Are We Black Enough Yet?: A Look at the Mixed Person’s Role in the Black Lives Matter Movement

I’m mixed – African American and Irish. My mother is Black – I was raised solidly within the African American culture alongside a firm understanding and embracement of my Irish roots. Both sides of my heritage are steeped in oppression and slavery – histories that people want to forget and ignore. I have been told by my Black friends I have “that good mixed hair,” “that good light skin,” and “dem good pretty eyes.” I know I’m different – I’ve been told that my entire life from family, friends, and teachers – sometimes even strangers when they do the inevitable “guess Deanna’s race game” without my permission. People pass by me on the street or in the mall and they see one of two things: I’m Black with something or I’m Dominican with something; it’s never that I’m White and something.

With the entire world knocking at my door with my “otherness,” feeling the necessity to exclaim that I am not White alone, why do I feel unwelcomed in the conversation surrounding #BlackLivesMatter? Why have I gotten into multiple arguments with – mostly – Black women on Facebook telling me I’m not allowed to be a part of the movement because of my light skin and nice hair? Because of an assumed privilege both of those phenotypic qualities, among others, may or may not have given me in life? Because they assume my mother is White and did not raise me within the lens of a Black person in the United States (not that I’m saying whatsoever that mixed race peoples with White mothers deserve less access to this movement – this is just an argument I’ve gotten into with another Black woman)? Why am I devalued in the eyes of African Americans (most of whom, sorry to say, have White in them thanks to the prevalence of rape during slavery) when I have just as much soul, anger, and desire for equality as they do?

An article written by Shannon Luder-Manuel, a mixed race writer in Los Angeles, really hit me hard with her opening line: “When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed. When I talk about racism, I’m black”.[1] Praise God, Hallelujah, Shannon you just said what we’re all thinking – we as mixed raced individuals live on this tight rope where if we lean to one side we identify ourselves mixed and embrace both sides of our heritage, but on the other side we have the option to choose which portion of our heritage we want to fall upon. When Trayvon Martin was murdered back in 2012, I was in my first year of undergrad. I cried for days. I saw in him my cousins – Black men I had been raised with and loved by and guided by my entire life. I saw in him my future children – kids who, regardless of the race I marry, will be “others” just like me, just like Trayvon. When Sandra Bland was murdered for a failure to signal, I saw myself – a woman of color who forgets to do the boring tasks while driving. I have never been pulled over (knock on wood) but I have never been as terrified or aware as I am today.

I’m not trying to say that my ambiguous looks do not give me some headway in regards to potentially being harmed by police brutality – I know I confuse people and that’s in my best interests. I know that because White people can’t pinpoint my exact ancestral heritage (I’ve gotten as far out as Indian mixed with Dominican), I have a better chance at not being targeted for the historical no-nos for Blacks, such as DWB (Driving While Black). I know my designer clothes (because my mother buys them for me, I’m poor guys) and my fancy car aid in my assimilation into the “White” culture. I know that the preference for my lighter skin and fluffy curls, both within and without the Black community, puts me at the head of most ethnic status quos. However, even with these “privileges” (I don’t necessarily see them as such because the fou
ndation for my body is still “other” and I will never, ever be able to fully be accepted by the White community) I am still at risk, my family is still at risk, my future family will still be at risk – as long as my body and the bodies directly connected to me, now and in the future, are deemed as “not White,” I will forever fight for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

When the whole of the Black community accepts me – and others with the same intentions and racial ambiguity as myself – the Black Lives Matter Movement will only grow stronger – it will prove to White people that nothing, not even the fact that someone has White directly in their ancestry, will break us. We will always stand together and we will fight until our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones are protected against outside harms. Are we Black enough ye

[1] See: Luders-Manuel, Shannon. (2015). “What it Means to be Mixed Race during the Fight for Black Lives.” For Harriet. Accessed August 9, 2016:


DeannGraduation1a Keenan lives in Upstate New York and recently graduated from Binghamton University with B.A.s in Psychology and Africana Studies, with honor’s in Africana Studies. She is currently a Copy Editor for Africa Knowledge Project – a publishing house that has a wide range of journals that discuss various aspects of the African Diaspora. She is also currently the Guest Blog Coordinator for Mixed Roots Stories. She also holds a position as an Adjunct Lecturer at Binghamton University for the 2016-2017 school year, teaching Africana Studies 101. She has been published in the journal ProudFlesh twice, with two pieces in production, and has presented at the American Public Health Association (November 2015). She hopes to continue her education in Developmental Psychology, researching Mixed Race identity formation, among other topics regarding the population.

CMRS Mixed-Race Irish Film Keynote Links

Following my keynote on mixed representations in contemporary Irish cinema and television at the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, here are some links to the films discussed.


In 1976 Radharc, a TV production company run by the Irish clergy whose work was commissioned by the state broadcaster RTE, produced The Black Irish, a documentary on mixed-race people in Kinsale, Montserrat.

Recut trailer for Irish language TV channel TG4:

Full documentary:


In The Commitments (Parker, 1991), the black and mixed-race Irish are an absent presence as the white protagonists reappropriate the elements of African-American culture relevant to their needs, in order to voice their own feelings of oppression and victimhood:


1993 TV series Queen explores the divisions of racialization in America, and the difficulties faced by a young mixed-race Irish-African-American woman, Queen (played by Halle Berry), in the slavery-era South who does not fit into either side of the established black/white binary. The series also featured mixed actress Jasmine Guy as Queen’s mother.


The 1998 melodrama The Nephew (Brady) begins with a baggily dressed, dreadlocked mixed-race man arriving by boat at Inis Dara, a small island off the Irish mainland. Chad Egan-Washington (Hill Harper) is the son of an Irish emigrant who married an African-American. Here’s a clip of his performance of a song in Gaelic, with the refrain Fill a Rúin O [Come back, my love]:


In rom-zom-com Boy Eats Girl (Bradley, 2005), a budding romance between teenagers Jessica (played by Irish-Zambian popstar/actress/model Samantha Mumba) and Nathan (David Leon) is disturbed by a zombie attack. Nathan fears that Jessica has stopped loving him and so commits suicide. His mother uses voodoo to bring him back from the dead and as he feeds he produces a zombie army. Here’s the trailer:


Rural realist horror Isolation’s (O’Brien, 2005) protagonists are also a young couple. Mary (Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga) and Jamie (Sean Harris) run away together after her family reject him – he’s a Traveller (i.e. nomad), another of the marginalised Irish, but of a lower status here than non-whites. In this scene, Mary gets to know the farmer whose land they’re staying on:



Multicultural Irish Shorts (full film links):

Moore Street Masala (Ireland, O’Sullivan, 2009):

Oscar nominated New Boy (Green, Ireland, 2007):

Racist B&B (O’Brien, 2013):

The Blaxorcist (King, Ireland, 2007):

Cactus (Molatore, Ireland, 2007):



2013 Irish Films on Mixed Roots

Paula Kehoe’s An Dubh ina Gheal [Assimilation] is a documentary on the Irish-Aborigines of Australia:


Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s film Mister John positions the Irishman within an interracial family in Singapore:


Donal O Ceilleachair’s documentary Aisling Gheal [Bright Vision] follows the life of Shahira Apraku, a young mixed-race pupil of sean-nós (traditional song), in the Gaelic speaking region of Connemara in the West of Ireland:



Further Irish Films Featuring Mixed and Black Actors Include:

Pigs (Black, 1984), Oscar winning feature The Crying Game (Jordan, 1992), Mona Lisa (Jordan, 1986), When Brendan Met Trudy (Walsh, 2000), Black Day at Black Rock (2001), Breakfast on Pluto (Jordan, 2005), Pavee Lackeen (Ogden, 2005), Irish Jam (Eyres, 2006), Ghostwood (O’Brien, 2006), The Front Line (Gleeson, 2006), Kisses (Daly, 2008), 3 Crosses (Figgis, 2009), Trafficked (O’Connor, 2009), Sensation (Hall, 2010), The Guard (McDonagh, 2011); Between the Canals (O’Connor, 2011), The Good Man (Harrison, 2012), Milo (Boorsma and Boorsma, 2012), Byzantium (Jordan, 2012), What Richard Did (Abrahamson, 2012), Calvary (McDonagh, 2013).

See also RTE  television series: The New Irish: After the Bust (2012), Love/Hate (2010-present, featuring mixed Irish actors Ruth Negga and Aaron Heffernan), Prosperity (2007), Raw (2008-10), Father and Son (2009, featuring mixed actors Reece Noi and Sophie Okonedo), Little Brazil: Gort, Ireland (2006), Love is the Drug (2004, also starring Negga), The Clinic (2003-9), Fair City (1989-present, currently featuring mixed-race Irish actress Donna Anita Nikolaisen). And TG4 2011 documentary on Gaelic-speaking Zimbabwean Irish sean-nós dancer, choreographer, composer, performer Tura Arutura, Steip le Tura.


By Dr Zélie Asava


IMG_4237Dr Zélie Asava is Joint-Programme Director of the BA in Video and Film at Dundalk Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses on film and media theory. She also lectures in UCD Film Studies. Her monograph is entitled

The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Irish Identities

on Film and TV (Peter Lang, 2013). She has published essays in a wide range of journal and essay collections, including: Masculinity and Irish Popular Culture: Tiger’s Tales (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014); Oxford Bibliographies Online: Cinema and Media Studies (Oxford University Press, 2013);Viewpoints:Theoretical Perspectives on Irish Visual Texts (University of Cork Press, 2013);The Universal Vampire (Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013); France’s Colonial Legacies: Memory, Identity and Narrative (University of Wales Press, 2013).