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notes from living in the seven percent

May 13th, 2005 · No Comments

I read Electrolicious, Ariel Meadow Stallings’ blog, for a number of reasons. She’s an excellent writer, funny, creative and fresh. She’s a Seattle blogger. She’s also a friend of my brother. And, I confess, I read Ariel’s blog because she occasionally shares what it was like to grow up on Bainbridge Island and how her youth here shaped and impacted her. In Race Card she wrote:

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about race. As a Northwest-born white middle-class American, the issue is all tangled up in political correctness, liberal guilt, and the fact that my hometown (Bainbridge Island) is notorious for being almost completely homogeneous.

According to this link the U.S. 2000 Census found that Bainbridge Island was 93% white. (2% were Asian and 3% more than one race, the rest were less than 1%). It is probably the least diverse place we have lived, from a statistics perspective. 93% is nearly homogeneity defined. It is far from ideal, perhaps dangerous. But what can be done to change it? The statistics, I suspect, reflect the economics, and also the fact that communities tend to reinforce themselves, attracting more of their own kind rather than diversity and variety.

I’m grateful we live close to Seattle and other cities with more diversity and cultural opportunities. At the same time, I am aware that I am more sensitive in a sense to this issue than my husband who has spent his life from childhood in the statistical minority. He grew up on the East Coast in an area that was probably also highly homogeneous.

Mama Junk Yard described what it means to be Kenyan. Her ideas of cultural identity encouraged me.

Having spent so long in England I have become accustomed to racism. I don’t mean this in a general “all whites hate us black folk” way. I am talking about real racism…


What is important, to me at least, is the fact that my parents were strong enough to raise me into the person I am. I know their strength stems from the fact they knew where they were from. They were and still are rooted in their Kenyan identity. By default this identity was passed on to me.


My point is simple. I have given up on clinging on those outward signifiers that are supposed to symbolise my Kenyaness. I have decided to be honest with myself…


I shall no longer be silenced because I am not Kenyan enough. Phrases such as “Wow you are more Kenyan than I thought” shall cease to be considered a compliment.

If the rest of Kenya can base their Kenyaness on a gut feeling, than that too shall be my basis.

I am what I am because I have chosen to be what I am.

Tags: island

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