Although “mulatto” is not the “double” on which this article focuses, the perils of navigating a biracial identity that remains disrespected by, unsupported by, unacknowledged by, and unacceptable to the mainstream society surrounding the individual are so accurately communicated that I just had to post this.  Crux of the issue: “feeling of being an incomplete person has sometimes led to deep depression.”  I think that the only way around this is to eradicate the illusion of separation by infusing into our collective consciousness the truth of oneness.  No halves.  No sides.  No divide.

Also touched upon here is the aspect of chaos that the Americans have injected into the Okinawan landscape that is worth analyzing.


Okinawa-born Japanese-American musician Caroline Lufkin (unrelated to article)

In Japan but surrounded by U.S. influence, Okinawa struggles with split identity

By Chico Harlan


CHATAN, JAPAN — These days, when Melissa Tomlinson describes her fraught relationship with the United States, she speaks in English, the language she once rejected.

She grew up here on the island of Okinawa. Her mother was Japanese, and her father was an American who served in the U.S. Army, came to Okinawa, fell in love, fell out of love, then fell out of touch.

“I had plans to track him down, find him and punch him in the face,” said Tomlinson, 22. “I just wanted to figure out my identity.”

Tomlinson’s family tensions illustrate the complex cultural clashes that dominate the politics of Okinawa and, lately, relations between what have been the world’s two largest economies as they cope with a rising China and a belligerent North Korea.

For the more than 60 years since the end of World War II, native Okinawans and U.S. troops stationed on nearby bases have developed deep, passionate and generation-spanning ties that complicate political and diplomatic debates about the future of the U.S. military here.

Those passions have recently claimed the head of one Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who had called for the Americans to be booted off Okinawa, and caused his successor to sharply tone down his party’s assertive stance toward the United States.

A vocal majority of Okinawans still demand closing the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. American officials, citing proximity to North Korea, China and Southeast Asia, insist it remain in Okinawa. Japan, in its attempt to mediate, has only frustrated both sides.

The current resolution, which Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government will honor, calls for Futenma’s eventual relocation to a less populated region in the north of the island. Kan apologized last week for the “heavy burden” facing Okinawans.

Many locals on this Pacific island hosting more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan complain most commonly about the noise, congestion and crime. But emotional blood ties and cultural confusion amplify those concerns. Tormented by her identity, Tomlinson said she has tried to kill herself “a couple times” in the past two years.

Tomlinson said she struggles to convince herself — and others — that she is truly Japanese and Okinawan. She called her identity “ambiguous” and said her feeling of being an incomplete person has sometimes led to deep depression.

A generation of biracial Okinawans know about intercultural relationships, writ small. They know about romance and separations, child-support battles and reunions. They know that Japanese children refer to their biracial peers as “halfs,” and nowadays, they know of the local American-Asian school, for biracial children, where those kids are taught to call themselves “doubles.”

Okinawa’s demographics separate it from mainland Japan. Here, the rates of single-parent households and divorce are twice the national average. At the American-Asian school, 70 percent of the 80 students come from single-parent households, Principal Midori Thayer said.

“Unfortunately, some kids never live with their father, but they cannot lose their DNA,” she said. “Their body shows that they are not 100 percent Japanese.”

Denny Tamaki, 50, the local representative to the Japanese parliament, knows only that his father, an American serviceman whom he has never met, was named William.

When William returned to the States and Tamaki’s mother decided not to follow, she burned his photos and letters. When they moved to a new home, she didn’t give him their new address. When Tamaki turned 10, his mother took him to a government office, where they officially changed his first name to Yasuhiro.

Tamaki knows little English and wants Futenma moved off Okinawa because “it feels like we’re living under occupation.” But he has a passion for American music — Aerosmith, for instance — and American television shows.

A decade ago he tried to track down his father, with no luck. When his kids ask about their grandfather, he tells them that it would take the detectives from “CSI: Miami” to find him.

Search for a father

Tomlinson’s mother and father were married on Okinawa, and then moved together to Georgia after his tour on the island ended in 1975. Tomlinson was born in Hinesville, Ga., while her father was stationed at Fort Stewart.

Tomlinson’s parents separated when she was 3; she returned to Okinawa in 1990 with her mother. Her father retained custody of their two older children, who stayed in the United States with him.

Growing up, Tomlinson said, she remembered nothing about the separation, and never spoke to her father or siblings. “I’ve had to live with some tough decisions,” said Melissa’s father, who requested that his name not be used.

Tomlinson said her conflicted feelings were often fueled by her mother, who told her she looked “like an American” and tried to hide her from her co-workers. She said they fought frequently, and she told her mother: “Why did you have me? I want to be a Japanese, but I don’t get to choose.”

In school, her dual identities battled. Sometimes she was an American who didn’t speak proper English. Sometimes she was a Japanese who didn’t look Japanese. For several years, she tried to forget every English word she knew.

During high school, she said, a teacher encouraged her to learn English because she would need it if one day she wanted to track down her father. “Maybe you can hear the truth,” the teacher told her. “You should know both sides.”

At the University of the Ryukyus, Tomlinson tried to find English-speaking friends. She watched American television without the subtitles. Still, she confided to friends that she felt depressed.

From her mother, Tomlinson had heard only nasty tales about her father, who was once stationed at the Army’s Torii base. After her junior year in college, in spring 2009, she decided to try to find him and left school for a time.

In March, her U.S. military ID card, a privilege from a relationship she never had, was expiring. The Army passed along her father’s address. She e-mailed him, asking for him to sign the required forms for a new ID.

Weeks later, she heard back from the father who had not seen her since she was 3.

“Hi Melissa, Hearing from you, to say the least, came as quite a shock,” he wrote. “I was not aware that you could speak English let alone read or write it. The last time we had contact, and I am sure you do not remember it, you could only speak Japanese. Trying to bridge the gap with words after all this time would be futile. In life sometimes we have to make decisions that we don’t know if they are right or not, but we have to live with them.”

Tomlinson read and reread the e-mail. She discussed it with friends, and together they parsed the words. Their relationship continued, e-mail by e-mail, and she learned that he liked fishing, and that he missed Okinawa, and that he says he has thought about her every day.

For all these years, he wrote, he avoided contact because he didn’t want her to be torn between parents.

“It would have made your life miserable,” he wrote.

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?

one of the first articles of it’s kind

This article is a little long, but I find it very interesting.  I especially love the statistics on white mom/black dad vs black mom/white dad births.  The very first story told by a mother reminds me of the summer when I was 7 or 8 and my new “best friend” told me she couldn’t play with me anymore because I’m black.  I also like the letter to the editor included at the end.  I think this story often gets told today in a needlessly somber tone.  The picture at the end is just cute (you know I like to include a picture with every post), it isn’t related to the article. I couldn’t resist a munchkin mixie and a cavalier king charles spaniel. The stuff my dreams are made of!

For Mothers of Biracial Children, Prejudice Mars the Pride

Meredith Higgins remembers the first time she crossed the color line for the sake of her daughter, Anna – the child of a black father and a white mother. Higgins asked a neighbor, a white woman like herself, if the woman’s daughter could play with her 5-year-old. The neighbor said it wasn’t possible just then but promised to call to get the two girls together.

She didn’t call, and when Higgins ran into the woman at a supermarket, she was shunned. Higgins later saw the woman’s daughter playing with other children – all of them white.

“I guess I would say this is one of those kinds of experiences that I predicted was possible,” Higgins said. “I did not explain {to my daughter} that it might be racial . . . . It was more like a disappointment.”

On Mother’s Day 1991, an increasing number of women in the Washington area and across the country are mothers to biracial children, and many of them are forced to grapple with discrimination and racism to protect their sons and daughters. These mothers say they suffer stares in shopping malls and restaurants, snide comments, the coolness of relatives who first don’t understand why they would marry outside their race and then reject the children.

And after all of that, they say, they ultimately must face the questions from their children: “Who am I? What am I? Where do I fit?”

The children “do have problems explaining to friends who they are,” said Janice Lorenz, of Prince George’s County, the black mother of two children whose father is white. “I tell them, `You know you are an interracial child, and for some people that may be a problem, but you are who you are.’ The natural instinct is for mothers to protect. The bottom line is we can’t always protect, so we have to equip.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of births to interracial couples has increased dramatically since 1968, when such figures were first recorded. Twenty-three years ago, 7,244 babies were born to white mothers and black fathers. By 1988, the latest figures available, that number had jumped to 33,875.

The increase was as sharp for births to black mothers and white fathers. In 1968, there were 2,375 of these babies; by 1988, the number had grown to 17,070. There have been similar increases in the number of births to Asians, Hispanics and American Indians who had children with whites. Most of the interracial children, according to the statistics, are born to black and white couples.

The latest census figures documenting the number of interracial families in the Washington area are not yet available, but officials say the number of interracial families here is rising steadily. Many parents of biracial children say they have moved to this area because of its ethnic diversity and because it seems more tolerant.

During the past few years, several organizations have sprung up across the country to provide support for the swell of interracial families. Many mothers use them so that their children can see there are others like them.

“The mother has a lot of responsibility trying to help the child deal” with being biracial, said Godfrey Franklin, a psychologist at the University of West Florida who counsels interracial couples. “She is the one who usually must deal with all the emotions and the pain and agony from Day One.”

Several mothers of biracial children in the Washington area say they have become bridges between races at a time when race relations seem to be deteriorating. “Under this roof,” says Lorenz, “there is a loving coexistence of two races.”

In interviews, four women talked about their special kind of mothering.

One morning out of the blue, Lori Darden’s 3-year-old daughter announced she wanted her toast black like her daddy. Darden, who is white, was startled but then explained to her daughter her uniqueness.

Darden, 30, took a cup of black coffee and a cup of cream and then poured them together. The liquid became brown like her daughter, Leandra, who could see why she is not exactly the color of her parents.

Darden, who lives in Springfield, says people often stare at her, Leandra and a 10-month-old son, Jay Spenser, and some “ignorant” people tell her how nice it is for her to have adopted black babies.

“It makes me so angry,” she says. “I carried these children for nine months. The point is they are my children.”

Darden, editor of the Fairfax County employees newsletter, says something as simple as buying toys is a challenge.

“I would love to go into a Toys R Us. But you go in those stores and you see black dolls and white dolls,” she says. “My daughter is not really either of those. She is both.” Darden has found catalogues that provide toys for multiracial children. In some cases, parents can send in samples of the color for the toys.

Having biracial children, says Darden, has made her more sensitive to race issues. “As a white woman, I encounter very little prejudice. Every day of my life is easy. You can go through life with blinders on and think the world is hunky-dory. But when you have a biracial child, you see how people react to blacks.”

Sometimes, she says, it hurts.

Carol Anderson, 47, a tiny white woman with cropped hair, has two daughters. One is the color of ivory and has curly brown hair. She has Anderson’s facial features. The other is bronze, the color of caramel. She looks nothing like her mother.

Hilary, 17, and her sister, Caroline, 15, call themselves black. Caroline, the darker daughter, says she likes to shock people. “When I walk in someplace with my mother, I like to say, `Mom,’ and people say, `Huh?’ “

Anderson says it doesn’t matter what her daughters want to be; if they want to be black, she says, that is their choice. Most important, she has tried to teach them to be comfortable with themselves.

A lawyer and development consultant who directs Capitol Hill Group Ministries, Anderson says she has always been a political person, a rebel, a woman who was not “enamored” of her white culture.

“You have a handful of mothers here who have chosen to make a positive statement across race lines,” says Anderson, who lives in Northeast Washington. “As W.E.B. Du Bois said, the issue of the 21st century is the issue of the color line. And I believe that wholeheartedly.”

Over the years, Anderson recalls, there have been a few poignant times when the color line issue was raised between Caroline and Hilary.

Once, she says, she and her daughters were driving across the Mexican border into the United States when a customs official singled out Caroline. As Anderson and Hilary, the fair-skinned daughter, waited in the car, the agent interrogated Caroline about her nationality. Anderson remained silent.

When the family pulled away, Anderson said she discussed what happened and her daughter knew she had been targeted because she was the only visibly black person in the car.

Meredith Higgins has made sure her daughter, Anna, 10, knows the strong roots of both her cultures.

Of the grandmother who came from Germany as an orphan. Of her father’s ancestors, who were slaves and who graduated from universities in the late 1800s, when that was unusual for blacks.

“The challenges are simply to make sure that you are not completely immersed in your own ethnic background to the detriment of the child,” says Higgins, a senior manager of a health association.

Higgins, 48, says she feels blessed to be living in the Washington area because of its diversity. Her family attends All Souls Church in the District, where there are a large number of families with biracial children.

At home, Higgins says, her family doesn’t concentrate on being different. Anna, who is the color of honey, skips across the living room of the Silver Spring home. With both arms, she squeezes her mother. “She’s a wonderful mother,” she announces. She turns to her black father and kisses him on the cheek. “We’re normal. We’re happy,” she says.

“Years ago,” says Higgins, “people would say if you are in an interracial marriage, your children would suffer.”

Anna chimes in: “I don’t see me suffering. We’re normal. We really are.”

Janice Lorenz, 42, sat across from her son recently and tried to get to the bottom of why the 14-year-old said he sometimes feels self-conscious about being in certain public situations with his white father.

He talked of how when he stands in line with his father at McDonald’s the cashier assumes they are not together, and how people stare when he calls to his father across a store.

“I feel proud of who I am, but I have difficulty explaining,” he says to his mother. “You know how you say I should feel proud when people ask if he’s my dad? I feel it’s hard to explain.”

Lorenz, a transportation planner in Northern Virginia, listens patiently and encourages her son to dig deeper into his feelings.

“You are assuming the worst,” she tells him. “That’s not healthy . . . . You don’t have to defend who you and your dad are.”

DeNeen L. Brown. “For Mothers of Biracial Children, Prejudice Mars the Pride.” The Washington Post

This was posted a week later…

– Theresa Stringfellow How About the Upside? When we participated in an interview for your Mother’s Day story on mothers of biracial children {May 12}, we didn’t deny the few negative experiences. But while your story did have some high notes, we thought this would be a Mother’s Day piece about special mothers of dynamic children. Instead, the article perpetuated the misconception that interracial relationships are always fraught with problems. Also, contrary to your headline, mothers of biracial children would never let racism or prejudice lessen their pride. These mothers deserve praise, and they find their rewards in the wonderful children they raise.