50 years of licit cohabition

I want to share two articles published for Loving Day.  Not just any Loving Day, but the 50th Anniversary of the legalization of interracial marriage nationwide Loving Day. Yay!  A lot has changed in 50 years.  And so much has not.  I think these two articles together embody that sentiment perfectly.  Sometimes it takes more than one thing 🙂

crystal bellieve in love

The NPR post has actual audio (short and worth hearing) from the Loving v. Virginia trial and gives more details about the arguments in the case than I’ve ever encountered.  The New York Times Opinion Editorial shares short stories from current day interracial couples.  Find excerpts from both below.  Please click the links for full articles.

While “Illicit Cohabitation” is a great pull into the NPR mixed-media piece, the line from the trial that I find most fascinating is the one about psychological evils. The pro anti-miscegenation law argument that “these statutes serve a legitimate, legislative objective of preventing sociological, psychological evils which attend interracial marriages” really got my attention.  I wish I could say the statement is entirely unfounded.  But that is not true.  The statement is true, as is what he said next:  “Intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than those of the intra-married and that the state’s prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry.”  Ok, he totally lost me with polygamous and incestuous and statutory, but what came before that?  That is as true today as it was 50 years ago. And with everything that’s going on around here these days, there is no denying that.  That’s just the way it is right now.  What I hope we will all do is realize it wasn’t the marriages that needed banning, it was the society who’s psychology told it that there was a hierarchy to maintain and a gulf so wide as to never fathom crossing it.  And I hope we will see where the vestiges of those beliefs and laws still live in us and in our communities and that we will speak up for what is right and just and true. There is a lot of unraveling to be done. It shouldn’t have been so hard.

society is gross

 

It shouldn’t be so hard still.  The New York Times gathered stories that are current and honest.  I’ll be honest and admit that I only read the black and white couples because, while I’m being honest, Anti-miscegenation laws were primarily put in place to prohibit black people from marrying white people.  In order to preserve the master race.  And to prevent tragic offspring like me from upsetting the system with our all-encompassing, theory-disproving, potentially-unifying selves by just, you know, existing. But, I digress-

I think this can all be summed up with this quote from Jennifer, a white woman married to black man since 2001:  “I have learned that not only is “driving while black” a real thing, but also that riding with a black male will get you pulled over. I’ve learned to ignore disapproving looks from older white people in public places…I’ve learned that most people are tolerant, but that is different from being accepting. While we may have come a long way from the days of the Lovings, there is still a long way to go.”

To all the interracial couples before the Lovings and after the Lovings,

Thank you for your courage in the name of love while facing intense discrimination, judgement, adversity, and alienation.  Important steps toward waking us up out of the illusion of race.

thank you crystals

 

‘Illicit Cohabitation’: Listen To 6 Stunning Moments From Loving V. Virginia

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“Illicit cohabitation.”

“Psychological evils.”

“Racial integrity.”

It’s difficult to imagine how much the country’s language around race and interracial marriage has changed in the past half century.

But just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was prohibited in Virginia and 15 other states.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia declared unconstitutional a Virginia law prohibiting mixed-race marriage. The ruling also legalized interracial marriage in every state.

Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, two young ACLU lawyers at the time, took the case of the Lovings — a black and Native American woman named Mildred and Richard Loving, her white husband — all the way to the high court.

Listen to six standout moments from the trial below, transcribed by the Supreme Court in 1967:

1. Cohen and Hirschkop asked the court to look closely at whether the Virginia law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. If the framers had intended to exclude anti-miscegenation status in the 14th Amendment, which assures equal protection under the law, they argued that it would have been easy for them to write a phrase excluding interracial marriage, but they didn’t Cohen argued:

“Equal protection for Negroes”

“The language was broad, the language was sweeping. The language meant to include equal protection for Negroes that was at the very heart of it and that equal protection included the right to marry as any other human being had the right to marry subject to only the same limitations.”

 

Loving, 50 Years Later

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that invalidated state laws restricting interracial marriage. Recently, we asked readers to share their experiences about being in a mixed-race relationship. We received more than 2,000 stories in just a few days.

Many people expressed profound ambivalence about the categories that drove antimiscegenation rules, while they described how their racial identity — or how others identified them — continued to shape their relationships and their social interactions. Some wrote about the resistance they faced from family and society, while others celebrated the particular richness of their lives. Here are some of those stories.

BARB AND MATT ROOSE

Married: Medina, Ohio, July 18, 1992

‘Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish.’

BARB: I’m African-American and my husband is Caucasian. We married when we were 19 and 20 years old and we’ll celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year. We love that we get to celebrate such a milestone as the Supreme Court verdict celebrates a milestone too.

After we got engaged (which was mainly because I was pregnant) my then-boyfriend was asked by one of his family members: “Do you really love her or are you just trying to tick your parents off?”

We learned quickly that we couldn’t answer all of the questions that our families had. Luckily we were young, bullheaded and foolish, so we decided not to let other people’s issues with our marriage become our own. We had to focus on us. This meant that my husband had to sacrifice some of his relationships for a short season in order to marry me. Thankfully, they have since reconciled.

We made it a priority to make sure that our kids had friends of all races. Early on in our lives, we hung out with another biracial couple that looked like us, so that our kids saw black moms and white dads as normal.

As a couple, we learned to be upfront with each other about race. It didn’t start that way. Attraction led to confusion. Our life experience and cultural filters created a need for us to learn each other’s ways. Like, letting him, when he was my boyfriend, into my dorm room while I was relaxing my hair. I had to let him see me being fully me. Another time when my father-in-law and I went to a country music concert with his favorite artist — that was culture shock! But, it was the music of my husband’s experience and it helped me learn more about the people in my family.

It’s taken a long time to learn this, but we believe that our relationship is more important than one of us being right. We don’t want race to ever become a wall that divides us.

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oh happy (loving) day

I love surprising intersections of the things I love the most.  Such as Volkswagen and Loving Day.  I’m not sure if I am more passionate about any other subjects.  That may be an exaggeration, but anyway I am super into VW as well as the progression of our society toward a more loving, open way of living.  Without Loving v. Virginia it is likely that there would be no me nor so many others. This is inspiring and undeniable progress for which I am grateful.

b:w beetles

That being said, you can imagine my delight when the Volkswagen ad below hit the circuit just in time for Loving Day- commemoration of the day that the Supreme Court declared interracial marriage to be legal nation wide with their verdict in the Loving vs. Virginia case.  48 years ago.  That was basically yesterday folks.  And though we’ve come a long-ass way in the last 48 years, we still have a long-ass way to go before we’re free from the fears and limitations and separations of race.  And our addiction to perceived otherness.  Can you imagine how lovely things might be if we defaulted to perceived sameness? Le sigh ❤

So here’s the Volkswagen commercial and here’s to normalizing blackness on the road to normalizing togetherness. Baby steps.

VOLKSWAGEN USES HUMOROUS AD FEATURING YOUNG INTERRACIAL COUPLE TO MARKET ITS CARS

By 

What we regularly see depicted in the media is often what we subconsciously regard as being normal. It’s hard to deny the influence that television and movies has had on impacting the way that people of color are viewed by society. As inconsequential as it seemed when the popular television series 24 featured a black man as the president, this depiction did undoubtedly condition a segment of the public to the idea that it was not inconceivable that a black man could be the President of the United States.

Although inter-racial dating is widespread, television continues to shy away from featuring this reality. That’s why it’s interesting to see Volkswagens choosing to promote this ad. We will be watching to see if other major advertisers follow suit. As any step to normalize how black families are depicted is a welcomed development.

Richard & MIldred in checked skirt and top Loving

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color-pic

Mildred and Richard Loving

(also pictured: their children Donald, Peggy, and Sidney.)

multiracial family man

I was delighted to be interviewed by comedian Alex Barnett for his Multiracial Family Man podcast. I met Alex and his wife during the Katie Couric debacle of 2014. Not only do I like them because they are cool, funny people, but they remind me of my family of origin. That doesn’t happen all that often.

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I think we had a great conversation about race, interracial relationships, and the ever evolving multiracial experience.

You can CHECK it out here:

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/c/5/3/c53470bfd6efc2e8/MFM_-_Tiffany_Jones_revised.mp3?c_id=8514010&expiration=1425994502&hwt=0a2cd49d00972f9ce2f6ffb01e43f568

or here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/multiracial-family-man-ep./id969793342?i=337179665&mt=2

mr family man logo

And if you want more Alex Barnett, here’s a link to his website where you can read his blog posts and enjoy his stand-up: http://www.alexbarnettcomic.com.

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…

 

 

 

what Loving and loving are all about

I don’t feel quite right about focusing more on Cheerios than on the Lovings yesterday.  Perhaps I did it because this is the 4th Loving Day that I’ve had this blog so felt that I’d covered that already. Or, perhaps I did it because I knew I had this one in store for today.  This article, written by the Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis (Ph.D/black woman married to a white man/woman of color and of God who stands for equal rights for all re:gay marriage) for the Huffington Post Religion blog, is all about liberty and justice for all.  On a good day I’m all about liberty and justice for all!  That there’s a place called “Middle Church” makes my heart swell.  I want to go to there.  I love knowing that Reverend Lewis exists.  I find inspiration in that knowing.  I love knowing what Mildred Loving thought and how she felt about life and love and equality, and am inspired by that too.

Let’s encourage one another to stop saying no to love.  Let’s encourage love in whatever form it arises.  Let us love that.

P.S. I also love that Willy Wonka meme, yet I have no idea what Mr. Wonka has to do with this, if anything.  That was my own find on the world wide web, not part of the Reverend’s article. Just for the record.

P.P.S. It is nearly impossible to be depressed and inspired at the same time, so let us also encourage one another to be inspired.  Or, even better, start living an inspired life yourself and watch the inspiration and the health of your community grow.

Making Love Legal

Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church

Posted: 06/07/2013

Central Point, Virginia. 1958: Richard and Mildred Loving jailed. Their crime: marriage. He was white. She was black. “We were married on the second day of June. And the police came after us the fourteenth day of July,” Mildred Loving said in the documentary “The Loving Story” (HBO, 2011).

An anonymous tip sent police to their house in the middle of the night. Making love was a crime, too, for people of different races. The police found them sleeping. They were arrested for “cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” Their marriage was illegal in 24 states in 1958.

Richard and Mildred pled guilty, and received a one-year prison sentence, which would be suspended if they left Virginia. They moved to Washington, D.C., sneaking home to see family and friends. Mildred wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who referred her to the A.C.L.U. Richard told their lawyer, “Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

Love was not enough to mitigate the racial fear and hatred that resisted their union. It was not enough to unravel the complicated narrative of white supremacy that led to segregation, to Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws.

In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision held that the prohibition of biracial marriage was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren and the other justices claimed that “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival … Under our constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

No matter what society asserts about race, no matter what religious institutions teach about race and no matter the ethnicity of the couple, marriage is a basic civil right.

The Supreme Court changed the narrative, changed the story. And it changed the culture. According to Pew Research study of married couples (February 2012), the share of interracial couples reached an all-time high of 8.4 percent. In 1980, that share was just 3.2 percent.

The narrative of homophobia in our nation is also complicated and tragic. The culture has shaped it, religious institutions have often reinforced it, and fear feeds it. I believe that no matter what the culture asserts, adults have the civil right to marry, no matter their sexual orientation.

gay marriage is illegal so was interracial wonka

And I believe this is also true: Wherever love is, God is. The writer of 1 John says, “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” I think it is important for congregations that teach “God is love” to also affirm the marriage of same-gender loving couples. They should have the civil right to marry and their love should be blessed in our churches.

On Sunday, June 9 at 6 p.m., at Middle Church, my white husband and I will celebrate Loving Day (celebrated nationally on June 12) and the landmark case that gave us the right to marry and live with each other. We will celebrate in hope that the Supreme Court will once again change the story, that it will rule on Prop 8 and DOMA in such a way that all couples have the right to marry in every state in our union.

Original gospel music by Broadway and television actor Tituss Burgess will be performed and there will be a renewal of vows for straight and gay couples. Burgess (Jersey BoysThe Little MermaidGuys and Dolls and 30 Rock), Alyson Palmer (of BETTY, whose music has been heard on The L-WordUgly Betty and Weeds), and Broadway’s Jenny Powers (Grease and Little Women) will solo at the event. Middle Church stands for the freedom of all couples to legally marry. During the commitment ceremony, all couples — no matter their ethnicity, or their gender or sexuality — can renew or make new vows to each other. We will celebrate loving, because we know for sure that love heals. Come and bring someone special with you!

Commenting on the similarities between interracial and same-sex marriage in 2007, Mildred Loving said,

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That is what Loving and loving are all about.

Amen, and may it be so.

loving

…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

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…

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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.

love is many things

…but it shouldn’t be a secret.  That really hit home for me.

I wish that this young woman could talk to Nia.  I hope that she at least reads the essay.  Not that Nia touched on the topic of having racist black parents to contend with, but I think that Danielle could be inspired by the way in which Nia boldly and candidly addresses many of the issues facing interracial couples.

Yes, I called Danielle’s parents racist.  They are.  I’ve found that some people are under the impression that black people can’t be classified as racist.  That that is a delineation that we reserve for the “oppressor.”  So not true.

Case in point from U-Mich Race Card Project:

History; NEVER TRUST A WHITE MAN!

Kwende Idrissa Madu
Russellville, AL

I imagine it’s gonna be a tough row to hoe going through life in America completely unwilling and unable to trust a white man.  I also imagine that it could be a large majority of “minorities” who really feel that way.

Back to Danielle though:  I admire her for not letting go of the love of her young life.  For seeing and feeling beyond her parents’ antiquated and limiting fear based belief system.  And for deciding that it’s time to “come out” and love in the open and let the cards fall where they may because that is the only way for her to truly live.

[CONFESSIONS]

“I’m Hiding My Interracial Relationship From My Parents”

A YOUNG WOMAN FEARS THAT HER FAMILY WON’T ACCEPT THE LOVE OF HER LIFE

ByDANIELLE T. POINTDUJOUR

[CONFESSIONS]<br /><br /><br /><br />
�I�m Hiding My Interracial Relationship From My Parents�

I grew up surrounded by love. I have the fondest memories of my parents spontaneously stealing ‘private’ kisses, the grand romantic gestures of my aunts and uncles and watching my grandparents dancing to old records in their living room.  Love was all around me and I spent hours dreaming of the day I’d have one to call my own.  It wasn’t until high school that I started to realize that the love I saw and wanted came with conditions.

Since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, I had a secret boyfriend in the months leading up to that milestone birthday.  Mike was the best beau a teen girl could have—tall, handsome, funny and happy to carry my books and hold my hand.  He reminded me a lot of my father, the way he played with me and did ‘man’ things like pulling out my chair and holding all the doors.  He was great, so naturally I thought nothing of bringing him home for my parents to meet right after I turned 16.  I thought nothing of the fact that he’s White.

I’ll never forget the look on my parents’ faces when Mike walked through the door: confusion mixed with horror.  When he left—after an hour of awkward silence interrupted by short bursts of conversation—the drama began. My parents forbade me from seeing my honey again and told me that boys “like him” are only interested in me for sex and that I should “stick to my own kind.”  They tried to scare me with stories of violent racism and visions of children addicted to drugs because of their struggle with identity.  I tried to explain that his race didn’t matter to me, the way he treated me did.  I wanted him to know that Mike’s love reminded me of the love I grew up with. They weren’t trying to hear it.

For the rest of our high school years we dated in secret and by the time college came, the boy that held my hand became the man who held my heart.  Still, I had to have Black male friends pretend to take me on dates to throw my parents off.  I made up excuses to not come home on breaks so I could spend them with Mike’s family, who welcomed me with open, loving arms and had a hard time understanding my choice to hide our relationship.

I tried a few times to slip the topic of interracial dating into conversations with my parents, telling stories of friends who were happily dating or getting married.  The response was always the same: “Good for them, but you’re going to bring home someone that looks like us.”  My father even hinted that he would cut off my college funds if I went “that way.”

I felt trapped.

After college, Mike and I decided to apply for graduate school in Spain. While his parents were thrilled that we would be living abroad together and sharing an adventure, mine were worried about me going so far away and wondered how I would find the man of my dreams in a country where the majority of the people don’t speak English.  Little did they know the man of my dreams was actually a reality and had been in my life for quite some time.

It has been six months since we moved to Spain together and almost seven years since we started dating, and I couldn’t be happier!  All the fears my parents have for our relationship have yet to materialize, even here in this foreign land. Our love for each other has grown so much that I’ve come to realize that it’s time to tell my parents.  I love this man and I want to shout it from the rooftops. I no longer care what my parents or anyone else thinks about it and I’m tired of lying. Love is many things, but one thing it shouldn’t be is a secret.  Recently, we’ve been talking more about marriage and our future—both things that I want my parents to experience with us.  I hope that they can try to be open-minded enough to share in our love, but if not, that’s okay.  We have plenty of family and friends around that support us unconditionally and they can appreciate just what love is supposed to be: colorblind and limitless.