people will recode you

I think Professor Daniel hit the nail on the head with this statement from the article below: “There’s really no understanding when a person says, ‘I’m biracial, I’m multiracial,’ ” he said. “People don’t know where to locate you.”  This is exactly why this work, this topic is so important to me.  My sincerest hope is that one day a person can say “I’m biracial/mixed,” and that the majority of Americans will have a basic understanding of what that means to said person.  Right now it’s very vague.  Right now, said person is likely to get a blank stare, a condescending smirk, an accusation of self-hatred and/or denial, and then be “coded” into the category that phenotype makes most logical.  Right now, the majority of people do not understand that the fact that said person comes from two different races and cultures is important to them and informs their identity.  We can’t separate the two things.  Hopefully wouldn’t want to.

Framing mixed race: The face of America is changing

By Jennifer Modenessi
Contra Costa Times

There’s no end to the number of ways people label one another, but what happens when visual cues such as skin color and hair texture don’t fit into categories? Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh interviewed and photographed more than 100 individuals and families (in the recent book “Blended Nation: Portraits of Mixed-Race America,”), capturing the faces and stories of what the authors describe as a group of people dealing with disparity, and living within the gap between how society views them and how they self-identify.

“Some people think I’m just tan and not half-black,” said 10-year-old Isabella Carr. Several years have passed since Isabella, her siblings and her parents, Janine and Evan, who are now divorced, were interviewed and photographed for “Blended Nation.”

In the book, the family talked about the rewards and challenges of their heritage. Being married to an African-American man had allowed Mozée to “see the world through a multicolored lens, and not just the white one I was born with.”

Still, there have been cloudy spots.

“I have people that don’t think they’re my kids or they ask if they have the same father,” Mozée said. She responds that, yes, they are her children and, yes, they have the same father. The conversation might be different with a stranger but Mozée “doesn’t get into those situations much.”

When asked a few years ago by the authors how he self-identified, Mozée’s eldest son, Austin, said that half the time he felt black, the other half of the time he felt white. Now 16, Austin said not much has changed.

“I identify with both ways, white and black,” he said. “I might talk to somebody and nearly make friends and that’s one of the questions they ask: ‘Are you mixed? Are you black and white?’ — partly because of how I look and my personality. I just tell them who I am. I have no problem with that.”

For some, the question never comes. Moses, 29, an Oakland resident, said she’s rarely asked about her ethnicity or background. With her pale skin, long red hair and freckles, not many people guess that her late father was black, Native American and white.

“People don’t see me as mixed” she said. “(They) don’t ask.”

Getting older, Moses said, has tempered her response to being multiracial. Living in the Bay Area, with its rich diversity, has also helped.

“On the East Coast, it was ‘No way.’ It was shock and disbelief,” Moses said. “Here, it ranges from ‘Uh-huh,’ like it’s not a real surprise, to ‘Interesting.’ It doesn’t blow people’s minds.”

Daniel, who for more than two decades has taught “Betwixt and Between,” a UC Santa Barbara course dealing with multiracial identity, has struggled with people’s perception of his mixed-race background.

“There’s really no understanding when a person says, ‘I’m biracial, I’m multiracial,’ ” he said. “People don’t know where to locate you. They know where to locate blacks. They know where to locate whites. They know where to locate Native Americans, Latinos. When you say, ‘I’m biracial, multiracial,’ they say, ‘Who are your people? What does that mean?’ Inevitably people will recode you into whatever they want you to be.”

That’s why self-identification is so important, Daniel said. It’s changing the way people talk about race and where mixed-race people fit in the fabric of American society. “If people really identified with the complexity of their million ancestors, we’d have a really different world,” he said.

Read more HERE

make your own definition

I enjoyed and appreciated this article about “us.”  I’ve been thinking lately about the choice we have to either “interact with the system the way it interacts with you,” or to come up with (and stick to and be ready to defend) our own definition of self.  In other words, you can let everyone else define you because it’s the path of least outward resistance, or you can follow the path of the least inward resistance.  I tried to go along with the system.  I think that was the primary source of my former discontent.  Now that I’m being true to myself, lots of things make a lot more sense and the possibilities seem greater.  Other things seem to make no sense at all and the obstacles loom large.  Yet I’m confident that I’m heading in the right direction.

For fast-growing group of Americans, race isn’t defined by one name

The question hit Tiffanie Grier like a hammer, and more than 15 years later, the impact lingers. She was just 9 years old, a third-grader at a school awards program, when she was asked by a friend’s mother about her ambiguous racial appearance.

What are you?

For Grier, now 26 and career placement director for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis, it was the first of many instances in which she confronted questions related to her heritage as the daughter of a white mother and an African-American father.

“I get asked a lot,” she said. “(People) feel the need to know.”

Far from being a rarity, however, Grier is part of what may be the fastest-growing demographic, both locally and nationally.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of people of two or more races rose nearly 33 percent, from 3.9 million to nearly 5.2 million nationwide, according to census estimates.

In Shelby County, the growth rate was even faster. The number of multiracial residents increased some 43 percent, from 6,384 to 9,113 during the eight-year period in which the overall county population grew by only about 1 percent.

The 2010 Census, barely two months away, is expected to show even greater growth in the category, demographers say.

The reasons are twofold. First, the number of interracial marriages, and the children produced by them, has risen steadily since 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state prohibitions on the unions.

Second, as a result of a growing acceptance of multiracial heritage, researchers say, people have become increasingly willing to check more than one category for race on the census forms. The election of a mixed-race president, Barack Obama, likely will reinforce that trend.

“It’s the wave of the future, for sure,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “I think symbolically … it might have an impact on how people view race.”

The upcoming census will be only the second in which respondents are able to identify themselves as multiracial.

The 2000 Census showed the emerging “two-or-more-races” group was poised for rapid growth. About 42 percent of them were under age 18, compared to only 25 percent of the general population that young, and 70 percent were younger than 35.

“What that’s telling you is that it’s a young population, and that it’s increasing,” said Nicholas Jones, chief of the Census Bureau’s racial statistics branch.

Among the most common combinations named by people in the two-or-more-races category in 2000 were white-Native American/ Alaskan (1.08 million), white-Asian (about 868,000) and white-black (nearly 785,000).

The significance of the emerging multirace demographic is anything but clear. Frey predicts it will diminish the importance of race — helping to propel society beyond a black-white divide — while others say the impact will be more on a personal level.

“I think it’s important to the people themselves — how they identify themselves,” said Darryl Tukufu, vice president for academic affairs and associate professor of sociology at Crichton College in Memphis.
Memphians (clockwise from top left) Felicia Scarpeti-Lomax, Tiffanie Grier, Cardell Orrin  and Desireé Robertson are members of what may be the fastest-growing demographic, both locally and nationally -- people who may identify themselves by two or more races.

(PHOTO BY MIKE BROWN: Memphians (clockwise from top left) Felicia Scarpeti-Lomax, Tiffanie Grier, Cardell Orrin and Desireé Robertson are members of what may be the fastest-growing demographic, both locally and nationally — people who may identify themselves by two or more races.)

Whatever other effects it might have, the relatively recent census acceptance of multiracial classification recalls the nation’s troubled and convoluted history regarding race.

Although many African-Americans have some white ancestry, the historic “one-drop rule” meant that anyone with so much as a drop of black blood was categorized as black and potentially subjected to disenfranchisement and other forms of discrimination.

That history, said Warner Dickerson, president of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP, blurs the significance of the new census categories.

“I happen to be a fair-skinned black man, and you and I both know why,” Dickerson said. “Most of us are mixed with black blood and white blood.”

Because society has labeled them as black, many people with one African-American and one white parent say they will continue to check only the black category on the census form.

“I will be addressed, especially here in the South, as an African-American,” said Cardell Orrin, 35, a Memphis business consultant and co-founder of a political action committee called New Path. “You decide to make your own definition or interact with the system the way it interacts with you.”

Tukufu said the labeling, and discrimination that accompanied it, tended to instill in many mixed-race people a pride in their black heritage. That’s why they’ve stuck with one racial category on census forms.

“But now you have more of the younger folks who identify with both,” he added.

Grier interviewed people of ambiguous racial appearance, including many of mixed heritage, for her master’s thesis at the University of Memphis. She found that the question of how mixed-race people identified themselves often depends on who raised them.

That was the case with Desireé Robertson, 37, of Millington, who was adopted by an African-American couple and didn’t discover until age 30 that her biological mother was white.

“That’s my primary identification,” Robertson said in explaining why she’ll stay with just African-American as her identity in the census.

But Felicia Scarpeti-Lomax, 39, who was raised by both her white Italian-American mother and her black father, plans to use both racial categories.

“For me to use one racial category, that would be eliminating one of my parents, and that’s not my heritage,” Scarpeti-Lomax said.

She formerly lived in New York City, where racial identity was never an issue, she said.

“I never faced this craziness until I moved to the South,” she said.

Scarpeti-Lomax, like many others of biracial heritage, said she’s glad the Census Bureau finally began offered the choice of multiple categories.

“This is 2010 …” she said, “and I just refuse to live my life identified by a color.”

keith bardwell, please read this article

Just to catch you up to speed.  By the way, don’t worry about us.  We are doing just fine.  Thank you for your grave concern.  That you would go to such lengths as interfering with God’s blessing of love and devotion (I know, I know- only to certain couples) just to spare us a lifetime of confusion and exclusion is sweet.  But no thank you.  Times have changed, my friend.  I mean, you do seem to think of yourself as a kind of a friend of the mulattos.  A really ignorant and misinformed friend.  I see how it could happen.  For years (white)people were taught that race-mixing was wrong.  And if those people were desperate not to feel really racist, that belief was justified with feigned concern for the “spurious issue” which would result from interracial couplings.  That coupled with the “tragic mulatto” propaganda that has been bandied about the country since way back in the day… Well, I can see how you may have been lead astray.  I hope you can open your mind now.  After the couple of weeks I imagine you’ve been having, you really have no excuse.

w onesie

Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted?

By JOHN CLOUD Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

That Americans like answers in black and white, a cultural trait we confirmed last year when the biracial man running for President was routinely called “black”.

The flattening of Barack Obama’s complex racial background shouldn’t have been surprising. Many multiracial historical figures in the U.S. have been reduced (or have reduced themselves) to a single aspect of their racial identities: Booker T. Washington, Tina Turner, and Greg Louganis are three examples. This phenomenon isn’t entirely pernicious; it is at least partly rooted in our concern that growing up with a fractured identity is hard on kids. The psychologist J.D. Teicher summarized this view in a 1968 paper: “Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier.”

But new research says this old, problematized view of multiracial identity is outdated. In fact, a new paper in the Journal of Social Issues shows that multiracial adolescents who identify proudly as multiracial fare as well as — and, in many cases, better than — kids who identify with a single group, even if that group is considered high-status (like, say, Asians or whites). This finding was surprising because psychologists have argued for years that mixed-race kids will be better adjusted if they pick a single race as their own.

The population of multiracial kids in the U.S. has soared from approximately 500,000 in 1970 to more than 6.8 million in 2000, according to Census data quoted in this pdf. In the early years, research on these kids highlighted their difficulties: the disapproval they faced from neighbors and members of their extended families; the sense that they weren’t “full” members in any racial community; the insecurity and self-loathing that often resulted from feeling marginalized on all sides. That simple but harsh playground question — “What are you?” — torments many multiracial kids. Psychologists call this a “forced-choice dilemma” that compels children to claim some kind of identity — even if only a half-identity — in return for social acceptance.

But the new Journal of Social Issues paper suggests this dilemma has become less burdensome in the age of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. The paper’s authors, a team led by Kevin Binning of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Miguel Unzueta of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, studied 182 multiracial high schoolers in Long Beach, Calif. Binning, Unzueta and their colleagues write that those kids who identified with multiple racial groups reported significantly less psychological stress than those who identified with a single group, whether a “low-status” group like African-Americans or a “high-status” group like whites. The multiracial identifiers were less alienated from peers than monoracial identifiers, and they were no more likely to report having engaged in problem behaviors, such as substance use or persistent school absence.

The writers theorize that multiracial kids who choose to associate with a single race are troubled by their attempts to “pass,” whereas those who choose to give voice to their own uniqueness find pride in that act. “Rather than being ‘caught’ between two worlds,” the authors write, “it might be that individuals who identify with multiple groups are better able to navigate both racially homogeneous and heterogeneous environments than individuals who primarily identify with one racial group.” The multiracial kids are able to “place one foot in the majority and one in the minority group, and in this way might be buffered against the negative consequences of feeling tokenized.”

In short, multiracial kids seem to create their own definitions for fitting in, and they show more psychological flexibility than those mixed-race kids who feel bound to one choice or another.

Fortunately, all these questions of racial identity are becoming less important, as we inch ever closer to the day when the U.S. has no racial majority. One of these days, after all, we will all be celebrating our multiracial pride.
Read more:,8599,1880467,00.html#ixzz0W2BxqzTZ

more obama love

As someone who is consistently accused of either holding negative ideas about what being black is and/or trying to be white, I cannot tell you just how much gratification I got out of reading President Obama’s response to the reactions to his recent NAACP 100th Anniversary speech.  In this Washington Post interview with Eugene Robinson he explains that though he was speaking directly to a group of affluent, successful, educated African Americans who are dedicated to raising their children to be the same that one should not

“underestimate the degree to which a speech like the one I gave yesterday gets magnified throughout the African American community,” Obama told me in the Oval Office, where a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. surveys the room in silent admonition. “Folks on Friday go in and get their hair cut, they’re getting ready for the weekend, they’re sitting in the barber’s chair, and somebody said, ‘Did you see what Obama said yesterday?’ It sparks a conversation. . . . And part of what my goal is here is to make sure that I’m giving a lot of folks permission to talk about things that maybe they’ve talked about around the kitchen table but don’t get fully aired in public.”


I am no Obama, but I must admit that I feel like this is exactly what I’m trying to do.  Get everyone talking about this uncomfortable stuff in ways that almost seem too honest because we’re just not used to having the conversation.  I have been accused of airing “our” dirty laundry.  This always leaves me thinking, “Why not?  Dirty laundry just creates stagnant funk.  Let’s air it out and move on.”

This next bit really spoke to me as well.  Whenever I highlight the widely accepted generalizations of blackness that tend to be negative and also tend to inform the definitions of blackness held by both whites and blacks, I am hoping that by looking back and seeing where these ideas came from and how they seeped into our consciousness that they will be exposed for the ridiculous, limiting notions they are and then will be dispelled.  I’m never saying “that is what blackness is and we ‘mulattoes’ are not like that.”  I just mean that there are many ways to be black.  Mainly just being born black and then living your life as you.  Whoever that turns out to be.  Whoever you turn out to emulate, hang out with, enjoy the music, company, writings of.  I think we’re American first.  And yes being black in America is still not the same as being white in America.  We are still on the outside.  But, in my opinion, the tragedy lies in thinking that’s where one belongs and making a conscious choice to stay on the outside.  Perhaps in order to reject the mainstream as they have rejected us. But with all of it’s faults, this country has a lot to offer a life.  Sometimes I think people are so busy being “black” (or whatever one has been taught to believe should infom their identity) that they miss out on some of the riches of simply being American.

“One of the ways that I think that the civil rights movement . . . weakened itself was by enforcing a single way of being black — being authentically black. And, as a consequence, there were a whole bunch of young black people — and I fell prey to this for a time when I was a teenager — who thought that if you were really ‘down’ you had to be a certain way. And oftentimes that was anti-something. You defined yourself by being against things as opposed to what you were for. And I think now young people realize, you know what, being African American can mean a whole range of things. There’s a whole bunch of possibilities out there for how you want to live your life, what values you want to express, who you choose to interact with.”

…Said Obama: “I do think it is important for the African American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside.

President Obama, I just love you and I promise that by focusing on my “unique experience” I am not detaching from the larger struggle. K?