Dancing with My Roots

The music is loud, the music is good, the groove of the song is working its way to my soul, it’s only twenty minutes into this party and here I am, forcing myself to sit still and not sweat it out before the party even begins or before everyone has arrived. I can’t help it. My household growing up always had music playing, my mother encouraged my siblings and I to dance before we could even walk. Through movement and dancing, I was always comfortable. On the dance floor I felt like I could be all of me while celebrating where I inherited the gift of rhythm and using my body as an instrument to bring the music to life. Before I knew about the rich history of my family and who I descend from, before reading the mind expanding work of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois, Angela Davis and others, I was learning to connect to my roots through rhythm and movement.

The earliest memories I have of engaging with the complexity of race and my identity just so happened to occur at times where people witnessed my dancing style. These early memories in dance battles, performances, and cyphers, were never void of questions and astonishment related to my racial identity. With comments like “That white boy got soul!” to “He moves like a Black man”, and to questions such as “Do you have any Black in you?”, I can count on getting such reactions and questions following each time I dance in front of a new group of people. There are times where I relish in that moment of shock on peoples faces when they see me dance. It is almost as though they cannot understand how a man like myself, with how light I am, can catch the rhythm and beat to a song so well and mold it into his very own movement. My dancing was and is a way to show who I am. Although I do not mind the questions of my racial identity from someone simply trying to understand my movements further and why I move like I do, there is a fine line I draw with how much I let people in to see my talent nowadays.

As I danced my way through life, and into my identity, I began to be known as “The Dancer” around the parts I grew up in. I would dance in any and all events that were happening around my school and around my town. For a time it felt good to be recognized for the passion I had for dancing, but as I grew into my twenties I started to feel a sense of unease. I felt uncomfortable with groups of people telling me to dance for them. Uncomfortable being the only one dancing at a party, while others look to me to entertain them as they are plastered against a wall. When I’m called to dance in a party-particularly parties that resemble the racial makeup of Trump supporters- I start to feel like the dancing monkey. The feeling hits too close to what my ancestors went through when they were forced to be the entertainment for a slave masters party. I am not here to accuse Caucasian individuals for being racist for enjoying my dancing ability, but I am here to explain that the act of forcibly asking me to dance at your party for a group of white faces does not sit well with me and who I am, racially. Just as it’s not socially acceptable to walk up to someone and expect them to share their deepest passions and beliefs upon first meeting them, asking me to get up and dance for your enjoyment and curiosity is every bit as unacceptable. When and where I choose to share my art should solely be up to me. The way I dance, is the way I let people know who I am and where my family comes from, and that’s sacred. It is the connection I form with my ancestors and how I choose to celebrate the linage of my family. As Martha Graham once said, “Nothing is more revealing than movement.”

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Kenneth Miks was born in Tracy, California, a small town right outside of the Bay Area. He is in his final year of his undergraduate studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Kenneth will be graduating with a major in sociology paired with a minor in African-American studies and will be continuing his intellectual journey into graduate school, with a focus on the social and cultural impact of the African diaspora that is felt globally.


Keep Yo Mixedness In Check…

Being the product of an interracial relationship you can engage both sides of your racial identity. You can form strong bonds with both sides of your family. There are times when you find out that that uncle you loved so much and thought was so cool when you were younger, actually is guilty of making nasty racist remarks towards people of color, the same people of color you share family ties with. There are also times when you’re sitting with a new group of friends and a woman goes on a tirade over afro-pessimism and how we, as black people, should not associate with caucasian people, yeah that means my caucasian father and his family too. Sorry, pops.

I strongly believe that the duality of experiences experienced by mixed individuals is an important conversation to contribute to our analysis and discussions on issues that contribute to race. But, with that said, we must continue to keep our mixedness in check.

While it is a terrible habit to have, one of my favorite things to do while I am passing the time is scroll my Facebook feed for the unnecessarily long arguments on issues regarding culture and race. I get a kick out of these arguments because they always end up resorting to the racial logic of the past. The past logic of Jim Crow, miscegenation, and de jure segregation. It is both sad and amusing to witness the logic people create on these threads. Although arguments over Facebook always end up in the wackiest of places, there are times where I pay special attention to the people arguing and how they handle certain issues of identity. It is always a treat and a cringe fest when I see a post read, “I am mixed so I can say…[insert issue on white police officers, Republicans, Black on Black crime etc..]” if there were a statistic on the amount of feedback these posts get I am confident that the stat would be very high indeed.

These particular Facebook posts are both intriguing and cringe worthy because I become obsessively interested in how their “friends” respond to the post, and I cringe at the poor choice of privileged words. Prefacing a post or a thought with “I am mixed so I can say this…” is a way of turning up your nose as if you’re at a higher advantage over everyone else. We as mixed individuals might have a different perspective as others, but that does not give us the right to invalidate others opinions because they do not share a mixed experience. Just because we are mixed does not give us an exclusive backstage pass into a discussion over certain issues. Those of us who are mixed and lighter skinned should constantly be aware of and checking the privileges we hold, and should be cautious when trying to convey our perspectives into issues that relate to our multiracial experiences.

No one experience or perspective is going to be the fix to our American racial issues. Contrary to popular belief, mixed people and mixedness are not going to be the magical cure to racism in this country. Sorry mixed Americans, we are not some special medicine to cure our wacked out racialized system. Our perspectives are no better than the Americans who don’t define themselves as mixed. I enjoy discussing issues and theories on racial identity, we can go for hours on the topic, but using your mixedness as an advantage over others to further prove why your argument is on the correct side is something that we as mixed people need to keep in check and leave at the door.

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Kenneth Miks was born in Tracy, California, a small town right outside of the Bay Area. He is in his final year of his undergraduate studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Kenneth will be graduating with a major in sociology paired with a minor in African-American studies and will be continuing his intellectual journey into graduate school, with a focus on the social and cultural impact of the African diaspora that is felt globally.


Interracial Dating

Being the products of an interracial marriage, we never felt the need to limit ourselves to a certain race when dating. Being interracial meant just about any and all relationships we engaged in would be an interracial relationship, but this didn’t stop society from having a say in our dating lives.

Alexis’ Dating Story:
My friends always used to asked my why I never dated “white” guys, and my response was always “they’re just not into me”, and we’d end up laughing it off like it was nothing. But then one of my “white” friends told me that “they’re just intimidated by us”. So I always wondered am I really that intimidating? I’d always hear from others and my mom “don’t lower your standards, you can have any guy you want”, but I never really captured the whole essence to that advice that was given. It’s like in society, we put mixed kids in a category of “out of this world”, like we are “the catch” to have. I have had a friend tell me that he likes dating mixed girls because “we’re a challenge”. It is as if we’re unicorns among a herd of mustangs, standing out some way because our hair and skin color is just different. Our background is a little bit of both worlds so it’s follows the whole “get you a girl who can do both” as they say. I am currently dating an African American guy in relationship that isn’t seen as a challenge or a game, but a companionship where we help each other to improve, and grow to be the best versions of ourselves.

Amanda’s Dating Story:
Through high school and my first years of college it just so happened that I dated mainly African American (black) guys and even one guy that was interracial like myself. We never received any odd stares or comments about being together because of how we looked. It wasn’t until my Junior of college that I began dating my current boyfriend, who just so happens to be Caucasian (white). Things just clicked between us and we are happy to be together, but I have realized the perception of our relationship changes before and after they see us together. We get odd looks from time to time, and the occasional question, if our families approve of us being together, but neither of these were typical when I dated the African American guys. Friends have admitted that after meeting my boyfriend, or seeing him for the first time, they were expecting for him to be a black guy. After spending time with us, they understand better what brought us together; again, this is a companionship that we wish to grow and improve to be the best versions of ourselves, together. My boyfriend and I are blessed with family and friends that are so supportive of our relationship.

Megan’s Dating Story:
Interracial dating can be tricky! During my service with the Peace Corp I began dating my current boyfriend, a local Panamanian. Aside from the obvious language barrier, there was major cultural differences as well. He doesn’t understand the same racial references, the significance of “soul” food, or that I grew up in a time when I prefered to listen to Britney Spear and 90s pop songs over rap. He is more passive, while Americans, like myself, can be more aggressive because we have grown up in a society where have been taught to seize opportunities as they come. Interracial dating has helped for me to keep an open mind and to have patience. While I continue to grow in my relationship, I have learned new things about Panamanian culture while being able to share my mixed culture and how it has shaped me into who I am today.

Now, all three of us are dating someone along the race spectrum. Someone who’s Hispanic, Caucasian, and African American. To love and care for another should not be limited to only those that look and have similar skin tones like themselves. We all agree that relationships should be based on the respect we have for each other and the trust and genuine connection we share together. We truly feel when that happens you won’t see relationships as “interracial”, we will see them just as two people together by love. #lovewins

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Megan Rudnik received her B.S. in International Business with a minor in Spanish and her MBA from Winthrop University. Since graduating, Megan spent 2 years in the eace Corp, serving in Panama. She also recently completed 4 months in China teaching English.

Amanda Rudnik received her B.S. in Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting from The Citadel. While at The Citadel, Amanda played all four years on the Citadel volleyball while serving in various leadership roles in the South Carolina Corp of Cadet. Amanda now currently works for a large company and pursues her dream of modeling.

Alexis Rudnik is currently a student at Winthrop University, studying Middle Level Education Math and Social Studies. Alexis was a member of the 2016 Winthrop Volleyball team and is currently coaching volleyball at the club level.

We all grew up in Minnesota for 10 years before moving to our current residence in South Carolina. Our mother is African American and Native American and from Alabama. Our father is Polish and German and originally from Minnesota.