All Articles Tagged "biracial"
“What’s your daughter mixed with?” asked the cashier at the value grocery store I often frequented as a new mom with my, then, three-month old daughter. She was smiling then, so I knew that her question was well intentioned, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. The question proceeded something about my daughter being pretty and something else about her then “wavy” and “pretty” hair “Ummm…mixed?” I asked, not really confused but mostly trying to buy more time before facing the questions that I knew would inevitably come when I told her my daughter wasn’t mixed. “Yeah,” she said, confidently. “What’s she mixed with?”
Like many persons of color who look a bit different, I grew with questions about my heritage. So by the time I had become a parent, questions like “Where are you from?” and “What’s your background?”and “Are you (fill in the blank nationality)?” had come to be colored in my head as racial identifying questions. I had come to accept them as just part of my identity as a brown-skinned African-American woman, in the same way, I assume, my East African husband had come to accept them as a brown-skinned, black man in America. Our ethnic backgrounds are mixed, but we are black, and so, too, are our lighter-skinned, curly-haired daughters.
I try often to explain this to strangers we encounter in public, but it’s tricky since so many, it seems, have a predisposed notion of what it means to be black and not black and that anything that veers from that notion is odd. “No, they’re black,” I always say when asked about my daughters being mixed. To this, the person asking usually looks confused. And then there’s a silence between us that makes me feel like I should explain more. And I usually do explain more by saying something about how my husband and I have many ethnicities in our backgrounds, but that we, and they, my daughters, are black. This usually does the trick. But, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, the person asking will want to know specifics. So then I say, “I’m American and my husband is from Africa” but the inclusion of Africa in a conversation about being mixed just complicates things even more.
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Let Keysh Explain: Singer Responds To Biracial Backlash Saying ‘I Don’t Not Know What I’m Mixed With’
Keyshia Cole got a whiff of the backlash following her “106&Park” appearance last week when her confessed ambivalence toward participating in Black Girls Rock because she’s biracial didn’t sit too well with audiences. Some wondered if the singer’s words were taken out of context or perhaps the words that came out of her mouth didn’t really convey what she meant, but I’m not sure the explanation the new Mrs. Gibson provided on twitter helps her case much more.
Responding to the backlash, she Tweeted:
#BlackGirlsRock first off I feel ALLGIRLSROCK!! And by the way, I don’t not know what I’m mixed with, nor have I tried to find out/…
I was raised in Oakland. My mother is a black woman HOWEVER I do not know my father. Nor really car to know! Was thankful to be apart of..
#BlackGirlsRock I had to just do research. Didn’t know what the organization was about in the beginning. But uplifting young ladies is…What I’m damn sure about! Don’t get it twisted!People talking about I said I’m not black? Wtf.. People are crazy! They will take your words and do what they want with them! #GetaLife
A few people tweeted back to Keyshia, like one follower asking her why she thinks she’s mixed (you know, if she doesn’t know her father or care to find out). The singer replied, saying:
Lmao!!!! wow! why is this a problem? Im just asking?
I think she’s missing the point. It’s obviously not a problem to be biracial or state it loud and proud but it is interesting to claim to be of mixed race with no evidence to that effect. And further, to have been thinking about letting that assumption of mixed race stop you from participating in an organization celebrating black girls, despite a number of other biracial women proudly hosting and participating in the show. But I guess to each her racially diverse own.
Does Keyshia’s Twitter response clear up anything for you?
I’m just going to have to throw this news out there how it is because I really can’t wrap my head around what was going through Keyshia Cole’s mind during a recent appearance on “106 & Park.” The songstress was asked what it meant for her to be a black girl that rocks (and to participate in the recent annual Black Girls Rock celebration in New York), but her response threw just about every black person off when instead of hitting the audience with the standard, “we need more images of us” type of response, she said:
“I’m Bi-racial but it’s ok…I’m Black, I’m Black…”
“At first I was skeptical about being a part of the Black Girls Rock organization but then when I read on it and I realized how strengthening it is for our black women and women in general – how strengthening it is for us to come together and understand that no matter what, we rock,” she added.
“I just think it’s a beautiful organization and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Keysh, what is going on??
For those who even remotely follow Keyshia Cole’s life, we all know who her mama and sister, Frankie and Neffe, are and they damn sure are black. I guess this means her dad, which the singer reportedly never knew, is white? After a little Googling, I found that Keyshia Cole’s dad may have been an Italian man named Sal, but it doesn’t appear there’s any conclusive evidence to that point. And even so….really Keyshia?
I think it’s fine if she wants to point out that she’s bi-racial, but one, where is this coming from, and two, are you not still black by all one drop rule standards? And are you really going to act like the rest of society doesn’t still see you as a black woman and you can now no longer understand the need to celebrate black girls doing good things. C’mon now? I’m glad Keyshia read up on the organization and still decided to participate, but I can’t help but be a little baffled at her response to Bow Wow’s question. We’ll be sure to add her to our next round of celebrities who want you to know they are not just black list.
Check out the clip here. What do you think about what Keyshia said?
Halle Berry doesn’t talk much about Halle, the biracial girl from Cleveland, OH, whose been labeled “crazy” for failings in love. We usually hear about the next movie she’s working on, how she stays forever young at 46, and maybe a thing or two about her being a parent. But in an interview with the NY Times, Ms. Berry is being very open about where she came from and who she’s become over the years, and even a bit about her custody battle with her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. Check out some of the highlights of the article as well as the gorgeous photos.
Why she’s made bad choices with men
“My picker’s broken. God just wanted to mix up my life. Maybe he was thinking, ‘This girl can’t get everything! I’m going to give her a broken picker.’ ”
On Self-esteem not having anything to do with your looks
“Just because they see my face doesn’t mean they see me. A person’s self-esteem has nothing to do with how she looks.
“If it’s true that I’m beautiful, I’m proof of that. Self-esteem comes from who you have in your life. How you were raised. What you struggled with as a child.
“I always had to prove myself through my actions. Be a cheerleader. Be class president. Be the editor of the newspaper. It gave me a way to show who I was without being angry or violent. By the time I left school, I had a lot of tenacity. I’d turned things around.”
The role her mother played in her development
“My mother helped me identify myself the way the world would identify me. Bloodlines didn’t matter as much as how I would be perceived
“My mother tried hard. But there was no substitute for having a black woman I could identify with, who could teach me about being black.”
“Being biracial is sort of like being in a secret society. Most people I know of that mix have a real ability to be in a room with anyone, black or white.”
“I come from humble beginnings. I always felt like the underdog. Behind the eight ball. I learned not to be too high on the hog. Even that night I won the Oscar, I had a fundamental knowing, it was just a moment in time. Driving home that night, back to my house, I felt like Cinderella. I said, ‘When this night is over, I’m going back to who I was.’ And I did.”
Why she wants to leave America
“I can’t grow my daughter in L.A. You take a little child who is just trying to learn about the world and have all these people with cameras chasing after her, calling things out to her about her mother. It’s starting to make her feel special and different. I want her to feel special and different, but not for the reason of being my child.”
What do you think?
Kola Boof, Egyptian-Sudanese author and professional jump starter, has started a campaign against Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton, the production team behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, for their inaccurate portrayal of historical figure Harriet Tubman.
Releasing a statement through her Facebook page, Boof writes, “HARRIET TUBMAN…. is portrayed as “BIRACIAL” in the new “Abe Lincoln Vampire” movie…. TO ME….you have to really *HATE* Black people to portray Harriet Tubman as a Biracial woman. It reveals everything about White Supremacy and the “erasure” of Black People. Harriet was NOT Dutch speaking or Biracial. And this portrayal is really a “Betrayal”…. it does not honor her image. It OBLITERATES not only Harriet, but all Authentic Black Women.”
She also advised folks to call and write the studio and various production companies to express our displeasure about this misrepresentation. Said Boof, “We can’t change this particular movie….but we can let Hollywood know that we don’t like seeing the constant *Whitening* of Black images in films…that we DO want to see Black people in movies and not be disrespected like this. If we don’t speak up BLACK WOMEN, then nothing will change…”
Listen I know when folks hear Kola Boof’s name they instantly tune out. But while Boof may be many things to people – most of them not so nice – one thing she is, is honest as well as fierce protector of all things related to darker skinned women. And while this might be a hard pill to swallow for some, she has great reason to be.
Jacqueline Fleming, a Copenhagen Denmark born actress of African American (father) and Danish-German (mother) descent. You might have seen her on television in shows like “CSI: Miami” and “Treme” or on the big screen in movies Last Holiday and the sequel to Woman Thou Art Loose. She has also been casted as Harriet Tubman in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.
For those of you who have no idea who Tubman is, shame on you and the wack educational system you derived from. Tubman was born somewhere around 1803 to Ashanti enslaved parents and was bestowed the title as Moses for braving 19 trips into slave holding states and leading some 300 individuals to a new life in slavery-free territories – not an easy feat for a runaway slave, who had over $40,000 reward posted all over the South for her capture or death. Oh another thing about Tubman; she was dark-skinned. Dark enough not to pass for a light skinned woman of mixed ancestry. Which is why on one of her trips, she had to convince a light-skinned fugitive slave to pose as a white master transporting a group of slaves to a town further up the road.
Not too many people want to discuss this issue, which was evident by a column from my good friend Yvette Carnell, who recently penned a piece about this misrepresentation of Tubman in the film. For Carnell and I, who discussed this briefly on Facebook, Hollywood’s attempt to use Fleming’s image to whitewash Tubman was a no-brainer. And in a time when black folks are bombarded with distorted images of ourselves, we felt it our duty to call it out. However, not that many other folks didn’t see it that way and proceeded to blast her piece as trivial. They accused Carnell of being bitter, divisive and color-conscious. After all, it’s a stupid movie about Abe Lincoln being a vampire hunter and we all know that he wasn’t in real life. Likewise, we’re all black so it shouldn’t matter, which color of blackness she exhibits.
Well I’m here to tell you it does matter.
People usually ask that question saying why won’t X let Y or Z be great. But in the case of Barack Obama, it’s been made painfully clear why Republicans and Tea Party members in particular won’t let him be great, it’s because he’s black. That’s why I find it so interesting that despite all the hell he goes through as what most agree he is, the first black president of the United States, for some reason a strong segment of the black population won’t let him be black.
The latest forerunner in the case against Barack Obama’s blackness is actor Morgan Freeman. I imagine eyes rolled instantly at the mention of his name, along with a follow-up question of who cares? Unfortunately we care because Mr. Freeman denounced Barack Obama’s blackness openly in an interview with NPR today. Truthfully, I’m not even sure how the topic came up amongst discussion of his new movie, The Magic of Belle Isle, but nevertheless he let his thoughts on Barack Hussein Obama be known, saying:
“First thing that always pops into my head regarding our president is that all of the people who are setting up this barrier for him … they just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white — very white American, Kansas, middle of America,” Freeman said. “There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.”
Really, Morgan? That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the leader of our nation? It appears he’s as color struck as the republicans he calls out in his next statement.
“He is being purposely, purposely thwarted by the Republican Party, who started out at the beginning of his tenure by saying, ‘We are going to do whatever is necessary to make sure that he’s only going to serve one term,’ ” he said. “That means they will not cooperate with him on anything. So to say he’s ineffective is a misappropriation of the facts.”
At least he got that point right. Maybe Morgan thinks that if white people acknowledged the half of the president that is just like them he wouldn’t be so stonewalled, but with the last part of that statement I get the impression that Morgan is more so distancing himself from the president because of his multi-ethnicity rather than trying to point out what makes him a lot like the rest of America.
It continues to amaze me how the black community gets so upset when someone who is mixed identifies as such, as they criticize them for assumedly not wanting to really be black. But in the same token we separate these individuals from the real black people by pointing out their multi-ethnic background when they just want to be black. What purpose does this serve? Not a worthwhile one I can tell you that. I suppose we don’t have to subscribe to the one-drop rule that threw most of us in the colored pool way back when to begin with but if someone wants to identify as black, who is at least 50 percent black, and who is in a position of influence in this country, why are we trying to take that away from him? And again, for what reason?
We don’t just play this one day you’re black, the next you’re not game with President Obama when it comes to his genetic background we also label him as one or the other depending on his behavior and his policies. How many times have we heard people—black and white—mask their desire for a real black president as a joke, pointing out his mild mannerisms and timidness and how he’s actually willing to compromise, as any politician who wants to actually achieve things should, as evidence he’s not a real black man? Is there any wonder fools on the other side of the spectrum are going overboard with their machismo to prove they’re real black men? You know, having babies in every area code, disrespecting women, effing the police, and all that good stuff? I get Morgan’s point about Barack clearly being biracial but do we really want to start, or better yet continue, this trend of one-upping one’s blackness and segmenting another’s? If we go by this definition we’ll probably never have a black president because we’re all quite racially and ethnically mixed and that reality is increasing by the day.
We can all look at Barack Obama and see that he is clearly being treated like a black man, and he obviously identifies as such. We don’t need messages like this coming from the same group of people who gets angered by being thrown into one heap of people in society known as minorities. If we start singling out biracial people as something else altogether, our numbers will be way below the 12 to 13 percent of the population we currently make up today. If we think we’re the forgotten ones now, imagine what that new reality would look like.
I know some people are frustrated that President Obama hasn’t been more down for the team so to speak when it comes to the African American community, but I’m 99 percent sure that has nothing to do with the fact that his mom is white, and everything to do with him being in a position to look out for the country as a whole and also seeing that there is no quick policy switch he can hit that will suddenly make black people alright in the world. Can you imagine the type of backlash that would have arisen had Barack Obama stated in 2008 that he was biracial and not a black man? Black folks would have been rushing out in droves to take their votes back. Unfortunately, now some seem to have done the same with their votes of confidence, disappointed that Barack Obama hasn’t lived up to their definition of what a real black man is, proving once again that we’re often our own worst enemies.
What do you think about Morgan Freeman’s comment?
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Identity is something many biracial children and even adults struggle with. The issue of not being black enough, white enough, Latina, enough, etc., can weigh on a child’s self-esteem, especially when one parent fails to acknowledge one part of their child’s racial makeup.
That was Tiffany Rae Reid’s experience. She was raised by her Hungarian mother and because her African American father was absentee, her mother led her to believe her darker complexion and other black features resulted from darker completed Hungarian ancestors she was shown photos of as proof. When Reid eventually found out her real father was black and only lived 20 minutes away from her, she struggled to forgive her mother and the way she made her feel devalued by denying her black ancestry. The experience motivated her to write “Color Blind — A Mixed Girl’s Perspective on Biracial Life,” as a guide to help parents of biracial children understand the struggles they deal with.
“Unless a child’s parents are both biracial, it will be hard to understand the life experiences that are going to be unique to their biracial children,” says Reid. “Halle Berry is not the end-all-be-all mixed chick. We come in all different sizes, all different colors and all different textures.”
Biracial children who are raised to be ignorant of certain parts of their heritage especially struggle with identity and develop feelings of alienation, anger, and powerlessness, as well as confusion about how they’re supposed to act, Reid says.
“By not seeing color, you’re not honoring my history, you’re not honoring my culture and heritage, you’re not honoring the challenges and obstacles I have because of the color of my skin that you will never face. For anybody raising biracial children, whether they’re adopted or naturally born, I get that it’s love and I absolutely honor that. But love is not enough.”
While Reid was eventually able to forgive her mother, she knows her story is not unique and she want to help other children and parents who are going through the same things that she did. “My life’s experiences — all the challenges, all the nights I was up crying, all the arguments with my mom — they were all for a reason. This book shows people that truth is freedom. Parents need to be that beacon of truth for their children so they can live their authentic lives.”
Can you relate to Tiffany’s experience growing up as a biracial child? Do you struggle as a parent of a biracial child to help them develop an identity?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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So the other day, I was on YouTube going down the rabbit hole of natural hair “how-to” styling videos when I came across this one gem called “Parents of Biracial Children Please Learn Hair Care Before Their Birth.” After I stopped laughing at the title, I was able to focus on the content of the video, which basically featured a black woman, with sunglasses (while indoors I might add) seated in front of a white man named Bob, who was destructively combing through her naps with a small-tooth comb (Yikes). The author of the video, which was posted by tag name Slapme77times a couple of years ago, was trying to make a point about the need for White parents to learn the hair texture of African American hair prior to birthing or adopting one into the family. However, watching Bob, who incidentally was holding the comb like one would a knife, painstakingly rake through her hair, I wondered if this was a big enough issue to warrant a tutorial video on the matter?
The short answer is: Yes. It’s like the other taboos of interracial relationships that everyone thinks about but don’t want to discuss. While folks may swoon over how Black and White people may make pretty babies, one thing that they can’t do is come together to achieve a decent head of hair for those kids. And I’m not referring to the texture but the actual application or lack thereof of styling and maintenance. You know, the real “good hair.”
I’m not saying that all non-black parents of mixed-race children are oblivious to hair maintenance but a large percentage of folks do have trouble. Look, I get it: doing somebody else’s hair, particularly someone of another or ethnicity, is not something most of us think about.
And yes, we do spend a great deal of time in our lives just getting to know our own hair. But when I’m out in the suburbs and see a mixed race child, maybe age six or seven, walking around with dry, brittle wiry hair or when I’m up in the richer part of the city watching a black child being scooted along in one of those older kid strollers by a couple of white parents, my first inclination is that the parents are just lazy or in some dire need of help – especially when the child’s hair has been hacked to the point that any attempts of gender identification are futile. It may not be the most politically correct thing to say but I don’t think we should sweep it under the rug.
(AJC) — When Evelyn Brown-Wilder was growing up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the 1950s, life was a matter of warring opposites. Though some of her ancestors were white and her face was pale, the law said she was black. She wrapped both arms around that identity. Her daughter, Sonya Colvin-Boyd, lives in a different world and chooses a different identity. When it came time for Colvin-Boyd to indicate her race on her 2000 U.S. census form, she picked both white and black. “We’re all mixed,” said the Powder Springs resident. Claiming both races puts her in one of the fastest-growing segments of America’s population. It’s a trend that reveals seismic shifts in both outward social and cultural relations and inward notions of individual identity. Across metro Atlanta’s counties, the last decade saw a doubling or tripling of the number of people identifying themselves as being of more than one race, according to the Census Bureau. In Gwinnett County, the number of respondents checking two or more races rose from 12,673 in 2000 to 25,292 in 2010, a 99 percent jump. In Fulton County, the number rose from 11,853 to 20,279, a 71 percent increase. In Henry County, the numbers went up 269 percent.
Another Obama address, another failed attempt at messaging by the White House communications team. Instead of using his address from the Oval Office to remind us that he displayed true leadership by going against the tide and opposing the Iraq war when everyone else was for it, Obama proudly asserted that he’d made a call to George W. Bush to inform him that the war was over. Obama had the opportunity to be nostalgic, and remind his base that the candidate of 2008 is still alive in the President of 2010, but he didn’t. To the contrary, Obama listened to Republicans who’d been chiding him all week to give at least a modicum of credit to the one man who deserves all the blame – George W. Bush. And since Obama was ill-prepared for a skirmish with the Right, he gave in once more.
The issue is not just that President Obama is unprepared for the present fight that he’s engaged in, but that he’s unprepared for all fights – period. Obama doesn’t use the bully pulpit because he’s not a bully. This is a hard pill for most African Americans to swallow.
White liberals want Obama to fight because it’s the right thing to do. While African-American liberals agree with that premise, we are also goading President Obama to do battle with Republicans because we’ve collectively adopted clashing with despotic regimes as our solemn oath. The spirit of David and Goliath is alive in the African-American experience.
When Obama declared himself African-American, and not mixed race or biracial as some had hoped, the African American community celebrated with jubilee. To us, Obama’s bold assertion meant that he identified with the African-American experience. It was proof that he’d accepted the chivalrous invitation of the African-American community and would soon glide into our open arms to meet our soft far embrace. So far, much to our dismay, he’s proven to be a bit of a playboy.
In classic Obama style, he’s adorned the costume which we’ve come to associate with all rebellious agitators. Unlike some who’ve compared his speaking style to MLK, I see more of Malcolm than Martin in Obama’s mettle performance. Short, decisive, snappy comments, which linger with the listener by virtue of their verbosity and in your face intellectualism. This was Malcolm’s marker. In 21st century America, Obama is Malcolm’s emulator, but not his heir apparent.
While African-Americans were busily working for change during Obama’s 2008 campaign, we absentmindedly forget that history often foretells future events.
Born to a white mother and a Kenyan father, young Obama’s world view was fashioned in Indonesia and Hawaii through the prism of his mother. There is nothing unseemly about Obama’s upbringing, but it does belie the difficulty inherent in labeling President Obama as African-American.
Even if President Obama’s Kenyan father had been in his life, that wouldn’t have been enough to link Obama to an African-American experience which is uniquely different from that of Africans in the great vastness of the Diaspora. And to say that Obama is connected to the African-American experience by virtue of his Kenyan father is alarmingly simplistic.
The African-American experience is unique in the level of insight which it imprinted upon its members as well as the relative level of equality bestowed upon a previously enslaved minority group. We view life through a dual lens whereas for Obama, the lens is singular.
Truth be told, our collective defiance has negatively impacted us in a variety of scenarios. The mythology of the African American attitude heralds a people unafraid to speak truth to power. Even in our day to day individual dealings, we are more apt than most groups to betray our own self interest by confronting our employer, government, or whomever else we feel may be engaged in double dealing. History has made us rebels.
Our expectation was that Obama would display some of the steeliness so overtly recognizable in the African American persona. But President Obama’s perspective is international, not African American. It is time that the African-American community stops looking for its reflection in President Obama. He may be the first black President, but he’s certainly not the first African-American President.
Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, Spatterblog.com and GoGirlGuide.com.