All Articles Tagged "biracial identity"
Taye Diggs is likely somewhere patting himself on the back. A recent study, highlighted in TIME, said that interracial women are more likely to identify as multiracial than interracial men. Maybe I’m slow, but it took me forever to understand what this story and the study were trying to say. Basically, with the American multiracial population growing as it is, social scientists estimate that by 2050, one in every five Americans will be mixed race.
So the question becomes how will this growing demographic choose to identify themselves?
Well, according to the study, gender may have something to do with the choice. Lauren Davenport, professor of political science at Stanford, sifted through data from tens of thousands of incoming college freshman with muti-racial backgrounds across the country.
She found that women who were multiracial were more likely to identify themselves as such. While men who were multiracial were more likely to choose one race.
For children born of Black-White unions, 76 percent of the women defined themselves as multi-racial while only 64 percent of men with the same background did. The same was true for students who came from Latino-White and Asian-White unions. Interestingly enough, the TIME piece didn’t mention multiracial individuals with two parents of color.
Davenport speculates that the reason women may be more likely to mark multiracial is because, in society, women with various racial and ethnic backgrounds are viewed more favorably.
She’s certainly not lying. We’ve all seen. From the music videos, to Hollywood casting choices (see Zoe Saldana or Aurora Perrineau,) to internet memes, to men on the street, there seems to be this subtle or blatantly expressed preference for racially ambiguous or multiracial women. And not just women, biracial children as well. There have been entire videos made discouraging what has become the fetishization of biracial children, believing that they’ll one day become biracial adults, particularly women, who will be viewed as more visually appealing and sexually attractive. People will express this preference telling you that your biracial children will have “good hair,” that they’ll be “pretty babies.” They’re sure of it. It’s a notion rooted in racism really. That it takes a White person to make what would have been an “ordinary Black” child attractive. And we all know how attractiveness translates to other perks, benefits and even opportunities in this country, from the time of slavery until today.
So perhaps these women are responding to that culture, wanting to be a part of that celebrated caste.
Or maybe not.
Maybe some of these women are starting to reject the one-drop-rule. Which is also steeped in racism. The one-drop-rule was a way to keep people with just an ounce of Black ancestry from claiming the advantages and freedoms of being White in America. And while the Black community has transformed the one drop rule to accept the diversity of Blackness, there may be some people who would like to acknowledge all that they are. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I see where Taye Diggs is coming from when he says his child should be able to acknowledge and celebrate both sides of his heritage. But I also believe a person should be able to identify as they please. I know right now you might be thinking about Rachel Dolezal. She too has that choice. And we in society have the choice to accept it or not. In the case of Dolezal, she doesn’t have my acceptance. And this societal acceptance or rejection is the exact reason why some people choose to identify as one race or another. A person who is biracial with a darker skin tone could say that they’re White all day. But if that person were to expect to be seen and treated as a White person, they might be severely disappointed.
It’s like President Barack Obama choosing to identify and be called Black, though he was raised exclusively by his White mother and her parents. It is his choice, likely influenced by the ways in which society sees him. A cursory look over his life will show you that despite his peers seeing his White family, he experienced racism. And it’s a choice I feel we should honor. Which is where Taye Diggs and I differ.
Biologically speaking, race is a social construct. All we have is melanin, in varying amounts. It’s people, in our need to classify, who determine which ones of us fall into which racial category based on that melanin. Since the idea is entirely made up anyway, there are no rules that say these definitions can’t shift.
It sounds completely ridiculous, I know, and in some ways it sort of is, but after watching a few of Kraft’s new Milkbite advertisements you get the impression the company is going a little too hard on this mixed identity thing.
Milkbites are cereal bars that are part milk and part granola, which make for a convenient morning treat for people on the go, but in Kraft’s melodramatic commercials, one milkbite named Mel is quite depressed about not being able to find his place in the world, struggling to fit in with milk and not totally fitting in with granola either. As we see the little character in therapy or on dates or moping around the house, you can’t help but think about real people who are biracial and how they feel they’re not totally accepted by whites or blacks or Latinos, etc., and therein lies some of the controversy.
In an article for The Huffington Post, Jermaine Spradley writes:
“The campaign harkens the age-old tragic mulatto stereotype which has its roots in 19th century abolitionist literature…. The problem with this sort of homogeneous characterization has always been that it oversimplifies the complexities of what it means to be biracial by painting the characters biraciality as a constant source of stress and anxiety. That in turn reinforces the notion that miscegenation, and the children born of it, are inherently unhealthy.
“[W]hen you’re talking about a product that a multibillion dollar company is trying to sell, when you’re talking about a Milkbite struggling with the fact that his mom is a glass of milk and his dad is a bowl of granola, you begin trivializing the lives and experiences of millions of biracial folk everywhere.”
I hardly believe Kraft thought that deeply about it—which you could argue is part of the problem—but I actually think they just got carried away with a good idea. Had the commercials been a bit more upbeat or even had a positive connotation to the dual identify, which I would think would make consumers want to purchase them more anyway, this would be a non-issue. But the commercials lean way too heavily on the serious and assumed depressing side of this reality to not draw parallels between human situations and his fictional one, which is why there’s all this racial controversy discussion—particularly when Mel describes being “mixed” as a prison and being questioned by a human about why he looks one way but claims to be something else.
Apparently Kraft has issued some direct responses to people who have called them out on Facebook but that’s as far as they’ve gone in terms of damage control. Spradley believes they should pull the ads altogether but I’m not sure that’s warranted in this situation. The more commercials you watch, the more you do get the sense that the issues biracial people deal with are being trivialized in this campaign but we also keep sliding further and further down this slippery slope of there being no room for any artistic expression that could possibly be interpreted by anyone on the earth as an inappropriate play on race. There has to be a way to find balance without racism being the go-to response in these cases and corporations getting a pass when they shouldn’t.
Check out a few of the ads here and tell us what you think abut them. Are they bi-racially insensitive?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
More on Madame Noire!
- Where Are They Now? Kids From a Few of Our Favorite Black TV Shows
- Jealous? Why You Should Be At Peace With Yourself Before Entering A Relationship
- Build-Up Ain’t Cute: 5 Things You Should Know About Dandruff
- Celibacy Is The New Black: 8 Celebs Who Publicly Swore Off Sex
- Against The Odds: How This Orphan From Sierra Leone Became A Famous Ballerina
- MN Exclusive: Kesha Nichols Dishes on Tami’s Apology, Dating a Show Producer, and How Editing Works on Reality TV
- Where Are They Now? Kids From a Few of Our Favorite Black TV Shows
(New York Times) — For years Heidi W. Durrow heard the refrain: editors wouldn’t publish her novel because readers couldn’t relate to a protagonist who was part black and part Danish. But when that novel, “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky,” was finally published last year (after about four dozen rejections, said Ms. Durrow, who is, of course, black and Danish), the coming-of-age story landed on best-seller lists. Today Ms. Durrow finds herself in the elite precincts of The New Yorker and National Public Radio — which a few weeks ago began the Summer Blend Book Club, featuring works about multiracial people. And work by mixed-race artists is increasingly visible in museum exhibitions, in bookstores and online — raised to the spotlight by new census numbers that show a roughly 32 percent increase since 2000 in the number of Americans declaring multiracial identity, as well as by a biracial president, an explosion of blogs and Web sites about multiracialism, and the advent of critical mixed-race studies on college campuses. “The national images of racially mixed people have dramatically changed just within the last few years, from ‘mulattoes’ as psychically divided, racially impure outcasts to being hip new millennials who attractively embody the resolution of America’s race problem,” said Michele Elam, an associate professor of English at Stanford University.
For the first time, demographers are able to make comparisons with the category now known as the “mixed-race” group thanks to the 2010 Census, which revealed that multiracial children are the fastest growing youth population in the country.
The Census gave a comprehensive report on the change of the multiracial population over the past 10 years, which showed an increase in multiracial children of “almost 50 percent to 4.2 million,” according to the New York Times. Going forward, this allows for data creation on a previously ambiguous and largely undocumented part of the population.
There are 57 racial combinations on the census. Most identified as black and white, at 20.4 percent. The census also revealed that the number of people in all age groups who identified as both black and white has grown to 1.8 million.
C. Matthew Snipp, a professor in the sociology department at Stanford University said the data “marks a truly profound shift in the way Americans, particularly African-Americans, think about race and about their heritage.”
But despite the population growth of mixed races, blacks and whites are the least likely to report being multiracial. American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders tend to report a mixed identity at a higher rate.
Suzy Richardson, the founder of the news and opinion website “Mixed and Happy,” says she is happy that her young multi-racial daughter will now be able to grow up and build confidence in her identity. “The numbers, for mixed race families like my own, mean that the world must stop and recognize the changing face of today’s family, the changing face of today’s individual,” she told The Times.
(Time) — The practice of passing — identifying with and presenting oneself as one race while denying ancestry of another — reached its peak during the Jim Crow era. Needless to say, the notion of having to “pass” as white is outdated and offensive, but as sociologists Nikki Khanna and Cathryn Johnson report in a new study, passing is still alive and well today. It just happens in the other direction. For their study, Khanna and Johnson interviewed 40 biracial American adults about their racial identity, and were surprised by what they found: most people tended to suppress or reject their white ancestry altogether and claim to be entirely African American. It wasn’t simply about calling oneself black, but also aggressively changing one’s behavior, looks and tastes to appear more “black.”