curls are acceptable

Seeing as this is byeracial blog, it’s about time I posted about hair.  Not my own.  I really do love my hair and I suppose it’s the one physical characteristic that gives a clue as to “what I am.”  Nothing more interesting to report on that. However, this article below is much more about identity and not having a culture to fall back on than it is about curls and that is interesting to me.  More often than not, when you’re mixed, you really don’t have that soft place to fall.  The mixed experience has historically been ignored, making it nearly impossible to forge a cultural identity.  Good news:  We have the opportunity to transcend attachment to a cultural identity.  Bad news: This leaves us at the whim of the cultural identities projected onto us.

RACE AND NATURAL HAIR- “YOU’RE MIXED SO YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW THE STRUGGLE.”

105_2119-1About a year ago, I wrote an article about how much I disliked being mixed because of my hair. These last few months, I realized that I didn’t embrace the natural hair life because of others and not me. I liked my curls and had already transitioned not knowing it. I still didn’t accept the fact that my curls were acceptable. In my mind, straight hair was the ideal. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take care of my hair yet but the main reason I thought this was because of negative comments. Comments such as…”You should relax your hair again.”, “Your hair looks messy all the time.”, and the last and most important one was…”You need to stop trying to look black”. They always ended up going back to that one.

The race topic is one that strikes me the hardest when it comes to my hair. Many people believe that natural hair is just for blacks. They forget that the world is not simply made of blacks and whites. Many cultures and races have mixed. The end result of that is people like me. People who share features of both races or may only have features of one but who feel attached to both. I am a born and raised Dominican. If you spend a lot of time with Latinos or Dominicans, you will quickly realize that we believe we are a different race. It’s actually very confusing because there are a lot of forms that will have Hispanic/Latino as a choice for race and not for ethnicity. A lot of people will tell you that Latinos are not a separate race. This doesn’t stop us from feeling that way. The problem with this is that even though they have a lot of african heritage as well as native american heritage…they refuse to acknowledge it. It’s not a lack of education, but a lack of acceptance.

So what does this have to do with hair? If you’re black or if you’re Latino, you were most likely raised hearing negative comments about your hair. Now, you might be saying…”Well, I know. What’s your point?”. My point is that I didn’t have one or two races/ethnicity telling me I looked undesirable, I had three. This had an impact on how I felt about myself. Even though black naturals may get a lot of crap from relaxed hair women or women who naturally have straight hair… they still have natural sistas. I had and some times still don’t have a culture to really fall back on and say…”You understand what I’m going through”. The reason is that my skin is white and my physical features are mostly European. My hair is pretty much the only thing that lets you know that I’m mixed. This causes a problem because white people expect an image of me that I don’t quite complete, black people expect an image of me and Latinos/Dominicans expect a certain image of me. In comments and forums, I have received things like “Well, you’re mixed so you don’t really know the struggle”. In school, I was told my fro was a distraction (I never told anyone that). In the streets, I’ve been told…”Your skin is far too fair for you to wear your hair like this”(it was in a fro). You can take a guess at which races/ethnicity said each.

What I would like is for women to realize that you can’t really know someone else’s “struggle”. Relaxed women and natural women should stop trying to debate about what is the right choice, because guess what? It’s a personal choice. This also applies for big choppers and transitioners. It would also be nice if business people realized that curly/kinky hair doesn’t reduce our ability to work effectively. The last but the most is important is that I would like for people of all races to realize how much it hurts to be pushed away because of your skin color or your features. Usually when people think of racism, they think of whites against the minorities. The thing that most don’t realize though is that we judge each other just as much as other races do.

hair girls1

Keturah Ariel

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And to include the boys…Something about the commentary on this photo of Pete Wentz reeks of nappy headed-ho…😡

white man afro: Pete Wentz ditches his straightener, looks unrecognizable

blog120210_pete

After a seemingly life-long love affair with his hair straightener, Pete Wentz has debuted a more natural, afro-esque head of hair. Gasp!

The emo rocker was launching a a new car or something, no-one knows for sure – all eyes were on his frizzy head pubes.

We’ve got to give the guy credit – he managed to get that thing poker-straight every day for years!

hair boys

you don’t even know me

I posted this video on the vlog the other day…

…and then I found this clip of Tia/Tamera’s brother, Taj, addressing the same issue.  And i love it!  Makes me wonder if males are less sensitive to these things.  I mean, I already wondered that, but now i re-wonder.  Skip to 4:00 to catch the clip…

 

 

 

signs

I think this list is cute.

For the record numbers 6, 9, and 16 do not apply to me at all.  I’m not sure if 13, 14, or 19 do either.  Not very important, just sayin’.

But especially not #6.  That is important.

Summer 2010 021

Not awkward, and I only “don’t look like them” if you’re only looking at color.

#2 “Growing up you experienced premature existential crises over not fitting in to one specific ethnic marker” is the one that strikes me as true in a bittersweet kind of way.  I am not sure if existential crisis was used here for humorous exaggeration, but I can genuinely relate to that.  Almost literally, but I would say racial marker, but who cares, so anyway…I am not saying that I would prefer to fit into any one specific racial marker.  I would not.  I would not prefer that anyone prefer to fit into or view themselves as exclusively belonging to any one specific racial marker.  I would really, really, really prefer that no one expect anyone else to fit into any one specific ethnic marker.

Then it wouldn’t matter that I don’t fit into one, but I look like I do, but I don’t meet the expectations set by the color, I mean, assumption.  It would be irrelevant that I don’t get counted on my terms, am rarely acknowledged or seen in the way I perceive myself. Which is kind of raceless.  But kind of not because, clearly, I’m so not raceless.  I’m race-ful. Biracial is two races.  Multi-racial is however many more than that. And that shouldn’t be difficult, but it is, so I’d like to get rid of the whole thing.  If two is nearly impossible (and not really allowed if one of them is “black”), then one race can’t be very healthy either.

Oh! Wait!  We can’t forget that everyone is multiracial in some real, dna-tested kinda sense.  So basically everyone is “mixed” therefore everyone is not allowed to be who they really are.  And the system is set up so that we are unconscious to this because it’s “normal” and so we believe in the status quo and we don’t even want to know the truths underneath all of these restrictions that we accept as natural and allow to heavily influence our lives.

Switching to a lower gear… It’s also worth mentioning that any early existential crisis(es) shaped me into the person I am, and that person is pretty cool, so I’m at peace with the challenges I faced.  As futile and unnecessary as I believe them to have been.  That is why  I am not at peace with things staying the same, or thinking staying small, or identities and lives being wrapped up in artificial boxes that must be checked to maintain the political, economical and social status quo.  The status quo needs to go.  That just came out  rhyming like that, sorry.  It’s just that there’s so much time and energy being wasted in the world on the wrong things.  In my humble and guilty opinion.  I still waste and misplace all kinds of energy.

19 Signs You Are Multiracial

DEC. 2, 2012

1. People speak to you in various foreign languages you do not understand.

2. Growing up you experienced premature existential crises over not fitting in to one specific ethnic marker.

troubled thoughts

3. People often ask, “WHAT ARE YOU?”  in tones which make you feel subhuman or extraterrestrial.

4. You hesitate before filling out the “ethnic background” section of tests/ questionnaires.

5. You feel mild guilt over not identifying with one of your cultures (i.e. you hate the food).

6. You feel awkward during get-togethers with one side of the family because you look nothing like your other family members.

7. Men (or women) use your questionable ethnicity as a means to hit on you.

8. You’ve been examined like you are some rare, exotic creature.

9. You can’t understand your grandparents’ language.

10. There is an undeniable clashing of cultures whenever the two sides of your family meet.

11. Your grandparents initially disapproved of your parents’ union.

12. Similar to a “gay-dar,” you’ve developed a “multiracial-radar.”

13. You were totally eating fusion cuisine way before Kogi came into existence.

14. Playing “guess my ethnicity” is a legitimate game.

15. You’ve lied about your ethnicity in the past just for the hell of it, or to avoid conversation.

16. Your last name doesn’t really look like it belongs to you.

17. You’ve been criticized for not being [insert ethnicity here] enough, or speaking [insert language here] well enough.

18. People you meet over the phone are surprised when they meet you in person.

19. You identify as a person of color, you just don’t know which.

race manners

Since I’ve been back on the blog, I have said very little about the so-called biracial experience.  It amazes me that it’s still easier, even for me with all of my good “mixed” intentions, to talk about black and white.  I forgive myself for this because without the black and white there is no mixed.  Without the baggage of white vs. black stuff, there is no need for the mixed discussion.  So, I suppose it’s only natural.  It is little disappointing personally that the middle ground isn’t where the conversation begins for me.  It’s on the ends of the spectrum.  But I also suppose that this is natural.  I suppose this has been the disappointment of my life.  And I suppose that this is how we get to the middle ground.  By exploring the ends and inching toward the middle.

A couple of things in Jenee Harris’ article jumped out at me:

1. “My white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life.”- 

I wonder if my father would say he has developed the same.  I think so…I think that happened when he entered into a relationship with my (black) mother and grew deeper as he witnessed my experience… but we never talk about it…

82920031

me with my parents:)

2. “Well-intended”- re: “adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women)” and “A friend got the biscuit analogy…: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment.”

Well…if the intention of the (white) person who said this is to make the biracial person feel better about the perceived plight of their kind…well…i guess one could count that as a good or harmless intention. But I think that summation signifies complacence.  I, however, have to challenge this notion.  You see, giver of said “compliment,” in your quest to make me feel better about being my invisible, displaced, misunderstood, marginalized and tragic self you put me on the receiving end of your pity, your assumptions and judgements.  I do believe this is usually unconscious.  I also must acknowledge that it is an assumption I’m making. Yet there’s a reason that I assume that this is the intention behind the compliments.  The assumption is based on experience, but even those are dangerous to make. It’s the tone with which these comments are usually, subtly uttered.  If you’ve been the biracial person in this kind of conversation, I think you know what I mean.

When I engage in this kind of innocent interaction I can be left feeling frustrated, upset, and worst of all unseen.  It is depressing.  It is literally a depression of my spirit.  Of my freedom.  A depression of my freedom to just be and simply experience this life without being saddled with the weight of the stigma of a couple hundred years of prejudice, condemnation, fear, greed, inferiority, superiority, discrimination, and antagonism.  My take on it is that some people assuage a fleeting feeling of guilt over the fact that this is the biracial’s lot in life by reminding us (and/or reminding themselves) that I should be happy because I have good hair and tan skin which, I infer from your comments, should make up for the fact that on the whole the society we live in cannot acknowledge or understand how I exist.  I thought there was more to that sentence, but I think that’s it.  Our nation’s identity continues to be wrapped up in race and all the baggage that comes with it.  For that to remain intact, biracial just can’t really be.  I don’t think that needs to remain intact.  I think things are shifting.  So slowly.  But they are shifting and I hope I stay awake enough to the shift to feel when my assumptions based on past experience are truly no longer valid.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that most of my response falls into the category of  “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.

Or am I just being truthful?  That’s the stuff that this brought up for me.

Biracial Children: Racism Advice for White Parents

Race Manners: Comments about the superior beauty of your biracial child aren’t just weird — they’re troubling.

By Jenée Desmond-Harris

Updated Monday April 8, 2013

The Root –

“I’m a Caucasian woman with a biracial child (her father is black). I live in a predominantly white community. Why is it that whenever people discover that I have a ‘mixed’ child, they always say things like, ‘Oh, he/she must be so cute/gorgeous/adorable, those kids are always the best looking. You are so lucky.’ 

I know they mean well, but it seems off to me, and maybe racist. Do they mean compared to ‘real’ black children? When a German and Italian or an Asian and Jewish person have a child, black people don’t say, ‘Mixed children like yours are always the best looking.’ (Plus, it’s not true — not all black-white biracial kids are the ‘best looking.’)

Am I being overly sensitive by feeling there’s something off about these comments? If not, what’s the best way to respond?”

I chose this question for the first installment of Race Manners, The Root‘s new advice column on racial etiquette and ethics, because it hits close to home. Like your daughter, I’m biracial. Like you, my white mother has developed an acute sensitivity to the subtle ways prejudice and bigotry pop up in daily life. I should know. She calls me to file what I’ve deemed her “racism reports.”

And let’s be clear. Americans of all races say bizarre things to and about mixed people, who can inspire some of the most revealing remarks about our black-white baggage. Just think of the public debates about how MSNBC’s Karen Finney, and even President Obama, should be allowed to identify.

But the comments in your question often come from a good place, and they’re often said with a smile. When I was a child, adults loved to tell me that people paid “good money” for hair like mine (think 1980s-era perms on white women) and for tanning beds (again, it was the ’80s and ’90s) to achieve my skin color. Thus, the grown-up argument went, I should be happy (even if these trends didn’t stop people from petting my curls as if I were an exotic poodle, nor did they give me the straight blond hair I envied, and it’s not as if I was on the receiving end of the beauty-shop payments).

A friend got the biscuit analogy. Wait for it: God burned black people and undercooked white people, but removed her from the heavenly oven at the perfect moment, she was told.

Awkward. Well-intended. Poorly thought-through. A window into our shared cultural stuff about identity. These statements are all these things at once.

That’s another reason I selected your question. When it comes to remarks that are so obviously dead-wrong to some of us, and so clearly innocuous to others, there’s often little energy for or interest in breaking down the explanation that lies between “Ugh, so ignorant!” and “Oh, come on, stop being so sensitive.”

I’ll try it out here.

You’re right to be bothered by the remarks from the Biracial Babies Fan Club. Here’s why: These people aren’t pulling an arbitrary appreciation for almond-colored skin and curls from the ether. Instead — even if they are not aware of this — they’re both reflecting and perpetuating troubling beliefs that are bigger than their individual tastes. Specifically, while “mixed kids are the cutest” is evenhanded on its face, treating both black and white (and all other ethnic groups) as inferior to your daughter, I hear it as anti-black.

As Marcia Dawkins, the author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, told me, “The myth that mixed-race offspring are somehow better than nonmixed offspring is an example of ‘hybrid vigor,’ an evolutionary theory which states that the progeny of diverse varieties within a species tend to exhibit better physical and psychological characteristics than either one or both of the parents.”

mixie girl

And just take a wild guess how this idea has popped up for black people. You got it: In order to demean and oppress African Americans, thought leaders throughout history, including the likes of Thomas Jefferson, have said that black-white mixed offspring are better, more attractive, smarter, etc., than “real” blacks and not as good or attractive or smart as “real” whites, Dawkins explains.

So alleging that mixed kids are the best of anything sounds different when you consider that we’ve long put a wholesale premium on all that’s whiter and brighter.

Nowhere is that premium more stubbornly applied today than when it comes to the topic at the center of your question — beauty and attractiveness. In recent memory, we had to re-litigate the harms of colorism when Zoe Saldana was cast to play the lead in a Nina Simone biopic. Tamar Braxton and India.Arie have both been accused of bleaching skin — as if that would be a reasonable thing to do.

A writer lamented in a personal essay for xoJane that she was sick and tired of being complimented for what black men viewed as her “mixed” or “exotic” (read: nonblack) physical features. (As far as I know, “you look a little black” is not a common line of praise among other groups.) Black girls still pick the white dolls in recreated Kenneth Clark experiments. Harlem moms can’t get Barbie birthday decorations in the color of their little princesses. We treated rapper Kendrick Lamar like the department store that featured a wheelchair-bound model in an ad campaign when he cast a dark-skinned woman as a music-video love interest.

Against this backdrop of painful beliefs that people of all colors buy into, yes, “Mixed kids are the cutest” should sound “off.”

As the mom of a mixed kid, you signed up for more than just the task of venturing into the “ethnic” aisle of the drugstore and learning about leave-in conditioner. You took on the work of hearing things like this through the ears of your daughter, and you agreed to have a stake in addressing racism. The fact that these comments bothered you means you’re on the job.

So if it’s at all possible, you should explain everything I’ve said above to people who announce that your daughter is gorgeous based on racial pedigree alone. If you’re shorter on time or familiarity, you could try a reminder that there’s really no such thing as genetic purity in the first place (“Great news, if that’s true, since most of us — including you — are mixed”). As an alternative, the old cocked-head, confused look, combined with “What makes you say that?” always puts the onus back on the speaker to think about what he or she is really saying.

Finally, just a simple, “Thanks, I think she’s beautiful, but I don’t like the implication that it’s because of her ethnic makeup,” could open up an important introductory conversation about why comments about superior biracial beauty aren’t true and aren’t flattering, and why the beliefs they reflect aren’t at all “cute.”

before this hurts too much

Need race-related advice? Send your questions to racemanners@theroot.com.

The Root‘s staff writer, Jenée Desmond-Harris, covers the intersection of race with news, politics and culture. She wants to talk about the complicated ways in which ethnicity, color and identity arise in your personal life — and provide perspective on the ethics and etiquette surrounding race in a changing America.

oh… baby nahla…

sorry for the sporadic posting.  i’ve been working out of town and it’s harder than i’d anticipated to keep up with the blog.

anywho, i figured i’d get around to acknowledging this mess….

some readers and viewers and friends have asked me how i feel about this, and all i can say is that it makes me sad.  i just do not understand the impetus to uphold the one drop rule.  i’m baffled.  it’s so illogical to me.  it clearly only applies to racially mixed with black people.  i’d go so far as to say that it only applies to racially mixed black and white people.  i am quite sure that other mixes do not have such strict identification restrictions.  if you are anything other than black + white, you are not so harshly criticized for claiming the whole of yourself (not that i believe that racial categories constitute the whole of a human self.) i totally understand allegiance to the black community.  i understand that society’s gonna view you one way if you look one way (however, i think the jury’s still out on nahla’s phenotype.)  regardless of that though, i think we’re coming to a time in the collective consciousness of humanity, where it’s most important to be what you are.  regardless of history or politics.  the best we can do is be who we are.  and once we each accept and embrace our authentic selves, it’ll be so much easier to accept and embrace our fellow man as his/her authentic self. whoever they say they are.  whatever they show us they are.  and it’s by defying these antiquated “rules” that we free ourselves and each other to… be ourselves… and each other…

but back to nahla, i’m confident that she’ll find her way, find herself. but, goodness gracious i think her parents are going to make it much more difficult than necessary with this “she’s black because there’s a one drop rule” vs. “don’t you call my child black” (see below) nonsense that we’ve read about… ay yai yai

via TMZ

Sources connected with the former couple tell TMZ … whenever Gabriel would read a story about Nahla that referred to her as “black,” he would go off, insisting his baby was white.  We’re told Gabriel would tell Halle and others they should demand a “retraction” when such references were made regarding his daughter.

As TMZ previously reported, sources tell us Gabriel has called Halle the “N” word  — and one woman previously involved with him referred to him as a “borderline racist.”

Halle Berry on her daughter’s race and interracial romance

As her custody battle with ex Gabriel Aubry turns ugly, Halle Berry is speaking out to the March issue of Ebony magazine about their daughter Nahla and the role that race plays in her own relationships.

The Oscar winner, whose mother is white and father is black, tells Ebony that she identifies herself as a black woman but plans to let 2 1/2-year-old Nahla — whose dad is white and French Canadian — make her own decision about her race when she’s old enough.

“I’m not going to put a label on it,” she says. “I had to decide for myself, and that’s what she’s going to have to decide — how she identifies herself in the world. And I think, largely, that will be based on how the world identifies her. That’s how I identified myself.”

But, Berry adds, “I feel like she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.”

Regardless, the actress acknowledges that being biracial isn’t easy.

“If you’re of multiple races, you have a different challenge, a unique challenge of embracing all of who you are but still finding a way to identify yourself, and I think that’s often hard for us to do,” she explains. “I identify as a black woman, but I’ve always had to embrace my mother and the white side of who I am, too. By choosing, I’ve often [wondered], ‘Well, would that make her feel like I’m invalidating her by choosing to identify more with the black side of myself?'”

Like Aubry, Berry’s current boyfriend, actor Olivier Martinez, is white, but she tells Ebony love has nothing to do with skin color.

“I’m very connected to my community, and I want black people to know that I haven’t abandoned them because I’ve had a child with a man outside of my race and I’m dating someone now outside of my race who is Spanish and French,” says Berry, who has romanced men from a variety of ethnic groups.

“I have never been more clear about who I am as a black woman…the people I have dated sort of hold up a mirror to me and help me realize more of who I really am,” she said. “And who I really am is a black woman who is struggling to make my race proud of me, who is struggling to move black women forward in the profession I’ve chosen, and those relationships have actually helped me identify myself more clearly. Not to say that I wasn’t able to do that when I was married to two black men, but it certainly hasn’t detracted from feeling very connected to my community, and who I really am at my core.”

Berry goes on to say that “the truth is that it’s taken me a long time to learn how to love myself, and color isn’t really a part of what I look at when I’m deciding who I want to spend time with. I look for the soul, the person, the evolution, what he believes in, who [he is as a person] and how does it affect me in a positive way.”

Divorced from athlete David Justice and singer Eric Benet, Berry has vowed to never marry again, but now says she might make an exception.

“The only reason I would is if I found somebody who proved to be on-another-level special to me,” she says. “And if for some reason I felt like it would be important for Nahla and her sense of family unit. I’ve been married twice, and [the marriages] didn’t work out. They were painful divorces, and I’m not so sure I ever want to subject myself to that kind of pain and heartbreak again. I don’t know if I can.”

re: doubles

I’m not a fan of the old “best of both worlds” myth.  Not unless the other side of that coin -worst of both worlds- is given as much weight.  However, I didn’t want to simply tout a “tragic japanese-american” fallacy over here today either.  Here’s what I found to counteract that.

The Hapa Advantage

By Leah Nanako Winkler

via

“Hybrids are better”—Shayne Kao

…In the belated honor of “LOVING DAY,” I’ve asked 10 hapas in NYC and beyond (including myself) the following: what we like about being biracial, and how it has shaped us in this world. So, let’s eat some good food and enjoy the sunshine as this community continues to grow and we find each other and ourselves among the masses!

PERSPECTIVE


Name: Teddy Hose

OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Animator, Graphic Designer

NATIONALITY: Dad is American (3rd Generation German), Mom is Japanese (straight from Japan).

TEDDY SAYS:
I definitely enjoy being biracial, it gives me perspective culturally, and I usually get a positive response when people ask me about it.  I like the feeling of being unique because I work in the creative field where that is highly valued.  I also believe it makes me more tolerant since the East’s values and tendencies are clearly different than the West.  I can’t help but see things from more than one angle, which can be refreshing. I’m honestly able to communicate better with non-white people in my experience.  Being able to connect with someone based on feeling “different” is always something I look for, as cliché as that sounds.

I think one advantage with being hapa is that we don’t have the typecasting that comes with being one race. Not to say there are those who equate mixed race people to one race (Obama being declared as the first “black” president), but this aspect is great for someone who’s an artist like me.

THE IN-BETWEEN LIFE

NAME: Stephanie Silver

OCCUPATION: Actress

NATIONALITY: Half-Japanese, Half-German/Austrian/Hungarian—aka Germanese, or Double-Jap, or Jap-Squared, or the Axis Powers (minus Italy).

STEPHANIE SAYS:  I grew up with ramen and tempura dishes one week, and pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup the next. Which dessert do I like more: mochi or cheesecake? At a frozen yogurt shop, I don’t have to choose anymore. I can have both flavors, a twist, a blend, a hybrid!

Feeling a connection to two distinct cultures. Recognizing my features in an Expressionist painting, and my emotions in a woodblock print. Strangers telling me I should go to Israel, no Berlin, no…Okinawa. Remembering trips to Hawaii during Summer, and New York in the Fall. Learning to surf and going to Temple. Living the in-between life in Los Angeles. Being accepted by most Asian and Jewish groups and looking non-descript enough to pretend I was Latin or Creole to fit in there too. But feeling especially drawn to people with a similar mixed heritage. I had a deeper understanding with them and I was eager to find common ground.

I think seeing how one side of my family would ostracize one or the other of my parents made me embrace different ethnicities more. I’m constantly finding myself attracted to minorities. And I think their families are more accepting of me because of my mixed heritage. It’s as if I’m neutral territory, truly American. I could date Raymond, who is Korean, and his parents wouldn’t mind because I was only half-Japanese. My Japanese grandparents certainly would not feel the same about him. I could be considered as a potential wife for David and Daniel, both Jewish, simply because of my last name.

People are comfortable around me because I blend easily, but they’re curious too. I hear them saying to their friends with pride, “she looks Hawaiian, right, but her father’s Jewish!” I was born into something exciting and somewhat new. We’re a growing group of biracial mixes, foreign yet distinctly native. We’re the physical manifestation of the end of racism.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

NAME: Justin Baldwin

OCCUPATION: Artist, but an unknown one, so I have a day job working for a Japanese company.

NATIONALITY: I am an American, as is my father. My mother is now a U.S. citizen, but was born in Japan. On my father’s side of the family, there is Irish, German, British, and who knows what else … and, I suspect that on my mother’s side, there may be some Russian (going back a couple hundred years), since my mother has fair skin and green eyes (plus, she’s from Sapporo, and the prefecture of Hokkaido is closer to Russia than anywhere else in Japan).

JUSTIN SAYS:
Although I didn’t study Japanese until I finished college, the biracial factor inspired me to study Japanese and eventually live in Japan. This has subsequently made a profound impact/influence on who I am, and what I do. I suppose, in this sense, it has helped secure jobs (first with the JET Program, and then with the Kurashiki Board of Education, and now with my current corporate incarnation as a Professional Gaijin/Scapegoat). Being biracial in college helped me connect with Roger Shimomura as a student, who remains a close friend and mentor. So in many ways, even though being biracial has not always resulted in the most pleasant experiences, it has led me down avenues that I might not otherwise have taken, meeting new people and places that do end up being very beneficial and positive. Besides, as I mentioned, there’s a certain freedom to being undefined.

DOUBLE NOT HALF

Leah Nanako Winkler

As I scroll through these responses, once again, I am overwhelmed with a simultaneous sense of comfort and disorientation. Entering my mid-20s, I’ve come to accept and embrace the positive effects of my ethnic background, by associating with and learning from the people mentioned in this article. I am learning quickly that my identity crisis/investigation is only a small fraction of a cultural search of where we, as biracial people, stand in this society. The importance of seeing the glass as half-full, as opposed to half-empty, is equal to seeing ourselves as double, rather than “half” of two races. In many ways, we are lucky and unsheltered. I am excited to see how this perspective continues to grow, as I meet more and more of you and hope to strengthen our voice in any and every way possible.

© 2009 Leah Nanako Winkler

“kinds” of biracial

Fantastic commentary on something that I totally missed in the media.  I honestly don’t know who Drake is.  I’ll look him up in a sec…. Oh. I see.  Anyway, Whitney Teal makes such great points here (a fav being that one would never compare G.W. Bush to Eminem), and has me wanting to make a list of all the “kinds of biracial” that I can imagine.  And then I want to study the intricacies of the experiences that molded the various varieties of biracialness.  I love biracial.  It never gets old for me.  I suppose you can call me Captain Obvious for that statement.

Is One Mulatto the Same as the Next?

VIA

By Whitney Teal

Has the election of President Obama changed the way we think about biracial people in this country? I’d argue that it’s questionable. Especially when people are drawing comparisons between the prez — a half-white, half-Kenyan, Ivy League-educated lawyer — and Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as Drake, who is a half-Jewish and half-African-American entertainer from Canada. Yeah, I don’t see the similarities either.

Image of Thomas Chatterton Williams

thomas chatterton williams

But TheRoot.com contributor Thomas Chatterton Williams, who describes himself as the son of a black father and a white mother,” seems to think that the two mulattoes (his word, not mine) deserve a comparison. Yes, Williams thinks that it’s helpful to compare a Canadian rapper and the President (as he puts it, one of the “most visible mulattoes living and working today”). And he’s not alone, either. A few months back, a couple of my Twitter friends and I ripped Chester French band member David-Andrew ‘D.A.’ Wallach a new one for tweeting that he was discussing “all the similarities” between the two men. When I asked him to explain himself, he replied, “For one, I think they’re both extremely studied.” Womp, womp, cop-out. Lots of men are studied. President Obama and Drake are both, simply, biracial. And they’re not even the same “kind” biracial either, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.

When I showed my sister the story on The Root, she screamed (via Google Messenger) and replied, “Obama and Drake in the same sentence? Do people mention [President] Bush and Eminem in the same sentence?” She’s right. White men are allowed to choose their own identities. Black men not so much, and biracial men certainly not. Which begs the question, why can’t we see that one biracial person is not the same as the next?

In general, polite company, we as general, polite people, recognize that a person’s experiences are not solely dictated by their race or ethnicity. For example, I don’t think people considering Lucy Liu, a famous actress, and Connie Chung, an award-winning journalist, would try and argue that the two have much in common, at least on the surface. The same with Denzel Washington and Reggie Bush, or Barbara Streisand and Heidi Fleiss. No comparisons. But people, general and polite as they are, still seem to view the experiences of biracial people in this country as singular in nature.

And often, as The Root essay explores, polarizing. “Mixed-race blacks [...] are the physical incarnation of a racial dilemma that all blacks inevitably must confront: To sell out or keep it real? That is the question,” writes Williams, who spends the better part of 1,000 words waxing on about the definition of authentic blackness (or at least how he sees it). According to Williams, a mixed-race person must choose to be black, like the president and like Drake, who “both proudly define themselves as black.” A mixed-race person must then “act black,” which Williams sees as wearing loose clothes and playing basketball.

If blackness meant just one thing, and if mixed-race people were able to align themselves with just one part of their identity, then his essay might hold more weight. But black people don’t have just one identity, at least not to ourselves. Hollywood directors, novelists and journalists may see us as trash-talking, saggy pant-wearing basketball fanatics, but I don’t think that’s how we see ourselves. And by asserting that he can turn his black switch on and off, simply by altering the fit of his pants, Williams — though he may identify as black — shows how much he doesn’t understand the complexity of black culture.

Which is why I don’t believe that we should automatically label mixed-race people as black; they’re mixed-race. Being biracial may be similar to African-American culture, just as West African and West Indian cultures share similarities to black culture, but ultimately have their own dialects, dress, worship practices, food and courtship rituals. But biracial people etch out their own identities. Sure, they may be similar to that of African-Americans or other cultures. But it’s limiting to both black and biracial people when society automatically labels anyone with brown skin and textured hair black. Whether we’re talking about President Obama or anyone else, what it means to be biracial is an entirely individual question.

further the cause, fill out the survey

My friend Naehalani is conducting two studies on biracial identity for her Senior Thesis.  Yay!  If you have a moment, and are biracial, you can help her with the project by filling out the survey and emailing it to her.  I did.  Just click on “Biracial Survey” and the document should download to your computer.  Open it and answer away.  Instead of circling the most accurate choice for me, I typed my answers in after the questions.  It really did take 5 minutes.  Maybe less.

Naehalani(far left) and her siblings

From Naehalani:

Hello to all!

I need your help!  My name is Naehalani Breeland and I am biracial,
mixed with Hawaiian and Caucasian.  Having grown up predominantly with
my Hawaiian mother in both Hawaii and on the mainland… (and being
strongly influenced by both my Hawaiian culture and mainstream
American culture) I have come to identify as mixed race/biracial.
More and more we are seeing biracial and multiracial individuals speak
out about our unique identity development, juggling identities and so
forth.  So, for my Senior Thesis in psychology at Eugene Lang College
in New York City, I am conducting two studies on biracial identity and
I am asking you all to participate in these studies by filling out the
surveys below.  While this is helping me to graduate (fingers
crossed), it is also helping all of us to inform others on our
biracial/multiracial experiences.

For confidentiality purposes, you can email your completed survey to
me at breelj73@newschool.com or naehalanibreeland@gmail.com.
• Open the word document below
• Fill out the survey
• Save the completed document as CompletedBISurvey and the time (ex:
CompletedBISurvey10:31am) so that I can differentiate them
• Email it back to me.
The survey will take approximately 5 minutes! So quick and easy!  And
again, all the information will be confidential.

Biracial Survey

Also, if any of you are part of a biracial family in which you and
your siblings vary in skin tones please email me!  As an individual
coming from a family of all different skin variations, I have found
that my siblings and I often have different experiences in our
everyday life, and therefore we have also had a different identity
development. Sooo, my second study is on how society and family affect
the growth and perception of biracial individuals when their siblings
are of different skin tones. Basically it is about how we learn who we
are through others’ influence.  This is a small population, I
know…which is why I need all the help I can get from you!

the twins: Naehalani’s niece and nephew

I really really really appreciate your participation in advance.  It’s
helping me more than you all could imagine!!!

Take Care and have a wonderful day!

Naehalani Breeland

if you look like one, you could be another

Brilliant!!! I love everything about this!  I’ll admit that I felt what I would have described back then as “weird” about my (mixed)race.  Looking back, I think “shame” fits the bill.  I’m so happy to hear that acknowledged, and even happier that feelings are changing to pride.  Mine included.

Danbury’s multi-racial students to star in film

Eileen FitzGerald

DANBURY — The three boys wore jeans and long-sleeve T-shirts. The two girls each wore a dozen bracelets and necklaces. They looked like typical students in the library media center at Broadview Middle School.

It was their differences, however, that brought them together Monday. They’re subjects in a documentary in which Western Connecticut State University professor Marsha Daria is examining the identity and social relationships of multiracial children.

Daria is interviewing elementary, middle and high school students to help educators and teacher training programs consider multiracial students in the curriculum and school issues.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders carry the roots of about a dozen ethnic heritages, including African American, Spanish, Italian, Scottish, Irish, Chinese and Portuguese.

“It’s cool to be two races, because you get to experience two different cultures and those countries,” sixth-grader Jonathan Garcia, 11, said.

Jonathan, who is half Chinese and half Puerto Rican, was a little nervous to be interviewed but glad to express his feelings about the issue for the movie.

“This gives me a chance to say that what race you are doesn’t matter. If you look like one, you could be another,” he said. “Sometimes they say I am Asian, but what bothers me is that I’m not all Asian. They say things about Asians that I don’t think are nice.”

Sometimes he points out people’s negative comments, and they acknowledge they were wrong. Other times he ignores what people say.

Eighth-grader Kiani Oliveira, 14, who is Portuguese, African American, Indian and Scottish, wanted people to know that multiracial people are unique.

“Like we look different. Our skin color is different, and our hair and eyes can be different — unique,” she said. “It’s not harder to be multiracial. My friends take me as I am and think I’m cool.”

A Western Connecticut State University Professor, Marsha Daria, is filming a documentary on multiracial children. Daria and the film crew where filming at Broadview Middle School in Danbury on Monday March 29, 2010. From left, cameraman Scott Volpe of WCSU media services, Broadview student Kiani Oliveira, 14, and Professor Marsha Best. Photo: Lisa Weir

Daria is doing this project during her sabbatical as an education professor at WestConn, where she has taught since 1995. Her film crew is from WestConn –Rebecca Woodward, Scott Volpe and Renato Ghio– and she consults Emmy award-winning producer and director Karyl Evans.

“It’s critical to examine the ways in which we talk about race and ethnicity. There is a change in how kids view themselves. They used to be ashamed, but now you see a lot of pride. They want people to know who they are,” Daria said.

“It used to be a marginalizing experience, but not anymore. They feel special.”

Daria will use the results of the 2010 Census in the documentary, which are likely to be more specific about race than the 2000 census, in which seven million people reported they were of mixed race.

“I want to educate. To bring awareness to kids who are mixed race. We do become a better country when we accept each other,” she said. “There are good and bad in every group. We should accept people for who they are.”

Seventh-grader Robert Best, 12, who is Italian, African American, Indian and Irish, hopes the film will help people understand that multiracial kids are just like other kids.

“People think African-American people steal and white people are laid back, and I’m supposed to be like both of them, but I don’t like that,” he said. But he wouldn’t want things to be different for children who are multiracial, because it would put them in a separate group.

Seventh-grader Marissa Segura, 12, who is Costa Rican and Italian, and Nasir Fleming, 13, an eighth-grader who is Puerto Rican, African American, Italian, Native American, and a little Irish were also questioned.

The students, all American born, said they mostly celebrate American holidays and eat all types of food, including traditional food from their dominant cultures. They usually talk about typical teen topics — things like school and music — with friends from all over.

Marissa has friends from all over and wishes people would stop guessing and ask what nationality she is.

“All my friends are from different places,” she said. “My sister said I never have a friend who is actually from America. I just get along with a lot of people and have a lot of friends.”

Nasir said he’s annoyed when people think he is only African American.

“When I was younger it made me feel sad, but now it’s just whatever,” he said. “Some friends aren’t cool about who they are, because society tries to make them feel they are nothing.”

It might be easier to stay quiet when you are classified a certain way, he said, “but if you want to keep your rights you should explain who you are.

“People who are diverse are like a little community, but we’re all different,” Nasir said. “If you had to find a similar thing about us, it’s that we don’t like being titled one thing. It’s not OK to be judgmental, to stereotype.”

SOURCE

hmmm

Initially upon reading this article I thought, “This is great!  Mixed kids today are fairing better.”  By the third time I read it though, I found it laughable.  As if it’s some great revelation that for these individuals to actually embrace who they quite literally are will yield positive results.  Not just for them, but maybe for everyone! Woweee!! Sounds like common sense to me.  Common enough that I came to that conclusion without doing any studies at all.  Well, I guess in all fairness I studied myself.  Anyway, though I realize that because we have historically not been encouraged to do all of this embracing  the notion may be considered “progressive,” I suppose it’s the assertion that this is merely ‘preliminary evidence’ that’s rubbing me the wrong way.  As if the jury’s still out and maybe we’re better off with the twisted way we’ve been approaching this subject for centuries.  On the other hand, maybe I should just be glad that the studies are being conducted at all.  After all, I still come up against vehement opposition to my choice to identify as biracial daily.  On youtube of course.  Which doesn’t have much affect on me personally, but just goes to show that there’s more embracing to be done and that we’re definitely living in a society that needs some positive results as far as shifting the racial paradigm goes.

Multiracial identity associated with better social and personal well-being

SOURCE

Many people assume that individuals who identify with one race should be better off than multiracial individuals who identify with a mixed race heritage. However, a new study in the Journal of Social Issues found that students who reported they were from multiple ethnic/racial groups were more engaged at school and felt better in general than those who reported they were from a single group. Kevin Binning, Ph.D., Miguel Unzueta, Ph.D., Yuen Huo, Ph.D., and Ludwin Molina, Ph.D., surveyed roughly 180 high school students to see how they were doing in school and how they felt in general: were they experiencing stress, isolation, etc.? The study compared multiracial students who reported being from a single racial or ethnic group (i.e. Black, Mexican, White) with multiracial students who reported they were from various racial and ethnic groups (i.e. multiracial, Black and White, etc.).

On several indicators (i.e. happiness, stress, citizenship behavior, and school alienation), students who reported they were from multiple groups were more engaged in school and felt better than those who reported they were from a single group.

Results suggest there may be a positive link between the tendency to embrace a multiracial identity and social and personal well-being.

“The population of multiracial individuals is currently large and is likely to grow over time,” the authors note. “Our study provides preliminary evidence that encouraging such individuals to embrace their multiracial identity may yield positive results not only for them, but possibly for society more generally.”