while i was away

besides hoarding articles, traveling too much for work, and evolving into a more holistic version of myself I had a fantastic time chatting with Heidi and Jennifer on the Mixed Experience podcast while I wasn’t blogging over here.  Y’all know I love me some Heidi Durrow.  She’s not only been a wonderful friend to me, but an inspiration as well! Oh yeah, there’s also that riveting novel she wrote called “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.” Such an important novel.  Period.  And in terms of the mixed experience it, like Heidi, is a true gem.  Here’s the interview if you’d like to listen.  I’ve been told it’s pretty good.  I also further explain why I had to take a break…again.

heidi and me

The Mixed Experience Podcast

most likely to suffer

I knew this, like on the inside of me, however reading it was profoundly gratifying.  Of course we are most likely to suffer…from many things.  You see, we’re not just invisible in the realm of public services and policy, but one could argue that we’re invisible everywhere we go.  Even at home to a certain extent.  Depending on circumstances of course.  And not only can we be misunderstood by teachers and health care professionals, we may very well be misunderstood by our parent(s), friends, and extended family.  Seeing as the truth of our experience has been ignored and denied, we’re also invisible in history.  Seeing yourself reflected back to you in a way that is congruent with your self-image is a “luxury” we are not often afforded.  And though there is no written rule on the subject, the feeling that our story is not valid and our voice is not wanted unless we surrender to societal expectations is palpable.

How about everybody just let us be and take us for who we say and show that we are?  Which means acknowledging, listening, hearing and imagining into some level of empathy.  Doesn’t seem like many people are interested in doing that.  Perhaps because if they did, the entire illusion would crumble.  Lots of identities are tightly wound in that illusion. So, then who would you all be?  You’d be like me.  Untethered from out-dated classifications and free to be whoever your heart tells you you are.  My heart has never mentioned race to me.  Has yours (to you)?

Mixed-race children ‘are being failed’ in treatment of mental health problems

The fastest growing ethnic group in Britain is still being treated as if it is only integrated into black culture, says report

mixie fairy b:w

Children of mixed race are at greater risk of suffering from mental health problems and are not getting the support they need, says a report.

Despite mixed-race children belonging to the fastest-growing ethnic group, the research, backed by the National Children’s Bureau, found that they faced “unrealistic” expectations from teachers and other adults who did not understand their backgrounds.

While mixed-race young people are over represented in the care, youth justice and child protection systems, the authors said they were “invisible” in public service practice and policy.

The report – Mixed Experiences – growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing – drew on several studies and interviews with 21 people about their experiences as children.

Co-author Dinah Morley was concerned at the lack of understanding over what it meant to be mixed race, a group most likely to suffer racism. “I was surprised at how much racism, from black and white people, had come their way,” she said. “A lot of children were seen as black when they might be being raised by a white single parent and had no understanding of the black culture. The default position for a child of mixed race is that they are black.”

The report found that those with mixed-race backgrounds were more at risk of mental health issues because of their struggle to develop an identity. Morley said the strongest common experience was the “too white to be black, too black to be white”.

The 2011 census showed that the mixed-race population was the fastest growing ethnic group in Britain, amounting to 2.2% of the population of England and Wales.

In 2012, research by the thinktank British Future found that prejudice towards mixed-race relationships was fading. The report, The Melting Pot Generation – How Britain Became More Relaxed About Race, talked about the “Jessica Ennis generation”, crediting the London Olympics 2012 athlete with changing attitudes towards mixed race. “That positive role model is also seen as something very important,” said Morley.

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race

Jessica Ennis is a positive role model for people of mixed race Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Image

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…

 

 

 

the only ‘black’ kid

Speaking of my Oakland County days, a few months ago I came across this photo on Abagond’s blog:

abagond stunned

When I saw this photo I saw myself in it.  Kind of.  For me, I could have been that speck of color in a group photo of friends going to a high school dance as easily as in posing for a family reunion photo.  And I suppose that’s the difference.  I don’t think I look much more awkward than the typical teenager in the photo below.  Not that I don’t look awkward, good lord the dress, but I’ve got nothing on the guy in the picture above.

prom

Perhaps that’s because when (half the time) you’re the only “black” kid in your family as well, there’s less propensity to be so fraught with anxiety in similar social situations.

elkhart reunion

Maybe there’s an extra layer of ease that comes with the inner-knowing that, no matter who recognizes it or doesn’t, you belong.  Given, of course that one is able to hold on to the truth that she belongs amidst the many dissentient voices.

only black kid in class

1937-38 only black kidsonny-clark-class-1024x705can hardly imagine what it was like for this little dude in 1937

I heart New York!

I am so f’in excited about this that I can’t even organize my thoughts. But I’m gonna try.  So yesterday, just like the first time I voted for Obama, I ran to the school where I vote to mark my ballot for…

photo 1

deblasio ask anything

Now, I must admit that though I do like what little I know of his politics and am not shy about my democratic tendencies, I was really voting for…

deblasio fam

For the guy who prompted a good friend of mine to text, “Are those his kids!?” as de Blasio delivered his sagacious acceptance speech standing amidst his family.

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I voted for the man who once made the bold choice to give up some of his white privilege to live the life he wanted with the woman he loved.  For the guy with kids that remind me of me.  For the family that looks like mine did once.

-bill-de-blasio-speaks-on-571x360

 

photo 1

I voted for a future where people have learned to see this:

huddle_de_blasio_family_nym_img

and think “family.”  A friend of mine once wrote in a wonderful novel*, “What a family is should shouldn’t be so hard to see.  It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.”  That is Truth. But for some of us it hasn’t been the truth of our experience.  And that doesn’t feel so good.

Now…maybe, soon… people will see this

New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio embraces his daughter Chiara during a campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York

or this ;)

photo 2

and think Father/Daughter, and not Age “Inappropriate” Interracial Couple?

I voted for the future I always wanted to be my present.  I left that school and I skipped up the block.  Just for, like, 17 seconds cuz I am 37 years old after all, but I just couldn’t contain the joy! I couldn’t have predicted that feeling either.  I think that even though we have the Obamas, it’s not quite the same and I figured it wouldn’t get any better than that.  It just did!   Thank you de Blasio Family and thank you New York City!  xo-Tiff

*The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

P.S. Here’s a fun, and totally non-political, article.  I love what Chiara says about seeing what other people have to go through.  She acknowledges her white privilege.  Yeah, we get a fraction of that too.

Chiara & Dante de Blasio: 5 Things To Know About New NYC Mayor’s Kids

Wed, November 6, 2013  by 

The newly elected NYC mayor’s teens are just about the coolest kids in politics — and their edgy fashion senses, trendy hairstyles, and enthusiastic participation in their dad’s campaign are just the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Chiara and Dante!

Chiara de Blasio, 18, and Dante de Blasio, 16 are such stylish young adults that they nearly stole the spotlight away from their dad, Bill de Blasio, who was elected the new mayor of New York City on Nov. 4. Learn more about the new first kids of NYC!

5 Things To Know About NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Kids

1. Chiara and Dante are really smart! Dante is a high school junior at Brooklyn Tech, which one of the city’s elite public high schools. Chiara, is a sophomore in college at a private liberal arts school in northern California. She plans to major in environmental studies.

2. Dante’s afro is so cool that absolutely everyone is noticing! President Barack Obama even mentioned it at a Democratic Party Fundraiser in New York in Sept. 2013. He “has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” Obama told the crowd before complimenting his look. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” Chiara loves switching up her own style, from sporting floral crown hair accessories to trying out dreads.

dante-de-blasio-barack-obama1

3. Dante was featured in his dad’s campaign ads, and his videos quickly went viral. Chiara also expressed that she loved being part of her dad’s campaign process. “I like understanding what’s going on better. In every way I think that I’m lucky to live the life that I live,” Chiara told NY Mag. ”I don’t have a lot of the problems that other people have. It’s very important for me to see what other people go through.

4. Chiara’s fashion sense is completely new for a first daughter of New York City. She has ear gauges, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose piercing.

5. Chiara has publicly said that her dad is not “some boring white guy,” and that his cultural awareness comes from his global projects and his own multi-cultural family! Chiara and Dante’s dad, Bill comes from German and Italian American backgrounds and their mom, Chirlane McCray is African American. “A lot of people could look at him and just see the color of his skin, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Chiara told NY Mag.

i am who i am that is that

It’s been a good long while since someone has asked me outright, “What are you?”  This dawned on me as I read the article below.  At first I figured it’s just because I’m not that ethnically ambiguous, visually speaking.  I have never thought of myself that way, though, and regardless of my self-perception I have been What are you-ed many times.  When I got to the point in the article about nationality vs. ethnicity my confusion was cleared up.  I have this conversation on a weekly basis.  Unless I literally do not engage with any “new” people.  It goes like this:

  • new person:  So, where are you from?
  • me:  Michigan.
  • new person: (usually awkward giggle goes here) I mean what’s your nationality?
  • me:  American.
  • new person: (usually frustrated sigh goes here) Okaaaayyyy, well where are your parents from?
  • me:  Kentucky and West Virginia.
  • new person: either a) gives up or b) says, Well, what’s their background?

I usually give in here saying something like, “My mom is black and my dad is white, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.” Believe me my smart ass retorts could go on forever, but who has time for this kind of bullshit conversation?  It’s true: I am not a puzzle to solve. In the past I have allowed these questions to make me feel less than the whole being that I am.  Now, they irk me. Please don’t confuse my discontent with the content of these chats with me preferring that there be no discussion.  As I said in the last post, we have to talk about it.  But with the intent to understand and connect, not to separate, stereotype or pigeonhole.  The difference is palpable.  I can feel the intent behind the inquisitions and the stares.  I no longer take it personally either way, but the pigeonholers lead me to a place of righteous indignation inside of myself that is not an optimal space from which to raise the vibration of love on the planet. So help a sister out here.  Ask yourself why it is that you want to know so badly?  Why, why, why, why, why?  I beg you to get real with yourself on that one.  I believe this will lead you to questions that are actually worth asking.  And if you’re brave enough to truthfully answer them, those answers may begin to remove the blinders that keep us immersed in the illusions of society.  The “right” questions and the honest answers will lead you out of the false self into your truth, the truth of the universe.  I’m all for asking questions.  But quality questions, people.  Progressive questions.  Unifying questions.  Not bullshit ones. And if you really must ask because you couldn’t possibly go on living without knowing which box somebody “belongs” in, please follow the advice in this article.  Especially that thing about accept the answer you receive.  Sat Nam.

i am who i am

I’m Not a Puzzle to Solve: How to Speak to Ethnically Ambiguous People

September 9, 2013 | by Kat Lazo My father is Peruvian, and my mother is Colombian, which I guess makes me ethnically ambiguous. I say “I guess” because in my eyes, this seems to be a pretty boring combination. Yet, to many people, I seem to be a hard puzzle to solve. But unfortunately for them, I’m not a puzzle. I’m a human being. And that’s the problem when approaching ethnically (or racially) ambiguous people with questions about their backgrounds: Many of the approaches are dehumanizing. I’ve had complete strangers act nice to me only to find out they were trying to win a bet as to guessing what ethnicity I was. I’ve had people stop in their tracks and shout “What are you?” as if I were an alien. I’ve had men refer to me as an “exotic animal.” I’ve had people question how American I am. All of which made me feel less than the whole being that I am. I understand where the questions come from. I have almond-shaped eyes, light olive skin, Inca facial features, and straight black hair, a combination that is curious to some people. I understand how my appearance can be foreign and interesting to many people. But that doesn’t mean that my appearance is up for public discussion. Questioning someone about his or her appearance is rude, especially if you haven’t established a relationship with that individual to begin with. But if can’t control your curiosity and you really want to know that badly, here are a few things to keep in mind when approaching people about their ethnic background.

It’s How You Ask

Stopping a complete stranger on the street to interrogate them –whether it’s about the tattoos on their body or their ethnic background – isn’t always the best approach. Why? Because you’re a stranger. People don’t owe anyone an explanation for why they look the way they look,especially someone that they don’t know. That being said, if you still feel the need to ask, don’t bombard us with a thousand questions. It’s overwhelming and insensitive. There’s also something offensive about thinking that you are entitled to ask so many questions. It’s bothersome precisely because you’re not entitled to it. Please stop asking “What are you?” It’s not the right way to ask about someone’s ethnicity, and it’s rude. Though it may be a result of ignorance as to how to ask, it makes the other person feel like an object or less than whole. It’s as if you are insinuating that we are something less than human. i don't feel like a personThe best way to ask is to be genuinely interested in getting to know a person and not just a slice of information about them. If you have a genuine conversation, it’s even possible that the person will disclose information about their ethnicity before you even ask. And if they don’t – or if they decline to answer your questions – remember thatthat’s okay. They have every right not to divulge that information.

Accept the Answer That You Receive

If you’re going to be so bold as to interrupt someone to ask such a complicated question, than be prepared for a complicated answer. Not everyone’s response is going to be as simple as you may have assumed. Remember that ethnicity is complicated in itself. It’s pretty rare that anyone in the Western hemisphere is 100% anything these days. And once you get an answer, please don’t continue pushing for more information if the response didn’t suffice your curiosity. Continuing to question someone after they’ve given you an answer is disrespectful. The answer belongs to them and them alone. The answer is not validated on whether or not it pleases you. Also keep in mind that for some individuals, perhaps those that don’t know their biological parents, ethnic background may be something deeply personal for them. In my case, I’m a mestizo (a person of both indigenous and European descent). So my dearest apologizes that when I disclose my parents’ nationalities, it does not necessarily appease your curiosity as to from where my almond-shaped eyes derive. But deal with it. Once answered, don’t keep pushing.

Expectations

If you’re going to ask such a personal question, leave your biases and stereotypes at the door. Stereotypes are bad, even the positive ones. Making generalization about an entire group of people is problematic because it limits them to exactly that – a generalization. A stereotype not only limits an individual’s personal growth, but it limits you from genuinely getting to know them. If you want to really get to know someone, leave the stereotypes at the door. “I’m Mexican.” “Oh, wow. I thought Mexicans were all really short.” Or… “I’m Filipina.” “You’re a lot prettier than most Filipinas.” These types of remarks are rude. The people being questioned have opened themselves up to answer your question, and you respond by insulting the very people he or she is associated with? How could that be construed as not offensive?

Case-By-Case Basis

No two people are the same, and therefore, no two people will respond in the same manner. Some will welcome questions and curiosity, whereas others may not. Personally, I find that I respond to people differently depending on how they approach me and depending on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I’ll play dumb. “What am I? Oh, I’m a human.” Sometimes I’ll take the opportunity as a way to teach others about my background. “I’m not exactly sure where my eyes come from because my mother has naturally almond eyes and my father’s country, Peru, has had a history of an influx of Japanese immigrants.” Or sometimes I won’t answer back because—well—I just don’t feel like it. And that’s okay. It’s my body, and I have the right to answer in any manner that I feel comfortable with – not necessarily an answer that makes you comfortable. And one of my choices is not answering at all. Remember: No matter how someone answers the question, it’s always appropriate.

Learn the Difference Between Nationality and Ethnicity

Other than “What are you?” the most commonly asked and irritating question I get is “What nationality are you?” To which, I give the proper answer: American. One’s nationality is the nation in which a person was born or is a citizen of. Another way to think of it is: It’s what’s on your passport. Ethnicity, on the other hand, isn’t as easily defined, but for the most part, it’s determined by a couple of factors, including country of origin, shared language, and ancestry. Hispanic, for example, is an ethnicity, not a race. One can be a Black Hispanic, White Hispanic, or Asian Hispanic. Ethnicity may be a little complicated, but one thing we know is this: It’s not the same as nationality. Precision of language matters. i am not-rumi I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why I look the way I look. And it’s my choice whether or not to disclose – and not yours to force it out of me. Understand that if you are curious about a person’s ethnic background, chances are that you aren’t the only one. There have likely been plenty before you who have asked the same questions. Having to answer the same questions over and over again can get tiresome – for anyone. And having so many people question your appearance can make one feel less-than. So ask yourself why you care so much. Revaluate how important it is to attain this information rather than caring about the person themselves. The truth is, it shouldn’t matter. Because just knowing someone’s background won’t tell you who they are. But a genuine interest might.

…and then

It happens to be Loving Day which is what prompted me to finally get around to posting about the Cheerios.  Happy Loving Day! Interracial Marriage (black/white) has been legal for a grand total of….46 years!  That’s only ten more years than I have existed!  So in the grand scheme, if there is still a small to medium segment of the population who simply has not taken advantage of any opportunity to grow out of this debilitating mindset, well, that’s only to be expected… and it’s too bad for them… and absolutely ok with me actually.  Love people where they are, right?

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.32 PM #5 (compiled)

4-up on 6-12-13 at 7.26 PM #5 (compiled)

Here’s a nice article that brings together the Cheerios and the Lovings.

Opinion: The importance of ‘Loving’ in the face of racism

Editor’s note: June 12 is the 46th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia,  which made interracial marriage legal in the United States.  Thousands of people nationwide celebrate that anniversary as “Loving Day’.  Ken Tanabe is the founder and president of Loving Day, an international, annual celebration that aims to build multicultural community and fight racial prejudice through education. He is a speaker on multiracial identity, community organizing and social change through design. 

By Ken Tanabe, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Racism is alive and well in 2013, and what’s striking is the recent notable examples aimed at interracial couples – or one of their children.

Even breakfast cereal commercials aren’t safe. A recent Cheerios ad depicting an interracial couple and their multiracial child got so many racist remarks on YouTube that the company had to disable the comments.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the commercial, except that the parents happen to be an interracial couple.

But the truth is, racially blended families are becoming more ordinary every day, due to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared all laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

Opinion: Two different marriage bans, both wrong.

Today is the 46th anniversary of that decision, and one in seven new marriages in the United States is interracial or interethnic.  Multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing youth demographic.

Number of interracial couples in U.S. reaches all-time high:

While the negative comments about the Cheerios commercial made it newsworthy, there were also many others who showed their support for the Cheerios brand.

Multiracial Americans of Southern California, a multiethnic community group, started a Facebook album for people to post photos of themselves holding a box of Cheerios. And in articles and in social media, supporters expressed gratitude to General Mills for depicting a multiracial family.

The weddings of two multiracial couples from high-profile families also prompted racist comments online. Lindsay Marie Boehner, daughter of House Speaker John Boehner, married Dominic Lakhan, a black Jamaican man. And Jack McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, married Renee Swift, a woman of color.

The reaction to these marriages is reminiscent of the response to the marriage of Peggy Rusk – the daughter of then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk – and Guy Smith, a black man. In 1967, interracial marriage was a cover story, several months after laws against interracial marriage were struck down.

Things have changed since then, but not enough.

In a 2011 Gallup poll, 86% of Americans approved of “marriage between blacks and whites.”  In 1958, the approval rating was 4%. But it makes me wonder: What do the other 14% of Americans think? Apparently, many of them spend a lot of time leaving comments online.

The election of Barack Obama inspired many of us to hope that widespread racism was a relic of the past.

And while he was elected to a second term, we must not be complacent when it comes to racism in our daily lives. We must seek out opportunities to educate others about the history of our civil rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wished that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I wonder what he would think of our collective progress as the 50th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech approaches.

On June 15th, the 10th annual Loving Day Flagship Celebration in New York City will draw an expected 1,500 guests. And while many participants are multiracial, anyone can host a Loving Day Celebration for friends and family, and make it a part of their annual traditions.

We need to work collectively to fight prejudice through education and build a strong sense of multiethnic community. If we do, one day we might live in a nation where the racial identities of politicians’ children’s spouses are no longer national news, and cereal commercials are more about cereal than race.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ken Tanabe.

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing, April, 1965

 Peggy, Sidney, and Donald Loving playing April 1965

now…

cheerios meme

Certainly you’ve heard of this, right?  The barrage of hateful comments left under the commercial featuring a mixed race family on Cheerios’ YouTube channel.  Comments so offensive that General Mills deleted and disabled them.  “It’s 2013!!!” is the gist of the typical response from “normal” people on the internet.  “I want to eat so many Cheerios right now,” was quite literally my response.  And I got a little choked up.  Not about the comment fiasco.  I stopped getting choked up about youtube comments years ago, thank God, and it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that hateful voices rose from the trollers. None.  So all I’m left with is this beautiful commercial, with this adorable child who makes some sincerely delightful faces depicted in a family that almost resembles mine in a way that I cannot recall having seen before.  Ever.  I am 36 years old.  I was in commercials as a kid.  I have never seen a commercial like this.  That is what is shocking.  That in 2013, this near-revolutionary advertising.  People took note, did double takes.  Heads were scratched.  Fears and tempers were flared.  Clearly this is long overdue.  So, thank you Cheerios!! Thank you for looking at your community and your consumers and seeing what is actually in front of you. And being “bold” enough to “endorse” it.  By endorsing reality, you make us face it and give us the opportunity to adjust to it.  Maybe even to like it You reflect me and all the others like me who had never experienced the normalization of our lives in a television commercial. This makes for a healthier society.  That makes for a healthier me.

And then there’s this! Maybe it’s not as bad as it seems after all.

Turns Out Americans Love ‘Controversial’ Cheerios Ad

Perhaps Racist YouTubers Not Representative of Country as a Whole

By: 
June 5, 2013

Last week, a new ad from Cheerios was deemed controversial when media outlets discovered that the racist contingent of the idiocracy known as the YouTube comment section trashed the ad for featuring a mixed-race couple and a biracial child.

But according to data from Ace Metrix, Americans like the ad. In fact, “Good for Your Heart” (called “Just Checking” on YouTube) tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores 9% and 11% “above the current 90-day norm for cereals.”

General Mills rightly decided not to be swayed by the rantings of deranged internet comments, telling USA Today that the supposed uproar would not affect future casting decisions.

According to Ace Metrix, the ad — created by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York — “appealed to all age/gender demographics with the exception of males over 50.” While that could be taken as a statement on racial attitudes, Ace Metrix noted that ads with babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child.

The report, which surveyed over 500 consumers, went on to note: “The ad scored best with African-Americans, who collectively scored the ad a 721, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics. While African Americans and Hispanics generally award advertising higher scores than their ethnic counterparts — the 721 score is 100 higher than average for African-Americans.”

And filtering verbatim commentary from those surveyed, those who specifically mentioned “couple” did so in a positive manner.

“I liked that the couple is mixed race,” wrote one respondent. “Good to see that on TV, but in a subtle manner.”

WordCloudCheerios

word cloud from Ace Metrix survey comments