Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Borders in Anzeldua and King

Citizenship implies ownership by one country and allegiance to a single people. When a person travels abroad, her behavior represents the country in which she claims citizenship. For the narrator of "Borders" this is problematic; he and his mother are both Blackfoot and Canadian as he tells Stella, the Canadian border officer (King 139). The narrator's mother claims to be neither from the Canadian nor American sides of the border; she is from "Blackfoot side" (King 138). The "Canadian" label was imposed on members of the Blackfoot tribe. Being Native American, the mother is proud of her heritage and neither "Canadian" nor "American" accurately represents her identity or gives justice to the experience of her people. The mother feels that these labels are mutually exclusive: she cannot be both, and she cannot deny her identity as a Blackfoot. The Blackfoot tribe is split into reserves on both sides of the border. Reporters ask the narrator "how it felt to be an Indian without a country" (King 145); however, the Blackfoot tribe has a country—it is just not definable by current political boundaries. This story, like Gloria Anzeldua's Borderlands/La Frontera, asserts that identity transcends political and geographical boundaries.

In her book, Gloria Anzeldua voices two concerns that seem at first to be at cross purposes. She wants to be able to claim her identity as a person who is neither "hispana India negra Espanola ni gabacha" but "mestiza, mulata, half-breed," or someone who is "carrying all five races on [her] back" (Anzeldua 216). Anzeldua wants to be able to use Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex or the other languages she speaks without having to explain herself, thereby legitimizing the Borderland identity. However, as much as Anzeldua wants to be able to assert this identity, she also strives to assert her inability to be defined. She detests losing her female identity in the masculine plural (Anzeldua 76), and she claims that living "sin fronteras" (Anzeldua 217) is the only way to live not only in the Borderlands, but also the only way to live as a member of the united human race.

The narrator's mother in "Borders" is similar to Anzeldua in that she attempts to assert her identity in terms that are unacceptable by modern political boundaries. Like Anzeldua, the mother demonstrates that identity is not political, but historical, cultural, personal. The mother's identity is the stories about stars that she passes on to her son (King 144) and not some "legal technicality" (King 138) that helps the government keep track of its visitors.

I understand the need for boundaries because governments are designed to allow a reasonable number of people access to limited resources, such as school systems and health care. When I was in elementary school, there was a huge conflict about the rezoning of Anne Arundel County public schools. The zoning boundaries determined access to the best schools which could only accommodate a certain number of students. I see how boundaries can be useful in such situations. Without boundaries, everyone would have gone to the same schools and overcrowding and poor education would have ensued. Without boundaries, there could also not be representative government. Such governments depend on providing services to a certain number of constituents. Boundaries also help protect people on a wider level from individuals wishing to impose harm on a particular group of people; however, it is unsettling that people such as the characters in "Borders" must define themselves inaccurately in order to travel between Canada and the United States. It is also upsetting to read Anzeldua’s account of the pain and alienation that borders cause.

No comments: