Identity In Danzy Senna's Caucasia

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The intersection of race and parenting is portrayed in an ineffective way in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia with damaging results on the life and racial identity of Birdie Lee at the hands of both of her parents however, Deck Lee’s relationship with Birdie is most significant in shaping her identity in a negative way. The story starts when the narrating character Birdie, is eight years old growing up biracial in her Boston home with her two parents and older sister. The two sisters have the same parents, yet dissimilar looks that often have people they meet question their relation to each other. Having a Black father and a White mother who are at odds with their own identities makes it difficult for Birdie to begin to have a healthy identification…show more content…
Rocquemore and Brusma write, “According to Erikson, the central task of adolescence is to form a stable identity, or a ‘sense of personal sameness and historical continuity’” (pgs 19-20). To even come to a point of self-discovery in adolescence there has to be a foundation for a child to continue on from. Birdie, in her pre-adolescence is ill prepared for the real world and how she will be perceived in it, mainly based on her physical attributes. Deck Lee allows his daughters to be sheltered from racism for the better part of their childhood years by being home schooled by their mother. Senna writes “My mother said she wanted to keep us safe from the racism and violence of the world…when my parents still got along, my father had agreed…it was only recently that my father decided…that my mother’s lessons weren’t adequate” (pg 26). It is acknowledged in the story that the idea of the girls going to the “Black Power School” in Roxbury was brought up in the past, but it isn’t until Deck is leaving his family that this becomes something he demands of his wife for their children (pg 26). Sandra implies that Deck’s reasoning for sending them to this school will somehow make up for his future absence. However Birdie doesn’t see his leaving as a loss, “…wishing all the while that I could…show more content…
At eight years old, in a racial society growing up with one Black and one White parent, Birdie is still not properly exposed to the harsh realities of the world. Her own appearance in comparison to her sister had never even occurred to her before it was carelessly brought to her attention while she and her sister spied in on their parent’s argument. Now she is confronted with the concept of race, acceptance amongst peers, and her identity as it relates to her appearance. At the top of the story, Birdie is seemingly oblivious to her and her sisters differences. She certainly doesn’t understand the significance of those differences or how it relates to her and the way the world will treat her until she is forced to at the Nkrumah school. She says, “Before I ever saw myself, I saw my sister…and [I’d] imagine that her face-cinnamon-skinned, curly haired…was my own” (pg 5), but it is not. When Birdie is asked to recite the slogan “Black is Beautiful”, she does so with uncertainty (pg 45). Somehow her Black father and her White mother who was always fighting as an ally for Black people, didn’t teach their daughter that Black is Beautiful. Again, Deck is the person who can speak from experience how else is she to know this idea to be true. Now that he has let the outside world rear it’s head into her world and give opinions about her existence at Nkrumah, her feelings of
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