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

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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.

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the twins

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The “Black and White” twins are all over everything I’m seeing on the internet. The trending of the story brings the opportunity to gain more awareness of what we think race is, how we allow it to influence our identity, and (hopefully) how it all really just makes no sense.

I can’t figure out what prompted the interest in this particular set of twins this week. I’ve been hoarding articles about black and white twins for years. It bothers me that when they say “Black and White twins”, they mean one of each. Below is the actual title and opening sentence of an actual post about Lucy and Maria:

Biracial Twins: Sisters Belonging to Different Races:

I’ve heard that the odds of having a set of biracial twins belonging to different races is one in a million. One interracial couple somehow beat those odds…

Um, yeah… it is actually impossible to have a set of biological biracial twins who belong to two different races. If we’re playing along with the notion that there is a race other than human to belong to in the first place, these biological fraternal twins are of the same race(s). But, even the twins themselves seem to have adopted the skewed perspective:

Lucy says,

Maria loves telling people at college that she has a white twin. And I’m very proud of having a black twin.

I may be analyzing too literally, but the simple truth is that these sisters look different. They are of different phenotypes, not races. Their skin color (which is real) is different. Their race (which is not real) is the same. Me being me, I read their title of “black and white twins” like: They are “biracial” so they are black AND white. Both of them are both of them. And both of them have mostly white genes if we’re gonna keep on fractionalizing people into halves or whatever.

Let’s see what the way we talk about and consider these pairs can help us break our rigid notions of race and identity.

First, the biology. How does this happen? Something that stood out to me when reading about most of these sets of twins is that in the case where one parent is biracial and the other is white, that is not clearly stated. I think that’s because people are still unclear on how to process us realistically, but they can’t just say “black” because the half white part is a major detail in the equation.

In the case of the Aylmers it is stated that:

The girls’ nearly opposite features can be traced back to their racially different parents. Their mother, Donna, is half-Jamaican while father Vince is white.

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Ok, so Donna is half Jamaican and half white although they don’t make define the other half. Leaving her even more un-whole.  Disappointing to me, but no surprise since most people still think of black and white as mutually exclusive.  Stories like these help us to shift those deeply ingrained tenets in ourselves.  If we’re gonna look at this truthfully, Donna is technically half white and half black.  Vince is white. So how racially different are they? Not very, I would argue.

In most of the other cases the mother is white and the father is black.

There’s one instance where both parents of the twins are biracial with white moms and black dads.

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Twins Kian and Remee with their parents Kylee Hodgson and Remi Horder who both have white mothers and black fathers.

So here’s the scientific explanation:

Million to one odds:

The odds against of a mixed race couple having twins of dramatically different colour are a million to one.
Skin colour is believed to be determined by up to seven different genes working together.
If a woman is of mixed race, her eggs will usually contain a mixture of genes coding for both black and white skin.
Similarly, a man of mixed race will have a variety of different genes in his sperm. When these eggs and sperm come together, they will create a baby of mixed race.
But, very occasionally, the egg or sperm might contain genes coding for one skin colour. If both the egg and sperm contain all white genes, the baby will be white. And if both contain just the versions necessary for black skin, the baby will be black.
For a mixed-race couple, the odds of either of these scenarios is around 100 to one. But both scenarios can occur at the same time if the woman conceives non-identical twins, another 100 to one chance.
This involves two eggs being fertilised by two sperm at the same time, which also has odds of around 100 to one.
If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born.
The odds of this happening are 100 x 100 x 100 – a million to one.

Taking all of those maths into account, this family is super duper special:

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Big sisters Hayleigh, left, and Lauren Durrant, right, hold their new siblings Leah, left, and Miya, right. Scientists say the odds of their parents, Dean Durrant and Alison Spooner, having two sets of fraternal twins with strikingly different skin tones and eye colors is ‘one in millions.’

Now on to the sociology. Honestly, I’ve always been a little worried about the darker twin when I contemplate how they experience the world.  Because the world will experience each of them differently and sometimes that must manifest in drastic ways.  As a child I was frequently in all white environments and I know first hand how it feels to be valued less than your fairer complected peers.  Frankly, as an adult I am frequently in mostly white environments and sometimes the same vibes are flowing.  But as an adult I know better than to take that personally.  As a child not so much.  That might sound sad, and sometimes I was, but because of those circumstances I learned to see beauty and value in places generally thought to have none.  That is a gift.

So anyway, I was worried about the “black” twin because I thought they’d be having similar experiences to mine and thinking, “But I’m really just the same.  We’re TWINS for God’s sake.  Why are we exempt from the same regard as all the other twins in the world?  And why am I getting the short end of the stick.  Unfair.”  I was also concerned that it could cause a rift between the twins and rob them of the twin bond which I always thought would be so fun to have.

Turns out I was wrong.  According to the interviews it seems that the lighter twin struggles more and there are no traces of a lasting breach between them.

The Aylmers

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(Of her childhood) Red-haired Lucy said her pale complexion had prompted speculation that she’d been adopted: ‘My classmates used to ask if I was adopted because my siblings are all quite dark.

‘It was pretty hard, it went on in secondary school and it wasn’t very nice.’

The impact this has had may be gleaned from this recent post on her Facebook page:

…thank you so much for all your lovely comments about the way I… look. I’ve never had so much confidence. I’ve gone from spending 3 hours covering up every inch of what I naturally look like before I left the house for as little as 2 minutes. To now wearing next to no make up with my natural red hair…

James and Daniel Kelly

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James (left) and Daniel Kelly, twin brothers

When Daniel and James went to nursery aged three, the twins’ skin colour plunged the family into controversy. “They were at this very politically correct nursery, and the staff told us that when Daniel drew a picture of himself, he had to make himself look black – because he was mixed-race,” says Alyson. “And I said, that’s ridiculous. Why does Daniel have to draw himself as black, when a white face looks back at him in the mirror?  Daniel had one white parent and one black, so why couldn’t he call himself white? Why does a child who is half-white and half-black have to be black? Especially when his skin colour is quite clearly white!”

Primary school passed without colour being an issue: but…everything changed when they went to secondary school… the racism they encountered there had a huge effect on them.

It all started well, says Alyson. “The school was almost all-white, so James was unusual. But it wasn’t a problem for James – it was a problem for Daniel.

“The boys were in different classes, so for a while no one realised they were related. Then someone found out, and the story went round that this white boy, Daniel, was actually black, and the evidence was that he had a black twin brother, James, who was right here in the school. And then Daniel started being picked on and it got really ugly and racist, and there were lots of physical attacks. Daniel was only a little kid, and he was being called names and being beaten up by much older children – it was really horrible. We even called the police.”

“I was really bullied,” cuts in Daniel, his face hardening at the memory. “People couldn’t believe James and I were brothers, and they didn’t like the fact that I looked white, but was – as they saw it – black.”

It is interesting that it was the white twin, Daniel, and not the black twin who was on the receiving end of racism…”Those kids couldn’t stand the fact that, as they saw it, this white kid was actually black. It was as though they wanted to punish him for daring to call himself white,” she says.

“I started to notice how angry Daniel was getting at school, how people were provoking him and how he was getting hurt,” says James. “And when he got pulled in fights, I went in too, to help him. I didn’t want to see my brother being treated like that.” James does not look like a kid who would end up in any fight: but, when his brother was up against it, he weighed in – and, says Alyson, the bruises and cuts they both came home with told their own tale.

They’re a straightforward, outspoken family, the Kellys: all they’ve ever wanted for their children is a fair chance in life. And if their youngest twins have made anyone think twice about their preconceptions about race and colour, they don’t mind that in the least. “It’s good to challenge people on race and sexuality and other issues where there’s prejudice,” says Alyson. “If knowing my boys encourages anyone to think a bit more deeply about how we label people, then that’s just great as far as I’m concerned.”

Amen to that Alyson.  And thank you!

In terms of the impact on the family in general, in every interview both the twins and their parents recount that they had many experiences in which in one way or another (sibling to sibling/parent to child) no one could believe they were related and they had to prove it and other similar nonsense.  I’m a big believer in “a family should be something you can see just by looking at it” because I know how it feels when that is not the case.  I don’t know how to describe the feeling.  It’s jarring I guess.  It disturbs the foundation of a person.  Of a family.  And for what?  By what merit?  At the expense of whom?

I say:  For nothing.  Based on no true merit.  At the expense of all of us.

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

i do not intend to be quiet about it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While perusing Facebook the other day, I came upon a post that really excited me.  About Albert Einstein. Yeah…(nerd.)

I really admire the Einstein, thus was a bit shocked by my ignorance of his strong stance on this issue.  It’s like my strong stance.  How did I miss this?  Naturally, I dug through the interweb to see what else I could find to feed my curiosity.  I found a feast! There will be more on this topic tomorrow I believe.

I’m pleased to report that I have since forgiven myself for my ignorance, as it became clear that this hasn’t been common Einstein knowledge.  It was insignificant, irrelevant, and even egregious for the times.  Who would record such nonsense? Of course equality and human dignity were reserved for whites. No questions allowed.  But Einstein spoke anyway.  Imagine, being afraid of speaking in public, yet being courageous enough to speak publicly on a topic so taboo that he could have literally found himself in danger- political, financial, and physical. That is fierce.  That is being action in alignment with cosmic law.  That is something I truly admire.

Here’s the catalytic FB post:

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Einstein, when he arrived in America, was shocked at how Black Americans were treated. “There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States,” he said. “That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. And, I do not intend to be quiet about it.” And, he wasn’t.

Although he had a fear of speaking in public, he made all the effort he could to spread the word of equality, denouncing racism and segregation and becoming a huge proponent of civil rights even before the term became fashionable. Einstein was a member of several civil rights groups (including the Princeton chapter of the NAACP).

 

There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.

Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”

I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery.  The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

 —Albert Einstein “The Negro Question”, 1946

 

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Albert Einstein, Civil Rights activist

Little-known aspect of physicist’s life revealed

By Ken Gewertz

Harvard News Office

 

Here’s something you probably don’t know about Albert Einstein.

In 1946, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall and the first school in America to grant college degrees to blacks. At Lincoln, Einstein gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people,” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” He also received an honorary degree and gave a lecture on relativity to Lincoln students.

The reason Einstein’s visit to Lincoln is not better known is that it was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which regularly covered Einstein’s speeches and activities. (Only the black press gave extensive coverage to the event.) Nor is there mention of the Lincoln visit in any of the major Einstein biographies or archives.

In fact, many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans.

That these omissions need to be recognized and corrected is the contention of Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, authors of “Einstein on Race and Racism” (Rutgers University Press, 2006). Jerome and Taylor spoke April 3 at an event sponsored by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The event also featured remarks by Sylvester James Gates Jr., the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland.

According to Jerome and Taylor, Einstein’s statements at Lincoln were by no means an isolated case. Einstein, who was Jewish, was sensitized to racism by the years of Nazi-inspired threats and harassment he suffered during his tenure at the University of Berlin. Einstein was in the United States when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and, fearful that a return to Germany would place him in mortal danger, he decided to stay, accepting a position at the recently founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. He became an American citizen in 1940.

But while Einstein may have been grateful to have found a safe haven, his gratitude did not prevent him from criticizing the ethical shortcomings of his new home.

“Einstein realized that African Americans in Princeton were treated like Jews in Germany,” said Taylor. “The town was strictly segregated. There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.”

Gates, an African-American physicist who has appeared on the PBS show Nova, said that Einstein had been a hero of his since he learned about the theory of relativity as a teenager, but that he was unaware of Einstein’s ideas on civil rights until fairly recently.

Einstein’s approach to problems in physics was to begin by asking very simple, almost childlike questions, such as, “What would the world look like if I could drive along a beam of light?” Gates said.

“He must have developed his ideas about race through a similar process. He was capable of asking the question, ‘What would my life be like if I were black?’”

Gates said that thinking about Einstein’s involvement with civil rights has prompted him to speculate on the value of affirmative action and the goal of diversity it seeks to bring about. There are many instances in which the presence of strength and resilience in a system can be attributed to diversity.

“In the natural world, for example, when a population is under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures its survival,” Gates said.

On a cultural level, the global influence of American popular music might be attributed to the fact that it is an amalgam of musical traditions from Europe and Africa.

These examples have led him to conclude that “diversity actually matters, independent of the moral argument.” Gates said he believes “there is a science of diversity out there waiting for scholars to discover it.”

entire article

—It’s Tiff again.  I just have to comment about that last excerpt from Gates. That “under the influence of a stressful environment, diversity ensures survival” thing.  In this case the stressful environment is racially segregated America.  The mutually exclusive, dangerously juxtaposed, white vs. black America.  To ensure survival, diversity is required.  I’ll go out on a limb here and relate this to being mixed like me (after all, these are the mulatto diaries if I recall correctly.) To ensure the survival of America, we have to exist.  We are everywhere even though we’ve been largely silent and unrecognized in any genuine manner.  Yet things improve, and change happens as we wake up, and adapt, and we are different…and so is America.

The interaction between organism and environment is central in evolution. Extinction ensues when organisms fail to change and adapt to the constantly altering … stressful environmental changes as documented in the fossil record. Extreme environmental stress causes extinction but also leads to evolutionary change and the origination of new species adapted to new environments.”-Eviatar Nevo

Don’t become extinct!

joys, complicated

Joys should be simple.  Didn’t Pippin teach us that?  Sorry, my musical theatre nerd wanted to speak.  But anyway, joys should be simple not complicated.  While I’ve been away examining my life, living my life, changing my life I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to shy away from things that bring me joy.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the experience of feeling that my joys are complicated that informs my reticence.  But the joys actually are not complicated.  Not to me.  Only from the outside looking in.  Only within the parameters of a paradigm in which black and white are mutually exclusive.  Only when clinging to a dogma that rigidly defines an “us” and a “them” and prescribes clearly definable attributes to each.  I’m gonna be a rebel here and doubt those antiquated notions.  That’s not new for me though.  Actually I’m going to be a rebel here just for myself and let go of my discomfort with the complexity others may still perceive in the things that bring me joy, in the things that are me, and I’m just gonna be and enjoy them.  That is new for me.  That is a challenge. But, hey, why not go ahead

As for this article, I love that Mr. McCollum’s mother mandated that his Irish pride run fierce.  I love that he takes pride in facilitating the paradigm shift.  I love that someone wrote this article.

St. Patrick’s Day holds mixed emotions for some

By Martine Powers

Ryan McCollum knows that on St. Patrick’s Day, he cuts an unusual figure.

All in green, a traditional Irish Claddagh ring on his finger and a houndstooth flat cap on his head, everything about his attire screams “Irish and proud.’’

But McCollum, 33, is also black. His father, a Navy man from Springfield, married an Irish-American girl from Downeast Maine.

He knows his appearance does not fit the bill of a stereotypical Irishman – most assume he’s black, or maybe Latino – but since childhood, his mother mandated that his Irish pride run fierce.

“Growing up, I knew I was Irish,’’ said McCollum, of Springfield, “even if the rest of the world didn’t know I was Irish.’’

As the American population has grown increasingly mixed-race in recent decades, some descendants of Irish immigrants are claiming a multiracial heritage, though they may differ in appearance from their red-haired, freckled ancestors. For them, the joys of embracing Irish roots are complicated by the challenges of being multiracial.

“I always feel this deep kinship with Irish people in Boston,’’ said Kelly Bates, a mixed-race Irish-American who lives in Roslindale. “But I don’t always feel like they have this kinship with me.’’

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Americans who checked two or more races on the US Census increased from 6.8 million to 9 million.

Paul J. McNamara, president of the 275-year-old Charitable Irish Society, said he does not believe that any of the organization’s 400 current members are multiracial, but the group welcomes membership applications from anyone interested in promoting Irish history and culture.

“Most people in our group want to appreciate and retain their Irish roots,’’ McNamara said. “There is a strong element that you want to participate and preserve aspects of the culture.’’

But for Bates, it’s not quite so simple.

Her mother, a black woman from Harlem, married an Irish-American man from Massachusetts. Bates loves to visit her huge, boisterous Irish-Catholic family in Lynn. She grew up reading Irish poetry with her father. She calls him every March 17 to hear the legend of Saint Patrick and the snakes.

In a ritual that is all too familiar for many mixed-race people, new acquaintances try to guess Bates’s heritage. Usually, they pick Puerto Rican or Colombian. Maybe Middle Eastern or Italian.

But Irish? Never.

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Kelly Bates, executive director at Access Strategies Fund, is also part Irish.

“You could look at my cousins and me, and you could see the resemblance,’’ said Bates, executive director of the philanthropic foundation Access Strategies Fund. “But they would be accepted [as Irish] right away, and it would be very different for me.’’

Part of that divide may come from Boston’s racially fraught past, she said.

“I’m aware of the fact that my cultural communities have not always been able to build a bridge toward each other, especially in this city,’’ said Bates.

While Irish and African-American communities worked and lived in close proximity in the decades after America’s founding – both groups were stigmatized by English landowners – they grew antagonistic toward one another at the end of the 19th century, said Marie E. Daly, library director at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. In the last century, the communities have butted heads over labor rights, housing, and public school desegregation.

Bates said she is just as proud to be African-American as she is proud to be Irish. After all, she said, the sound of bagpipes and African drums both give her chills. But she sometimes worries about expressing pride in her Irish roots. As much as Irish is a national origin, she said, it also identifies her as white. She does not want others to think she has distanced herself from her black identity.

“I think my black friends and black colleagues don’t know what to make of it when I talk about my Irish heritage,’’ Bates said.

Mari Tanaka, a junior at Harvard, knows that most people think they immediately have her pegged.

“I guess I look Asian, but I don’t feel comfortable with people just assuming that’s all I am,’’ said Tanaka, 21. “Growing up, being Irish has been such a big part of my life.’’

Most of Tanaka’s ancestors hailed from Japan, but her mother’s father is Irish-American. During her childhood in Hawaii, he ensured that she listened to traditional Irish music, watched “Riverdance,’’ and ate corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.

College has offered her an opportunity to further explore her Irish roots. She has connected with Irish-American relatives in Cambridge who show her genealogical charts and tell stories about her ancestors. While she felt pressure to take a class in East Asian Studies, Tanaka, a biology major, instead chose to enroll in a class on Celtic history and culture where she was one of two nonwhite people.

“I felt like, yeah, being Asian, that’s a part of me,’’ Tanaka said. “But there’s another part of me that is much less explored.’’

McCollum, a political consultant, hopes to travel to Ireland, and he knows he will arrive in the land of his ancestors and find that no one looks like him. But that doesn’t bother him.

A history buff, McCollum spends much of his time reading about Irish history and culture, learning about his family’s genealogy, and watching Irish sports.

“For people who are proud of being Irish and knowing their Irish roots, it’s almost like a game – like, ‘How Irish are you? What county are you from? How many times have you been? Is your family still there?’’’ said McCollum, who is board member for the Irish Immigration Center. “If I’m in a room with Irish folks and have to re-prove my Irishness, I can talk to them about facts and history of Ireland.’’

McCollum’s surname adds further confusion: People often assume it represents his Irish side, but it’s a Scottish name probably adopted by his father’s African slave ancestors from their owners.

His African-American heritage is just as important as his Irish roots, he said; his passion for history extends to antislavery politics and the Black Power movement. But because of his skin color, he has no trouble relating to other black people. Being Irish, he said, is a less obvious part of his identity.

“A lot of times, I am that reminder that every Irish person doesn’t look like a stereotypical Irish person,’’ McCollum said. “And I don’t mind being that reminder. Sometimes, I take pride in that.’’

wee bottles of leprechaun gold st. patrick's necklace 8

mariah carey

 

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i just posted a video on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/tiffdjones) in which i say something ignorant about mariah carey. in my attempt to eradicate my ignorance while repenting my judgement i came across this blog post…

http://abagond.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/the-blackness-of-mariah-carey/

here’s an excerpt:

Here is what Carey told JET magazine in 1999:

Ethnically, I’m a person of mixed race. My father’s mother was African-American. His father was from Venezuela. My mother is Irish. I see myself as a person of color who happens to be mixed with a lot of things… No matter what you say, when someone asks you the question ‘What are you?’ and you say ‘Black’ and you look mixed, they’re going to ask what you’re mixed with. That’s what always happens.

She sees this sort of questioning as racist:

What I find racist and unfair is that if someone’s half Chinese and half Italian, that’s two different races, why are they not forced to constantly define what they are? When it comes to a Black and a White thing, people are up in arms.

 

i really enjoyed reading it. i love the last bit of the excerpt. i mean, i doubt that people go around one-dropping norah and lourdes.

 

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yippee

newlogoIt’s official! Mulatto Diaries: The Movie will be screened this summer at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival! I’m so excited! It’ll be shown Saturday June 13th at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Go to  www.mxroots.org for more details!  If you can, make a tax deductible donation while you’re there. Then book a flight and come to L.A. to see my movie. Please.