I Wanted to Tell Him

Never sure how the word “dad” would sound coming out of my mouth or even the way it might feel as it slides off my tongue. What would it feel like for him to place a triple-scoop vanilla ice cream cone in my tiny five-year-old hand, and wipe the drips off my chin with a crumpled up napkin from his pocket, while we hear the people passing by whisper,

 

she looks just like him.

 

I wanted to tell him that when I think about how I grew up “mixed” the only word I taste is confusion and how it seemed to tower over my teenage mind like a translucent fog full of “what ifs” “how-comes” and “are you sure’s”. My Black mother raised me the best she could by herself, but I was angry, I’m still angry. My East Indian-Ugandan father, not visible, never visible, I can’t hug him like I want to. I can’t hear his voice like I want to … even when nothing else is audible.

 

I wanted to tell him that whatever memories I have of him always show up blurry and unrecognizable, fragmented and sparse except for the fact that we both like massive amounts of black pepper on our over-easy eggs (I learned this when I visited him at eleven years old and we both covered our eggs in the black sprinklings)—the very first similarity.

 

I wanted to tell him that it’s ok to call me his daughter, but whether or not he sees me as such I do not know.

 

I don’t want to know.

 

I wanted to tell him that I do not look like anyone else in my family. Some of the younger cousins are mixed in some way—but not my way. I don’t possess the soft beauty of my half Black, half White cousins. I do not possess the deep dark beauty of my mother and aunts because they hold the very things I always wished I had—there’s a beauty in knowing who you are.

 

I wanted to hide so that I wouldn’t have to answer questions about my father:

 

Is she Black? What is she? I think she’s East Indian. No, look at her hair, she’s definitely not Black. Where’s she from?

 

I wanted to tell him that when people ask who my father is I tell them about the eggs.

 

I wanted to tell him that I live in a city where everywhere you go, there’s mixed people. People dipped in all 364 shades of brown. People in coffee shops, bank lines, grocery stores, hair salons, libraries, crowded buses and over-booked restaurants. And when I walk down the street with my mother, my daughter, or my cousin, I don’t want to have to prove we are related by answering a series of questions, followed by a series of follow up questions, and then long stares, and “are you sure’s?” ending with my own deep sighs.

 

I wanted to tell him—to confess—that I wasn’t sure who I was back then or now, and that I told terrible lies to avoid the questions that always came:

 

You’ve got good hair. Why do your hair up. Let your hair down. Look how long your hair is when you straighten it. Smile, your hair is beautiful. Your hair looks good against your light skin, don’t you think?

 

I tell terrible lies.

 

I wanted to tell him that my then eight-year-old tri-racial daughter who’s now fourteen, used to ask me why she doesn’t have a grandpa, and that I had no answer for her because no one had an answer for me.

 

I wanted to tell him that when I look into the mirror now as a thirty-five-year-old mixed-race woman I still have no idea what I am supposed to see, and that I still wonder if living in between is ever a safe place to reside.

 

I wanted to tell him that when people tell me I’m beautiful it hurts for days and days.

 

When my daughter says she does not want to go to her dad’s for the weekend I tell her to hug her dad while she can. When she says her dad doesn’t understand, I tell her to explain things to her dad while she can. When I sort through old photos of my baby daughter smiling and posing with her dad, I say to myself, she will need these someday.

 

I tell her to write down all the things she wanted to tell him.

 

Then tell him.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

continuing studies shots of chelylene for brochureChelene Knight lives in Vancouver, BC and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio 2013 in the poetry cohort. Chelene is a Library Assistant at the Vancouver Public Library, and Managing Editor at Room. Previously, she worked as a Manuscript Consultant through SFU, and as a proofreader at Montecristo magazine along with other editor gigs with a poetry focus. She has been published in Amazing Canadian Fashion MagazineSassafras Literary MagazineemergeThe Raven Chronicles Literary Magazine, and in Room 37.4. She just finished her second manuscript, Dear Current Occupant, a collection of sonnets, prose poems, and letters which is forthcoming with BookThug in 2018. Chelene is now dabbling in short short SHORT fiction. Her first book, Braided Skin, was published by Mother Tongue Publishing in Spring 2015. Find out more about Chelene at cheleneknight.com and @poetchelene.

 


Ahead of the Curve!

My mother was light years ahead of the curve. I am grateful that she had an understanding of what people are realizing today. We are realizing the importance for children to see themselves culturally reflected and represented in literature, film, and art. She recognized that growing up in in the U.S. meant my perspective, voice, and identity were not the norm or dominant voice of American culture. The flip side of this idea is also equally important. It is also important for children that do not belong to minority or underrepresented groups to be exposed to multi-cultural or diverse literature. “Multicultural literature also creates a community within the classroom because students learn not only the differences tolerated, they are also embraced.” (Boles, 2006)

My mother was aware of the potentially negative effects of cultural hegemony. Both Marx and Weber explain and describe the idea that in a culturally or racially diverse society, the ruling class will dominate and manipulate the culture of that society. The fact that flesh colored Band-Aids were initially introduced in only one color is a very simple and concrete example of this idea. If you want to have a very clear understanding of this, imagine a very dark-skinned person wearing a very white “flesh-colored” Band-Aid. This Band-Aid stands out in obvious contrast against the dark skin. This example illustrates how the ideas and values of a single class can be projected and enforced on all the other members of the society. No matter how diverse they are, there is only one flesh-tone for them all. Today, it is clear that this has a negative effect on everyone involved; especially members of the dominant group. Children born into the dominant culture are often unnaturally confined to have very limited experiences with diversity. “Children who develop in this way are robbed of opportunities for emotional and intellectual growth, stunted in the basic development of the self, so they cannot experience or accept humanity.” (Katz, 1978)

Talking about our obvious differences has led to heated debate and often resulted in people taking the easier approach of just avoiding the subject. Fortunately, we live in a time where we are now recognizing the potential damage this can cause to an individual, especially where young children are concerned. Racism and intolerance are not the inevitable consequence of a culturally diverse society. However, encouraging children to develop empathy at a young age has the potential to have a tremendous positive impact toward fostering cultural pluralism. This is the term that describes the existence of smaller groups that are able to maintain their own unique cultural identities and values.

“Minority students feel recognized and understood when their culture is acknowledged. Students from the mainstream culture learn that there are other perspectives and ways of doing things that are just as valuable as their own.” (Boles, 2006) This can be empowering for everyone involved. “The importance of multicultural literature is even more important with younger children because they receive the majority of their messages through pictures. If children of color never see themselves in literature, will they feel devalued? Also, if the ma- jority’s culture children never see children of color in literature, will they not develop nega- tive attitudes about children who do not look like them (Boles, 2006)?”

What made my mother light years ahead? It was the fact that she talked to us about race or differences in a positive and affirming way. She taught us as children to appreciate ourselves within context of our diverse family and comminity. The flip side of this was that she also taught us to respect others regardless of how different they may be. She recognized that the dominant culture did not reflect us by default. Therefore, she made sure we were exposed stories, ideas, and history that reflected who we are. In short, she provided a mirror in which we could see ourselves reflected in society.

However, it didn’t stop there. As children we were also exposed to a variety of cultures. For example, we were enrolled in a Spanish class outside of our normal studies at a very young age. Spanish does not necessarily represent our cultural heritage. However, it did give us a healthy feeling and orientation toward people for whom Spanish was an integral part of their culture. This opened us up and made it possible for us to connect on a deeper level with a variety of different groups. We learned and understood that different people have much more in common than one might at first glance imagine. Every child needs to be exposed to their own culture and other cultures to have a healthy appreciation of the world. They should be able to see themselves and others in stories and literature. Literature, film and art should accurately reflect the diversity of the society in which we live. Not doing so can produce an unconscious fear in children of people that are different from themselves. (Derman- Sparks,Higa,Sparks)

We grew up with the knowledge and understanding that the world is diverse and multi- cultural. We hope to bring this same understanding to children in our book Colorful, different and the same…like you and me. We hope that children everywhere can see themselves and others with an openness and understanding that is both informative and empowering. We also attempt to illustrate that differences are a fundamental part of nature. Understanding, accepting, and celebrating our differences as well as our commonalities is empowering. After all, we are colorful, different, and the same.

Sources:

Boles, M. (2006). The Effects of Multicultural Literature in the Classroom. Digital Commons @ EMU, Paper 62. Retrieved June 19,2016, from http://commons.emich.edu

White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training by Judy Katz (University of Oklahoma Press, 1978), page 12 – 14 Children, Race and Racism: How Race Awareness Develops By Louise Derman-Sparks, Carol Tanaka Higa, Bill Sparks


framemitfotoTemu and Elisabeth Diaab were inspired by love of their son to write children’s books. Writing has always been Temu’s passion and Elisabeth loves to tell stories with pictures. Their creative energy has developed naturally into artistic collaboration. Now they want to share their stories with children everywhere.

See more of their work at their website at http://diaab.de/en, and on Facebook


BOOK REVIEW – Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post Racial World

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Sharon H. Chang’s inaugural book, Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post Racial World, lays out a blue print that outlines the history of white supremacy and how it has corrupted the way people treat each other, specifically Mixed Race/ Multiracial and Multiracial Asian individuals. She develops an important foundation that provides a glimmer of hope for moving forward toward improving our future world, despite the powerful suppressive system before us.

The title might make you think it is a parenting book, and it is (or could be), but it so much more! The language/verbiage used in the book makes this potentially academic/research strong book accessible for those who might have the most questions…parents. Though this book has a focus on multiracial Asian children, it is not just a book for parents of multiracial Asian children. It is a book for all children of color…and even for parents of white children! This book is for anyone who comes in contact with children in any way. This means if you are a teacher/educator, a child care worker, do research with children or on race and intersectionaility…or if you are a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or once was a child. This book is for everyone!

The book is based on Chang’s interviews with 68 parents of 75 young children living in Washington State. She does not go into detail about her recruitment and method, however she does discuss this in my recent interview with her (see Part 1 of 2 below). She intertwines her findings with current and historical events, existing scholarly research and reports, her expertise in tracking dialogue across social media, her own multiracial Asian experience and more.

The focus is on children from 0 to 5 years old. This is an age that has been neglected in most parenting books and research with a multiracial focus. This is also an age during which many parents think that their children do not recognize/see race; however Chang shows us that they absolutely do. Young children are learning from the subtle and often unspoken systematic racism that is infused throughout every aspect of our society.

Chang makes it clear that the understanding of race begins in the home. In a world that is fearful to discuss how white supremacy has been engrained into society and families generation after generation…it is time families start having these difficult conversations. Chang warns that race is not easy to discuss, but essential and does not have to be done alone. It can be done through community. Her last chapter provides specific examples of how to address race in the community, school, and home.

This is the first book that I have seen, that looks at racial identity development, and puts systematic racism and white supremacy where it belongs…. at the beginning and linked over and over again to the end. To understand and address race issues with our children, we must begin with its origin story. When attempting to comprehend the lens in which race issues are created, we must understand the frame in which that lens is held together – white supremacy. Chang tells it like it is. She lifts the curtain on age-old white ideas of race, breaks down history, language and concepts that have created divisions between people who look different or do not follow the prescribed norms. For example, she breaks down how the trending term microagression was created from a white lens and points out there is nothing small or mirco about them! She deconstructs terms used in medical spaces, such as “Mongolian Spots” that have racist origins; and many individuals have just come to believe that is what they are called (See Part 2 of 2 below for more on this). Additionally, she provides a fantastic response to the common question/idea “But aren’t we all mixed?” in one of the most eloquently written explanations I have seen. Watch Part 2 of 2 below to hear about how she responds to the question and her new elevator response to this question!

The book is coming out just in time for the holidays, and will make a great gift. It should be on everyone’s 2016 reading list! You can order the book on the publisher site  or on Amazon.

Be sure to join Sharon on December 11th for her Facebook launch party. She will be partying all day and giving away some great prizes. Don’t miss it!

You can find the Multiracial Asian Families community and blog page on Facebook, the book page on Facebook. You can fin her on Twitter @mutliasianfams, Pinterest, or on her blog MultiAsian Families.

 

Watch my recent interview with Sharon!

Part 1 – She shares her mixed roots story, how the book came to be and more!

Part 2 -We discuss content from the book including: “Mongolian spots”, miss-education and the need for reeducation around racist terms, how to respond to -“Everybody is Mixed”, Culture vs. Race, Anti-bias curricula, learning environments and more.



Chandra Crudup, PhD, MSW
 is a board member and co-founder of Mixed Roots Stories. She is the Vice President of MAVIN and the Production Manager for One Drop of Love. Chandra is full time Lecturer and Faculty Associate Coordinator in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. She has over six years of practice experience in K-12 schools. Her research interests are centered on multiracial identity and interracial relationships. Her research utilizes video technology as a qualitative data gathering tool. She is also interested in using the arts as a medium to build positive self-esteem in youth.


Oh, Shoot! We’re the Grown People!

My mother was 20 when she gave birth to me. She was a single white woman holding her newborn brown baby at St. Mary’s Hospital, and I don’t really know what she was feeling at the time because I haven’t thought to ask her before now. I wonder, though, how her singleness, her age, and her race colored her experience of welcoming me into the world. Did my mother endure criticism because she was a young, unwed Catholic woman, just a couple of years past high school? Did she face a similar situation to the one Rebecca Walker describes in her memoir Black, White, Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self? Walker writes of reading the one-word question “Correct?” next to her parents’ races on her birth certificate, as if someone couldn’t fathom the possibility that a black and white union was not a mistake. I imagine—and like to think—my mother didn’t consider her status or age or race at all; instead I picture her overcome by sentiments new mothers typically feel—joy and relief and exhaustion, untainted by the world outside of the space between her eyes and mine.

I’ve also not thought to ask my mother how the social considerations of marital status, age, and race affected her as I grew older and as she mothered me in various contexts through the stages of my life. As a child, I thought nothing of the fact that my mother was unmarried, and I remember telling a playmate that I had no dad—really believing that I had no father, that my mother had sprouted me the way a plant shoots out a rhizome. I thought it was cool that my mother was so beautiful, strong, and younger than all the other mothers. And race? I didn’t know a thing about it for a long time. Not surprisingly, my first knowledge of it came through the issue of color. Still, my mother’s color in relation to mine never crossed my mind. My first awareness of color was of my color, perhaps because my mother’s was the same as the majority of people I knew, growing up in white communities as I did. So, in my childhood eyes, I was the different one. And for most of my childhood, I felt special in that difference rather than peculiar.

On a few occasions, though, people would ask me if I were adopted, and at those times I felt very peculiar—both unmoored and confused. Could they not see my mother in me? My upturned nose just like hers? The same crooked canine tooth? Our similar voices and mannerisms? And now I wonder, did my mother face similar questions? Did she encounter people who questioned her relationship to me, either benignly or aggressively? Were people ever hostile toward her when it became clear that she, a white woman, had paired with a black man? And what were the challenges she faced, both race-related and otherwise, as a young single parent?

These questions have only just begun to occur to me since I have become a mother. Unlike my own mother, I was married and in my 30s when I had my daughter. Also, my daughter and I share brown skin and therefore don’t face external questions about who belongs with whom. (In fact, at her school orientation, when I entered the room where my daughter was playing, another child turned to her and said, “Hey, brown girl, your mother is here.” Nope, no confusion there. Yes, I’m being both straightforward and ironic.) I am still challenged by motherhood and curious about my own mother’s experience and the way singleness, age, and race affected it. What I know is this: mothering is tough; single mothering tougher still. And here’s how I know:

It’s 5:00AM on a Tuesday morning, and my daughter calls to me from her bedroom. “Mom, I don’t feel well!” I leap out of bed, bang my foot on the nightstand, and limp across the house to her room. With one hand on her forehead, I know the deal: fever, sick day, no school for her…and no work for me. After the thermometer, the cool washcloth, the lullabies, she’s sleeping soundly again, but I know I won’t be able as the sun inches its way toward day. I sit before my computer and email all the necessary parties: her school, my students, the administrative assistant in the department where I teach. Then, I need to pore over my syllabi, making sure I can squeeze back in the work that will be missed today.

How much of this is familiar to you, women of the world? Whether you’re like me, a now-single mother, or whether you have a partner, most women with children are familiar with the scenario I describe. Historically, women have raised children. Women have been responsible for their feeding, for their entertainment, for their care when they’re sick. Across generations, across cultures, across races. Even when we work. We know this. And even the television commercials remind and train us in our role so that—often unthinkingly—we assume our place in the familial scheme.

I recall a particularly telling moment after my daughter’s father and I were separated but before we were divorced. Our child was visiting him for the night, and he called me (5:00AM again) to let me know that she was sick. “I’ll drop her off before I go to work,” he told me. What?! “Wait a minute,” I balked. “I teach today…”

But that wasn’t really an issue to him, and even I felt conflicted about my duties. I want to excel in my career and, in fact, I love my time in the classroom. I take my students and our plans seriously and don’t cancel classes lightly. At the same time, I strive to be an exceptional mother (don’t we all?), and I feel there’s no better place for my daughter to be than with me, especially when she’s sick.

“She’s sick. She needs to be with you,” he added, and this “compliment” was so well aligned with our cultural expectations, with my expectations of myself, that I quickly relented any opposition I might have entertained. Yes, I’m her mother; she’s my priority, I understood. “Bring her back,” I told him.

So today, when V. awoke feverish and needy, I knew I was expected to email her father and let him know her condition. I’m obliged to keep him apprised of her health when it’s abnormal, of unexpected visits to the doctor, of diagnoses that are made. Dashing off a business-like email to him, I felt highly conflicted about my position. Yes, I want to care for my daughter. No, it’s not right for me to hold the sole responsibility for her care, whether this responsibility has been imposed on me, assumed by me, or a little of both. I felt the itch of resentment, thought he should at least offer to take her to the doctor, if necessary, so that I could teach my classes today. Still, I didn’t really expect him to offer. I am her mother; she is in my care.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I’m not suggesting, nor do I believe, that there aren’t plenty of balanced, mature, nurturing men in the world. Many of these are the hard working, committed partners of hard-working women; others are the often culturally forgotten single dads who work as hard as single mothers. I know many very committed and caring men who are admirable fathers and equitable partners.

Nevertheless, we can recognize that historically childrearing was women’s work, and in many cases it still is. And I’m not denigrating this task in the least. I know mothers do some of the hardest work that is ever done and surely the most primary, if not the most important (though I would throw my hat into that argument any day). And we know well the gains that the second wave of feminism offered in giving women choices regarding motherhood and career. Additionally, as third wave feminist Rebecca Walker has pointed out, while the second wave gave the following generation the choice, the third wave recognized that it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose motherhood over career if that was personally most fitting for her.

The third wave also allows us to recognize, though, that often the either/or choice is not the one that is made; many times, we women still want it all. I, for one, want to teach, research, publish AND I want to be the main caregiver of my daughter, have a from-scratch meal on the table for her every night, and keep the house pristine. Women like me are trying to embody what Michelle Wallace called in the 1970s the “myth of the superwoman,” and we’re suffering for it.

How? Well, I return to that internal struggle I feel about the care of my daughter when she’s sick. I sincerely want to be with her, and I recognize that I have a job to do. As the breadwinner, my job puts the food on the table; it is a fundamental resource in the very care I take of her. If I were to request that her father take her for the day while I work, I might suffer, however irrationally, a sense of inadequacy, as if I can’t do without him after all—and believe me, I’m not one to suggest that. Or as if I am somehow less of a mother if my care isn’t focused squarely on nurturing—on the cooking of chicken soup, tucking in of covers, and signing of songs.

Clearly, there are some problems with these nagging thoughts of mine, but am I alone in thinking them? I doubt it. Yet this self-awareness is useful. First of all, I’m coming to recognize the importance of support (Really? you ask me. You’re just now figuring this out, Superwoman?). Whether I want to accept her father’s support or not (and whether or not he would offer it), I am realizing that I do need others to have my back as I raise my daughter. That old cliché is true: it does take a village. I recall my own childhood again, and my maternal grandmother coming to live with my mother and me when I was six. She picked me up from school, cooked our meals, cleaned the house; in a way, my mother did have a parenting partner, and all three of us benefitted greatly. Considering this, I’m grateful for close friends in my life, for the welcoming school my daughter attends, for family a phone call away.

The second problem is a bit harder to rationalize my way out of, as motherhood has been so linked with nurturing. Whether my idealization of the mother care-taker is culturally conditioned or biologically inherent isn’t really the issue for me; rather, I recognize that, as her mother, I love to nurture my daughter, and I believe the sense of maternal security I provide can and hopefully will be an imprint that sustains her as she grows into a woman capable of mothering herself.

Speaking of mothering the self, I’m reminded of a scene in one of my favorite novels, Toni Morrison’s Jazz. After Violet’s husband has an affair, she and Alice converse about womanhood, life choices, and maturity.

Violet says, “We women, me and you. Tell me something real. Don’t just say I’m grown and ought to know. I don’t. I’m fifty and I don’t know nothing. What about it? Do I stay with him? I want to, I think. I want…well, I didn’t always…now I want. I want some fat in this life.”

Alice replies, “Wake up. Fat or lean, you got just one. This is it.”

“You don’t know either, do you?” Violet challenges her.

“I know enough to know how to behave.”

“Is that it? Is that all it is?” Violet is forced to ask.

“Is that all what is?”

And then Violet jumps in with my favorite line: “Oh shoot! Where the grown people? Is it us?”

“Oh, Mama.” Alice utters.

I love that exchange; it’s poignant and it’s real. How many of us, despite motherhood and seeming maturity, still don’t feel old enough or wise enough or capable enough to mother? We wonder if we’re mothering “right.” We wonder if we’re there for our children enough, if we’re teaching them well, if we’re guiding them wisely toward emotional intelligence and five fruits and veggies a day. Many of us look to our mothers, as I do, imagining they had all the answers by the ripe old age of 35. Like Violet and Alice, we look around and wonder where the real grown ups are and then sit back, stunned, calling for Mama when we realize we’re the grown people, even when we feel like imposters.

Perhaps we should take some comfort in that fact, in the realization that all of us—and our mothers, too—feel like imposters from time to time, but that’s only because we haven’t been down before whatever road it is we’re traveling. We haven’t yet encountered whatever challenges—in relationship, in age, in cultural codes, in you-name-it—that are still coming down the pike. That’s the point, though, right? We keep the growing edge of ourselves alive; we keep living and learning, trying and failing or succeeding, always facing the new questions that arise. As Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that give answers.” So even when we have to live the questions for longer than we’d like, perhaps we can comfort ourselves with the fact that, eventually, we will live ourselves right into the answers.

It seems to me my mother did. And I’ll be sure to ask her.

 

By: Tru Leverette, PhD.


[rescue_column size=”one-fourth” position=”first”]IMG_3976[/rescue_column] Tru Leverette works as an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Florida where she teaches African-American literature and serves as director of African-American/African Diaspora Studies. Her research interests broadly include race and gender in literature and culture, and she focuses specifically on critical mixed race studies. Her most recent work has been published in Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora and the edited collections Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speaking Out and The Search for Wholeness and Diaspora Literacy in Contemporary African-American Literature. She served as a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, during the Winter 2013 term.


Netflix Binge Watch with Mixed Roots Stories

Do you binge watch shows and movies online? We do! We found these 6 programs on Netflix  that feature mixed roots discussions. Check them out, critically discuss them with others, and learn more! We have provided some questions to consider while watching each one, as well as further reading/resources to keep you thinking and critically looking at mixed roots stories!

 

We are just getting started with our Netflix recommendations, and we’d love your contributions. What films/TV series have you seen that are relevant? What critical questions can we explore when/after watching them? What mixed identity groups aren’t represented here? Send us an email to info@mixedrootsstories.org.

 

Trevor Noah: African American

From Trevor Noah:
Trevor Noah brings to film his unique brand of observational humor born of his mixed-race experience under the South African apartheid system. In his most recent stand-up special Trevor weaves together compelling stories with wicked smart observations on the inanity of the racial construct in the United States. The theme of Trevor’s presentation is his journey to America, because he believes he can be fully black here. A clip from Gabriel Iglesias StandUp Revolution:

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider while watching:

1) Can humor be an effective storytelling tool for change, especially on matters of race, culture and ethnicity?

2) As you watch Trevor Noah: African American, do you think his point-of-view effectively challenges our racial assumptions?

3) How does idea of mixed/blackness transfer between countries?

4) What does it mean to be “fully black?”

For Further reading/discussion:
Nancy Goldman makes an argument in her paper that humor can be a powerful tool for social change – Comedy and Democracy: The Role of Humor in Social Justice. 


 

The Fosters

From abcfamily.go.com/shows/the-fosters:
The Fosters is a one-hour drama about a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms. Stef and her partner Lina have built a close-knit , loving family with Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage, Brandon, and their adopted twins Mariana and Jesus. But how will things change when they meet troubled teen Callie and her little brother Jude?

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider while watching:
1) What responsibilities do parents raising kids from different cultures than themselves have in teaching their children about those cultures?

2) Lina identifies as biracial – how does this affect her relationship with her partner, Stef, and her children? Do the conversations she has with her African American mother surprise you, or not? Why?

For Further reading/discussion:
Lisa Marie Rollins is a TRA (TransRacial Adoption) Activist. Her blog, poetry and live performance provide lots of insight into the TRA experience. Learn more here: https://birthproject.wordpress.com/


 

The Loving Story

From lovingfilm.com:
The Loving Story, a documentary film, tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving to examine the drama, the history, and the current state of interracial marriage and tolerance in the United States.

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider while watching:
1) What do you think were the most compelling arguments made by the Loving’s legal team to persuade the Court to rule in their favor?
2) What are some of the other Supreme Court decisions that have had a strong impact on the mixed community?

For Further reading/discussion:
For a more in-depth analysis on Loving v. Virginia and the people involved, see Race, Sex and the Freedom to Marry by Peter Wallenstein (mixedracestudies.org).


 

Parenthood

NBC recently aired the final season (season 6) of Parenthood. You can catch up/re-watch the first 5 seasons on Netflix. “Parenthood bravely and delicately take on the complexities of family life leaving viewers full of emotion after every episode like all good comedy/drama stories should! In addition to other major topics (cancer, post traumatic stress disorder and more), this series follows an interracial marriage and their child, the process of a transracial adoption and has explored an interracial teenage dating situation.” (http://mixedrootsstories.com/parenthood/)

A few key seasons/episodes:
Season 2 – Crosby and Jasmine (an interracial couple) are trying to figure out how to raise their child and if they are going to work on their relationship or continue to be separated. Addie begins dating Alex, and her parents begin to question the relationship, pushing her to move in with her grandparents. But are they questioning it because he is a different race or because he has a history of substance abuse?
Season 3 – Crosby and Jasmine work out their differences. Julia and Joel interracially adopt a son.
Season 4 – Crosby and Jasmine have a discussion with their son about race (Episode 4). Julia and Joel take on the challenge of raising their adopted son.
Season 5 – Crosby and Jasmine expand their family with a new baby girl. Jasmine’s mother has ideas of how religion should play a role in the families life.

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider while watching:
1) If your child brings home a partner with a mixed background (different race, culture, religion, gender orientation, country of origin, etc.) than what you expected, would you be concerned? Why? Would you voice your concern? How?
2) In Season 4 Episode 4 Crosby realizes there are situations his mixed race son will have to deal with that he won’t be able to protect his son from. How would you or do you answer these/similar questions?

For Further Reading/Discussion:
Raising Biracial Children by Kerry Ann Rockquemore & Tracey Laszloffy, takes on identity development with mixed-race individuals within a historical context and creates a framework to assist parents, educators, social workers, counselors and anyone who works with multiracial individuals.
Donna Jackson Nakazawa wrote Does Anybody Else Look Like Me: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children out of frustration in a bookstore, when she was unable to find a book that provided guidance on how to address the situations she was facing in her mixed roots family.

The appendix of both books have lists of useful resources!


 

Rabbit Proof Fence

Set in 1930, western Australia, Rabbit Proof Fence tells the true-life story of two “half-caste” girls who were taken from their families, by the government, and placed in a camp where they are trained to be servants for white families. The hope is for these children to end up marrying white Australian men so their aboriginal blood can be bred out. The girls escape and take off on a journey to find their family.

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider:
1) The United States is not the only country that has had a history of hiding unspeakable events around race/color differences. What value, if any comes, from being aware of a global mixed roots history?

2) In what ways do institutions continue to support and enforce the separation of different people?

For Further Reading/Discussion:
“My Place” by Sally Morgan

“Daughter Dies With Her Story Still Incomplete”


Black in Latin America: with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In this PBS 4 episode series, “Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Discusses the massive influence of African ancestry on the history and culture of Latin America and Caribbean.” He goes to: Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

Mixed Roots Stories Questions to consider:
1) As Gates interviews each country, how does his North American views of “Black” influence his questions, interactions, and expectations on what answers he is looking for in South America?

2) Both North and South America have a history of slavery with “Black” or African people. How are these histories similar and/or different? What lessons can be gleaned from both continents mixed roots histories?

For Further Reading/Discussion:
“Black In Latin America” by Henry Louis Gate Jr. http://www.mixedracestudies.org/wordpress/?p=31565

“Latining America: Black-Brown Passages and the Coloring of Latino/a Studies by Claudia Milian
http://www.mixedracestudies.org/wordpress/?p=25463


The Politics of Multi-Racial Identity -Part 1 of 4

Race-thinking has two distinct aspects: the real, and the conceptual. Both of these are important in the development of the racial politics of identity. These politics surround both what we know to be true about race (the real) and what we are taught corresponds to that reality (the conceptual). What these aspects have in common is their role as signifiers in the categorization of people both for the state and the individual. Stuart Hall suggested that the entire construction of race was an exercise in turning the body into a text, something that is neat and well defined, in order that we might better understand it[1]. Skin color, and the physical associations based on that color, become signifiers that we use to organize and categorize groups of people in a way that is convenient for a plurality of the population. If this idea is taken with some merit, then we can say that a whole series of problems in discussions of race are problems of language. When we argue about stereotypes, negative or positive, we are arguing about how accurately we have read people in the context of the state. The confirmation of stereotypes represents a successful unification of the real with the conceptual.

The need to categorize is not exclusive to race-thinking; it is how we make sense of information. Without classifications and groupings, we are left with a variety of data that have little meaning behind them. Yet, if we look at race-thinking as a series of signs within language, then the importance of categorization is open to another set of problems. These are problems of relative identity. The French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, perceived language as a series of signs that were ultimately relative[2]. Particular words gained their significance only when defined in relation with their antithesis: “open” only really means something when compared with “closed”, “up” with “down”, and so on. “White” and “Black” is another example of these antithetical pairs. A long history is associated with these colors, and their applications. As one example, Augustine in the 5th century CE used the concept of light—another synonym for white—and the fall from light to denote those who maintained piety, and those who fell into sin, respectively.

“White” and “Black” as historical terms gained power within the conceptual that has never been fully developed. This history is also what complicated issues that made the line between them less distinct. And here, Multi Racial identities become actively political. To have someone who physically embodied White and Black is to actively challenge not simply the hierarchy, but the categorizations themselves. This was the reasoning behind legal prohibitions of miscegenation, as well as social de-valuations of Multi Racial Subjects. As Frank Furedi noted, in ”How Sociology Imagined Mixed Race”: “The research agenda of the emerging race relations industry was dominated by the imperative of damage limitation”. This policy began with the interactions of the Americas with Europe, and continued up to policing commercials for Cheerios[3]. It relied on lines that could be imposed and enforced to the point that policing boundaries became subconscious. Edward Said’s process of Orientalizing the East is another way of formulating the creation of this category. Orientalism is a way of creating such conceptual categories, where lines are very clearly defined in the subconscious, although they may be difficult to articulate—we might recall Justice Stewart on pornography: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced with that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it”.

The political power of these subjects, of course, has been subverted to serve the role of structural power. As Antonio Gramsci asserted, the culture of the powerful became the culture of the state. Those whose identities challenged this cultural form of hegemony were inevitably perceived as political.  The scholar of the Classical World, or that of 18th century poetry is able to conceal political identity to her writings in a way that is never accessible to those whose histories were based on a past of permanent dislocation. We might say the “white” category has been established as default. As a result, those who study white areas cannot be said to be political—they seek to understand the history of our world.  And yet, even structures have their politics.  As Edward Said noted in Orientalism: “No one has ever devised a method for detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of a society”.

In this sense, the multi racial subject is paradoxically both political and apolitical. Within reality, her appearance is not enough signage to read her as belonging to the white or black category. However, her very existence is testimony to the long struggle at the periphery of such well-formulated categories. This means the mixed race identity is one that is always partially compromised: “What are you?” is less offensive for its depersonification and more for its historical erasure. Those who do not fit neatly in structured conceptions of race and culture do not belong, and need to be modified to fit with the worldview: “No, you can’t be Chinese!” the implication being that it violates some natural law of civilization.

What can we do about this problem? Our current solution, grounded in the empirical sense of what is feasible, suggests that it is merely a problem of experience. The whole debate about diversity is that experiencing the “real” aspects of people is enough to shift the “conception” of people[4]. There is no doubt that this must be part of the solution, however, it is not as simple as merging the boys and girls at a middle school dance. The beauty of ideologies is that they maintain their powers not simply in the real experiences of people, but also in how those people conceptually engage with categories through structures. As Arendt noted, part of the process of opinions turning into ideologies is this: “The appeal of both [in reference to history as an economic struggle of classes and as a natural fight of races] to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines”[5]. In short, factual blind spots that are tacitly endorsed by state action do not disappear through rectification. The larger ideological traces must be addressed as well.

I would like to show how a different approach to education is necessary, through my own experiences. While the origins of the problem in racial hegemony is similar to that of most minorities, there is still a unique encounter of the Multi Racial Subject as merging the expectations and identities of these two conceptual categories of “White” and “Black”. Just how fluid their assignment is can be seen in our own president, and his own struggle to fluctuate between seeming “Black” in some parts of his real struggle (encounters with police, for example) but also acknowledging his “Whiteness”. It is a microcosm of the multi-racial struggle on a whole, one whose solution is best presented in the words of Said: “All systems of education alas are still deeply, sometimes unconsciously, nationalistic. So I think we have to de-nationalize education and realize, and make it possible for people to understand that we live in a very complex and mixed world in which you can’t separate cultures and civilizations from each other but, in fact, history ought to be taught as the exchange and of course the clash of civilization”[6]. This process of nationalization includes a history by which we are invested in separating these categories, which cannot be so easily done in the context of the Multi Racial Subject.

I propose that my own experiences bear out to a more pressing issue—the socialization of racism. Children are aware of the racial boundaries that separate us, when they are a concern of those children’s realities. And they mirror the same sort of boundaries without consciously being aware of what they are doing. This is because they see the structures around them, and understand those structures to be models. A true humanities education is one in which the structures themselves become the subject of inquiry as much as any one particular subject. As a recent New York Op-Ed summarized: “Duncan said that Americans tended to be “ahistorical” — that is, we choose to forget the context of our past, perhaps as a way for a fractious nation of immigrants to get along.”[7] This context is essential, if we seriously seek to reform how race-thinking defines the worlds in which we inhabit.

A couple of warnings: one, these are my experiences. As such, I have little protection from the sort of critical cross-examination that is necessary for any sociological proposal. I don’t think of this as an answer—if I am lucky, it is the beginning of a question. The second is that, as I am a cisgender, heterosexual, male, several large aspects of identity are mostly put to the side. I don’t mean for them to be unimportant—rather, I have no serious experience being a minority in any of these camps, and would rather, like Foucault to the prisoners, “let them speak for themselves”. It is my belief each could write a narrative similar to my own, and those with multiple aspects could note the role of intersectionality in these debates.

 


[1] Stuart Hall, “Race as a Floating Signifier”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRk9MZvOd2c

[2] As an informal guide, the Wiki page on Deconstruction is helpful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction#From_diff.C3.A9rance_to_deconstruction

[3] For this particular commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYofm5d5Xdw . The comments had to be disabled.

[4] http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/BoardDiversityStatement-June2012.pdf . This statement is demonstrative of what is called “positivist” tendencies about diversity—its value is only determined by what it produces.

[5] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published initially by Jovanovich in 1973, available here: https://ia600509.us.archive.org/7/items/originsoftotalit00aren/originsoftotalit00aren_bw.pdf .

[6] This was a review of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, given by Edward Said in a lecture. For the transcript: http://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/404/transcript_404.pdf . For the lecture itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPS-pONiEG8 .

[7] Timothy Egan, “Lost in the Past” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/opinion/egan-lost-in-the-past.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=1 .

 

By: July 2014 Guest Blogger- Marley-Vincent Lindsey

MVLphoto

Marley-Vincent Lindsey is a freelance writer and independent researcher located in New York. He recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in history and is primarily interested in 16th century Colonial Spain, the influence of Christianity on colonial institutions, subaltern studies and postcolonial theory and the relationship between digital media and history. He will be presenting at the Sixth Annual  Conference on Power and Struggle hosted by the University of Alabama, and is publishing a paper entitled “The Politics of Pokémon: Socialized Gaming, Religious Themes and the Construction of Communal Narratives” in the forthcoming volume of Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. When he’s not on the academic grind, he’s probably playing Starcraft and other related strategy games, skating or thinking about contingency plans for the zombie apocalypse. He can be contacted via email (mvlindsey92@gmail.com) or through his notebook-blog (mvlindsey.wordpress.com). He also really likes cats.

 

(due to an abundance of spam, we’ve had to turn off comments here, but please head over to our Facebook page – we’d love to hear and share your thoughts there! facebook.com/MixedRootsStories)


“I’m What?”: The Adventures of Raising a Racially Ambiguous Bi-Racial Child

The deep rooted nature of racial segregation and inequality in the good ole U S of A can hurl certain individuals right through the black & white, past the shades of grey and often into the complex, multihued road less traveled: Winding, rugged paths riddled with rusty old warning signs like “Do Not Enter” or “Dead End”. My husband, David and I began our journey 15 years ago and my Lawd was it a heck of a hike… Kinda endemic amongst Black/White interracial couples, no?

Perhaps what makes our union unique from a purely surface perspective is our apparent racial/cultural ambiguity. Essentially, we’ve been asked to unravel the ‘mystery’ of our racial make-up a lot throughout our lives. David, who is Pennsylvania Dutch & Italian is often mistaken for being Latino, Jewish or Arab. When folks openly assume I’m bi-racial, Latino, and so forth, I let ‘em know in so many words that I’m just a paler shade of “Black” & occasionally disclose the details of my deep rooted mixed heritage when the spirit moves me.

So naturally, when we decided to start a family 7 years into our union, David and I were hip to the fact that this issue of racial/cultural ambiguity was about to get put on full blast – particularly in this racially hostile culture obsessed with labeling and division. We wanted to help our children embrace the fullness of their heritage, develop a sense of inner harmony and take pride in their uniqueness. To that end, we moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco’s East Bay shortly after our first son, Rafi, was born. ‘Twas our very own quirky paradise: It ain’t perfect but the East Bay is home to communities that exemplify social & environmental progressivism – attributes completely aligned with our values and beliefs.

So while we relocated miles away from our close knit, multicultural village of family and friends, our commitment to immersing Rafi (and eventually his baby bro Armand) in a world brimming with a veritable array of family units was absolutely solid. We’d entered a sphere in which the mixed experience was a common one – the figurative cherry on top.

See, as a West Philly native, I knew countless youths, both mixed and otherwise, grappling with identity issues to some degree. Maybe it was the time in which I came up, but the process looked quite uncomfortable (to say the least). The internalized ‘race based’ battles I’d witnessed were the last thing I wanted any child of mine to endure. The realization, however, was that perhaps the whole predicament was completely out of my hands. My suspicions were justified, fears confirmed and empathy enhanced the day I observed my son’s reaction to learning he was half Black.

Our Eldest Son

It may sound like plain old mamma pride, but I gotta say that Rafi is one of the most sensitive, perceptive, creative and hysterical people I’ve ever known. Like most children, he views the world with eyes of pure innocence and openness. In that vein, David and I became hesitant to introduce him to matters with inherent mind-warping qualities like religion or racism. We thought such topics should be addressed when he was mature enough to grasp the overall concepts involved. “Why not develop a healthy sense of identity in this fractious society before slipping down any rabbit holes?” we justified.

There’s this excellent Sesame Street book titled We’re Different, We’re the Same that pretty much sums up the outlook of young ones (or perhaps the extremely rare adult who somehow avoided the mental shackles of self-loathing, ‘otherisms’, etc.) This innate ability allows individuals to view themselves and the world around them without judgment. Now at the age of 5, Rafi became acutely aware of varying skin tones. For example, he began noting if someone appeared pink, tan, brown or “orange” – it was all about the rainbow. We were unaware that Raf picked up on the institutionalized race-culture-color connection until one morning when he asked about a classmate of his named Tim, a Filipino child whose adoptive mother looked markedly different from him.

“Mommy, what color is Tim?” Raf asked. Unaware of li’l Tim’s background at the time, I replied, “He’s sort of a dark caramel color.”

“Yes, but his mommy is white.”

Whomp! There it was… “Yes, she is white. She is his adoptive mother.” I proceeded to explain that his buddy Keith was a Black child adopted by a white woman.

“Well,” Rafi continues, I’m glad everybody in our family is the same color.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, daddy’s White, me and Armand are White and you’re White.”

I was shocked and amused. No one ever mistook me for being White before. Warmly I asked, “You think mommy’s white?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Why is that Rafi?”

“Because we are all the same color.”

My li’l man had a point. Despite the ‘opposing’ categories David & I had been assigned to, we shared some similar physical characteristics, including our complexion.

So I continue, “Actually, mommy isn’t White. I’m Black which some people call African American.”

“But you’re not brown,” Rafi said bewildered.

“That’s true, but neither is Grand [my father], but he’s Black too. Daddy is White and mommy is Black, and you and Armand are half White and half Black.

At this point, tears began to well up in his Rafi’s eyes. It was as if I told a long-time believer that jolly ole Santa was a lie. Cuddling next to him, I asked his why he felt sad. The more I inquired, the deeper he burrowed himself into the living room couch. I longed to understand what he was feeling. Could it be shame, the pain borne of confusion? Perhaps it was a sense of deceit? I was in unchartered territory. I’d never questioned my racial identity, especially at that tender age. In an attempt to soothe his apparent anguish, I began to highlight other playmates that shared mixed (black and white) parentage, but to no avail.

It must be the melanin factor, I thought. It seemed that Rafi couldn’t quite grasp how someone who was not brown skinned, could be considered Black. It just didn’t compute. Welcome to Race Relations U.S. 101, my love. First up on the syllabus: The one-drop rule…. Ok, I didn’t go there. He was only 5 and this was our first collective step in this direction. As the tears continued to well up in his eyes, I warmly asked Raf to catch my gaze. I felt damn near speechless as I witnessed his entrée into this area of self-discovery trigger such discomfort.

“You may not know this now, but your heritage is something to be extremely proud of not just because it’s unique, but because it is yours.” Lovingly, I urged him not shy away from the complexities of his lineage, but celebrate his embodiment of them.

The resilience of a youthful spirit is no joke. Shortly after our talk, Raf was back to the business of boisterous play with his little brother. I, on the other hand, remained on the living room couch a spell longer in contemplation.

I realized my desire to see the world through the eyes of my children was outweighed by the foolish aspiration to manage their perception. I don’t want my boys to be crippled by prejudice and racism. I pray they stand tall and allow the foul byproducts of institutionalized racism simply roll off their shoulders fortified by the strength of authentic self-love.

I'm What-OberCamFam
By: May 2014 Guest Blogger – Sky Obercam
sky_one

Born & raised in Philly, Sky currently resides in the San Francisco

Bay Area. A full-time mamma, and creative spirit, she’s lent her voice

to The Source, Format Magazine, Bossip, Black Web 2.0, Vibe Vixen,

Frugivore, XO Jane and co-founded art & culture blog,

Visual Culture. Peep her blog, Mindless Culture vs. Sky Obercam, for

updates on new (and hopefully exciting) endeavors, as well as

entertaining tid-bits, info, and arbitrary rantings from the

self-proclaimed eccentric.

(due to an abundance of spam, we’ve had to turn off comments here, but please head over to our  Facebook page- we’d love to hear and share your thoughts there! facebook.com/MixedRootsStories) 

Kickstarter: New Children’s Book About Diversity

An author of a new children’s book filled out our ‘promote your story link’ to promote her Kickstarter campaign for a new children’s book. Let us know if you have any projects you’d like us to promote!

From their Kickstarter Campaign page (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/453478160/a-friend-can-be)

“A Friend Can Be” is a book inspired by years of preschool teaching and by a “three round” motherhood experience. While most books about friendship are geared towards older children, ” A Friend Can Be” is written in a way that even a very young child can understand. The language of the book is clear and simple and the illustrations feature familiar landmarks in Atlanta that captivate an older audience as well as the young children. Crafted for children roughly from 2 to 6-years-old, “A Friend Can Be” is written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, all kinds of places, and all kinds of people in general. Written by an Early Childhood and Special Ed teacher with over 12 years experience Ana Hazanov, and designed and illustrated by amazingly creative artist Gregory Lee, this books reflects years of expertise and many days (and nights) of creative labor.