressing position of those with a combination of Spanish, Native American, African, and Anglo roots. She describes the uncomfortable position of both men and women labeled mestiza, and the need for a mestiza consciousness fixed upon the concept of inclusivity and acceptance. Anzaldúa addresses the need to require equal treatment from the men of same unique racial makeup, and the necessity of creating a fresh definition of masculinity within this new consciousness as well. She posits that the creation of this consciousness cannot come without an acceptance of the tensions, contradictions, and ambivalences which mark the unique identities of those like Anzaldúa, including the recognition of past and present injustices inflicted by/upon such people. “We can no longer blame you [oppressors], nor disown the white parts, the male parts, the pathological parts, the queer parts, the vulnerable parts” (386). Her work shares some paramount concepts with black feminist writers. The issue of identity multiplicity is very integral to Black Feminism, given the continuing conflict of whether to unite with men of color or predominantly white feminists in order to fight subjugation. The distinctive intersection of race and gender is considered home to many. To Anzaldúa this space is the called “Borderlands”; to Donna Kate Rushin, it is a “Bridge.” Anzaldúa’s Borderlands poem demonstrates the alienation, invisibility, and vulnerability which accompany the mestiza experience. Her assertion that survival entails “being a crossroads” certainly parallels the idea of multiple identities creating a bridge for others to tread on, as put forth in Donna Kate Rushin’s Bridge Poem. She denounces this kind of bridging of identities because she must first build a bridge to her “true self” in order to be “useful”, much in the same way that Anzaldúa recognizes the need to internally accept the plurality of identities in a mestiza. Both women shed light on the extreme pressure to explain themselves, externally and internally, and their continually contradictory and conflicting personal and cultural histories.