From Elizabeth Bell we learned that the enactment of things held in high importance by society is judged by our correct performance of that action. These actions can be our performances of gender, race and ethnicity, or sexuality. When performed properly we are viewed as observing normative boundaries. However, when those boundaries are subverted, unnatural, or unbelievable we face the consequence of persecution due to our failed performance. My personal experience with this comes in the form of a perceived failed performance of race and ethnicity. I use the word perceived because for me the performance of my race and ethnicity has never been so static to the point that my actions and mannerisms were predictable based solely on the color of my skin. Unfortunately, the stories that follow are just a few of many that that contributed to my process of learning and understanding that when perception does not meet reality your identity ultimately pays the price for it. In the paragraphs to follow I will offer two separate personal narratives in which the performance of my race and ethnicity were perceived as “failed” by both an African-American and Caucasian audience.
Growing up in New Orleans, I realized at an early age that there was a clear divide between those who were well off and those who weren’t. My extended family was composed of people from both sides of this dividing line. Although both of my parents grew up poor, the norms and values instilled in them developed them into very different people. Not to mention my father was raised in the city (Downtown New Orleans), and my mother was raised in the country (Slidell, Louisiana). In raising their children my parents only wanted to give my brother and I the best. We went to the best schools, always private parochial, and were...