By Makiya (not pictured above)
While reading the article Mixed Chicks supports team light skin on Twitter, experiences fallout I was shocked by the nature of some of the comments which were directed at the brand name and the identity of mixed-race people.
Is it possible that in 2011, people can still hold these views?
Unfortunately so. I live in the UK and I have to say that it appears that race is seen very differently in America. I class myself as mixed British. This is what I relate to, how I was brought up and which I am happy to identify with. This is accepted and not questioned, yet in America it appears to be a totally different story. I just wanted to take the time to look into some of the comments and points regularly made when the topic of mixed-race has been brought up (for example, on the article When Natural Hair Tells a Different Story) and to hopefully shed a little light on the mixed-race identity. For the purpose of this article when using the word ‘mixed-race’ I am talking about those whose mix includes the Black race as this is what others comments are referring to.
1.) The term mixed-race does not apply to skin colour. Many people supported this notion agreeing that there was no ‘one’ colour or shade for those who are mixed-race. Yet some disputed this by latching onto the cliché and the Media’s single portrayal, that mixed-race women are light skinned with long curly hair. Being mixed-race is not always a simple case of being ½ one race and ½ another. There are many racial combinations and percentages of racial mixtures. Because of this the ‘mixed-race’ is hugely diverse, with a range of skin tone and hues, eye colours, hair colours and textures. This stereotype of the so-called average mixed-race woman needs to be erased as there is just so much diversity that comes with being a mixture of different races.
2.) A commonly heard phrase is: “Society sees them as Black anyway, so why bother to class yourself as mixed?” This implies that in order for someone with mixed heritage to define themselves and establish their identity, they must either conform to society’s standards and views or allow others to dictate how they see themselves, without giving a thought to how they feel. Just because society may see you a certain way doesn’t mean that that is the way you should see yourself. Society may see mixed-race people as Black but this does not mean that they have to identify with what ‘box’ society has put them in. You define who you are. Regardless of how society sees you, you should be able to form your own identity. The society does not truly dictate who you are, only how you think/feel about yourself.
3.) One comment that I have heard many times but truly do not understand is when others feel uncomfortable about someone acknowledging their multiple races: “I have a problem with people classing themselves as mixed-race.” Why on earth should anyone else have a problem with a person classing themselves as mixed? Does this affect you in any way? Is it life changing? No, I didn’t think so. If a person has a problem with someone stating what they are then they are indeed the ones with the problem. I think that when people have views like this they really need to take a look at themselves. They need to find out why it is that they feel this way because surely it cannot be coming from a place of positivity and acceptance.
4.) Within the Black community some people think that by people classing themselves as mixed they just want to be separate from the Black race: “They just don’t like their blackness. They want to be different and therefore they have self-hate issues.” Classing yourself as mixed does not mean that a person does not want to be Black. It means that a person wants to acknowledge all of who they are, not just a singular race. Identifying as mixed-race is embracing all of a person’s cultures, heritages and backgrounds. It has nothing to do with the denial of the Black race. Just because you are part Black doesn’t mean that that’s the only race you should identify with. Why is it that as soon as a person wants to class themselves as mixed-race, they are instantly seen as a self-hater who wishes to rid of their blackness by ‘diluting’ it? I know many mixed-race people who are proud to be Black. Yet they are also proud to be White, Asian, etc.
5.) Oh the ‘Tragic mulatto’ stereotype. “All mixed people do is talk about their problems, it’s always woe is me.” Poor confused mixed girl, right? Wrong. Although people of mixed cultures and races may carefully think about how to define themselves, not all of us are confused and feel totally lost. Some mixed-race people may not feel accepted by one of their races or one may always have to define their race to others, but these are experiences that some mixed people have come in contact with. The fact that many have experienced situations like this does not mean that we are all depressed and ‘tragic’. A lot of mixed-race people are well adjusted and happy with who they are.
6.) Now… here it comes… the most ignorant and over-used statement in relation to the classification of being mixed-race: “All African-Americans are mixed anyway.” Where do I start? Firstly, not all African-Americans are mixed. Yes, some of the slave masters had children with the field slaves and these bi-racial offspring became known as the house slaves. Yet many slaves also had children with each other, with no mixing from the white landowners or the mixed-race house slaves. Secondly, yes some African-Americans do have traces of mixed ancestry, but this cannot be compared to someone living through current ‘mixed-race’ experiences and who has a significant percentage of mixture of races to affect their daily lives. The majority of mixed-race people do not have to search their ancestry in order to find a mixture of other races. These will come straight from their parents or their grandparents. Basically, it doesn’t need tracing to find where the mixture started. Someone being 1/60th Cherokee Indian will not have the same experiences as someone who is ½ Black, ¼ White and ¼ Asian. To put all African-Americans in the ‘mixed barrel’ in order to justify why no one should class themselves as mixed-race is ridiculous. Someone whose Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great grandmother was ¼ white is not going to fully understand what it is like to grow-up with a mixed heritage and the chances they have been affected by it is close to nil.
I feel that it is not fair for someone to use this statement in order to make the mixed-race term seem like an irrelevant and pointless definition. By saying that all African-Americans are mixed means that people are not acknowledging that there is a clear difference between being ‘mixed’ way back in the day and being mixed, right here, now, today.
I hope that this has cleared a few things up and that people can view these points from a different perspective. I think that the most important thing is to have ‘The freedom to be who you are’ (ironically the mixed Chicks leaflet slogan). It’s not about being what society sees you as, but being who you know you are. Whether that’s classing yourself as mixed-race, Black, White or Asian. Be proud to be who you are. It is not right to pass judgement on a person unless you have ever walked in their shoes.
What are your thoughts on this?