Growing up Biracial in the South

 By Rose Espiritu

So I’ve been working on my documentary, Mixed Up, a little bit over a year. The film is centered on parenting someone of a different race. We’ve conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity. The majority of my interviews have been in urban locations such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York etc. I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to interview folks in my home state of Louisiana. Here is a sneak peak of one of the interviews.

Q: How do you identify and why?

A: I identify as black. I think it’s because I grew up in the south, so we’ve always had the one drop rule. Growing up at a very young age my dad explained to be that although my mom was white the world would always see me as a black girl first. The best example I can give you is

“I’ve never been in a room of black people where I felt like I’m the only white person here, but I have been in rooms full of white people were I know I am the only black person there.”

 

Q: What factors influence how people choose to identify?

A: We live in a society where race is learned. So it really depends on the community you come from. I think if you grow up around black people a lot of times you identify with certain cultural things that are happening within that community. But beyond that even when you are in a diverse or white community, if people see you as black than that is what you begin to identify as.

 

Q:  Why would you be reluctant to marrying a white man?

A: My grandmother wants me to be able to identify with and always remember that I’m black because she went through a real struggle and she wants to relate to me. She’s like you’re so beautiful, you’re so smart. She wants to think of me as an extension of her legacy. She was born a sharecropper, she didn’t have a lot of education but she did the best she could. But because I’m getting an education and I’m traveling it’s like everything she did wasn’t in vain, and she wants my kids to relate to her. If at some point I marry white. My kids might feel like they can’t identify with my grandmother. I think that’s my biggest fear.

 

Q: Do you think mixed children are reducing racism?

A: I don’t necessarily think that mixed children are reducing racism. What I think is that the more mixed kids that we have the more people will relate to two different races or three different races. And I read somewhere recently that the reason why the LGBT issue has really taken off and grown exponentially is because everybody knows someone gay. But not every white person has a black person in their family. Well my white family does have a black person in their family, they have three, me and my sisters.

 


Rose Espiritu

Rose Espiritu is a Nigerian and Filipino filmmaker from Louisiana. She has always had an interest in identity development in relation to race. In 2013, she began filming Mixed Up: The Documentary. The film is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Rose has conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity. Rose also founded the company Culture Chest, which is a subscription service that carefully curates divers books for children ages 3-8. Find us at @CultureChest! You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @roseespiritu_

Mixed Up: The Documentary is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Follow us to keep up with our progress FB: Mixed Up Documentary  @mixedupdocu


Growing up Half Mexican and Half Chinese

By Rose Espiritu  Photo by Kierston Clark

So I’ve been working on my documentary, Mixed Up, a little bit over a year. The film is centered on parenting someone of a different race. We’ve conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity.

When talking about multiethnicity, most of the existing literature focuses on the experience of folks who are half black and half white. We had the opportunity to speak with Joseph Acez on his experience growing up half Mexican and half Chinese. In this interview he speaks on what it is like growing up as a second generation immigrant,  assimilation, and other observations related to race   relations. Double minority is the term for someone who is mixed with two minority races in the United States.  

Q: Do you feel like you have more diluted sense of culture because you are biracial?

Joseph: I feel like my sense of being Mexican or Chinese are both diluted because I live in America. My parents also didn’t want me to stick out like a sore thumb so they really wanted me to embrace the American culture and fit in. Any interest I had in my culture mostly came from me being interested in the things about being Mexican and Chinese, rather than my parents instilling it in me.

 

Q: What challenges have you come across in relation to your multiethnicity?

Joseph: I was with my black friend the other day and we went somewhere and we were with a lot of black people and he said ‘this is great. We’re with a lot of black people; I’m comfortable.’ In that moment I realized I’m never going to run into a bunch of people who are half Mexican and half Chinese and feel “comfortable”.

 

Q: Do your parents have any opinions about your dating life?

Joseph: Growing up, my parents made sure that I knew I could date anyone outside of my race. They also let me know that they had troubles being together and that people didn’t want them to be together. Not just each other’s family, but people in general would think it was strange. They told me that I should be able to date whoever I wanted to date so it was never a thing for me.

 

Q: Is it possible to assimilate and hold onto your culture?

Joseph: My parents came from Mexico and China. They were poor so they came here to try to make a better life for themselves and they did which was great but while they were doing it they didn’t have fun because they were both immigrants and they didn’t fit in. You go to America and it’s your new home but it doesn’t feel like home. It’s interesting my dad has a Spanish accent when he speaks English but he has an English accent when he speaks Spanish because he’s lived here for so long. Same thing with my mom. What they wanted was for me to be very comfortable wherever I grew up, that’s why they didn’t teach me Spanish or Chinese, which I wish they did. Their hope was that I wouldn’t have to deal with any of the feelings of being an outsider.


Rose Espiritu

Rose Espiritu is a Nigerian and Filipino filmmaker from Louisiana. She has always had an interest in identity development in relation to race. In 2013, she began filming Mixed Up: The Documentary. The film is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Rose has conducted over 70 interviews with interracial couples and their bi/multiracial children, as well as interracial families brought together by adoption, to ask about their understanding of their racial identity. Rose also founded the company Culture Chest, which is a subscription service that carefully curates diverse books for children ages 3-8. Find us at @CultureChest! You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @roseespiritu_

Mixed Up: The Documentary is an interactive investigation into the parental influence of racial identity development in children of interracial families. Follow us to keep up with our progress FB: Mixed Up Documentary  @mixedupdocu


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


MXRS reviews Belle

The Mixed Roots Stories team saw the new movie Belle on May 23, 2014. Below are some of our reviews of the movie!

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“Belle is a must see for fans of excellent storytelling! The movie direction was deftly handled by Amma Asante while ably assisted by the editing of Victoria Boydell and Pia Di Ciaula. At no point did I experience a moment that took me out of the story. Thankfully, they had an excellent script to work from by Misan Sagay. Finally, I have to state that the performances by Gugu Mbatha-Rau and Tom Wilkinson were pitch perfect. I really believed I was a fly-on-the-wall listening to the conversations of a family at particularly tense moments in their lives.” — Mark R. Edwards (Co Curator)

“If there is one message to take away from Bell, it has to be through the rising action of her assaulting her own flesh in frustration. How many of us can relate to, at any point, feeling uncomfortable in our own skin? The practice of systematically devaluing a life because of a concept of Race or privilege – a concept most, at one point in our lives, did not understand; nor, the reasons people can chastise and ostracize others for it while they believe it is in good conscience. It is a frustration we hope to suffer less from as time goes on. From beginning to end, Belle imbeds a persistent thought that reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we have to go toward not just an equal, but an acceptant society.” — Jonathan Andrew (Creative Technologist)

“In my opinion, the most thought-provoking moments in Belle are those instances where Dido tries to find herself in literature or art and laments that she does not relate to what she sees. Even today this lack of representation is relevant! Just how many films, books, or TV shows are made with the ‘others’ of society in mind? Not too many. It wasn’t until Dido allowed her story to be told (through the work of the painter) that she finally found herself in art. The story of Belle is one in which a mixed individual is dying to get her story, her experiences, and her astute observations out in order to change public opinion. Belle manages to beautifully capture those moments of progress and joy along with the moments of frustration and desperation that come with standing up for what you know is right. Belle is a wonderfully crafted film and is a must-see for 2014!” — Moya Márquez (Social Media Specialist)

“From start to finish, Belle was filled, with the complexities, created by society, that individuals of mixed heritage often face. It was refreshing to finally see these complexities portrayed honestly on film. Amma Asante artistically and boldly directs an amazing cast in the telling of this story, based on a true story.  Though it is set in Britain, in 1769, I would argue that many of the themes of identity are relevant today for mixed individuals everywhere. I enjoyed seeing the bond of sisterhood presented between Dido (Belle) and Elizabeth, that was void of the social contamination of their racial differences; proving that family is not limited by blood. Belle demonstrates that people are people and all deserve to be treated with justice, fairness, and love no matter the color of their skin, or the lineage of their parents. It is about time that stories of mixed individuals are being told void of the stereotypes that have plagued the mixed race population in the past. It is my hope that future films will continue to tell stories with mixed race individuals, interracial couples/families, etc. Bravo, well done, and thank you!” — Chandra Crudup (Co Curator)

Have you seen Belle yet?  If not, this is one to see!  Share your thoughts about the movie on our Facebook and Twitter.

New Film about Roger Ebert: Life Itself

Not only was Roger Ebert one of the most well-known film critics of our time and an outspoken social activist, he was also very open about his interracial relationship. Kartemquin Films (the production company behind the great documentaries Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters) premiered their new documentary about Ebert, Life Itself, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We can’t wait to see it!

Here’s a clip of Ebert defending the Asian American filmmakers of Better Luck Tomorrow – showing his intimate understanding of the importance of allowing us to tell our own stories: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSzP9YV3jbc

 


Hafu – Upcoming Screenings

Synopsis from the Hafu website:

With an ever increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan, some visible others not. “Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”–the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese–as they explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds.

Upcoming Screenings

Please check our screenings page for the latest updates.

January
19~25 Zushi, Kanagawa Cinema Amigo
24 – London Premiere! at Birbeck University

February
8 – Stuttgart, Germany – Deusch-Japanische Gesellschaft Baden-Württenberg
8 – 14 Osaka Premiere! Nanagei Cinema @ 18:45(Playing once a day)
9 – Phoenix, Arizona Japanese Culture Club of Arizona
15 – 21 Osaka Nanagei Cinema @ 20:35(Playing once a day)
22 – Washington D.C., Organized by JETAADC

If you would like the film to be screened in your hometown visit our website  for details or simply email us to info@hafufilm.com

Amma Asante’s Next Film: Mixed German Experience (?)

Amma Asante is the British director of the forthcoming film Belle (click HERE for Variety’s favorable review after the Toronto Film Festival screening). Belle explores the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle – the daughter of an African woman and a British Naval officer in the 18th Century, who is raised by British Aristocrats and faces challenges within her family and society for being mixed (the film is slated for its US release this summer). Asante is hoping her next project will be directing the film Where Hands Touch – a story of the romance between a mixed woman and a German SS officer in the 1940s. If you have the chance to see Belle, please head over to our Facebook page HERE and leave a comment letting us know what you think. We’ll be keeping tabs on Where Hands Touch and will let keep you posted on production information and release dates!

 

 

 


Educational Distributor Looking for Films

GoodDocs.net is a a new distribution company that lends support to filmmakers in a number of ways:

1) They can help you sell your film in the educational market

2) They can help you develop a curriculum for your film to make it more attractive to schools

3) They arrange speaking engagements for the filmmakers whose films they represent

4) They can offer consultations on grantwriting

5) They can help with the research in pre-production all the way through distribution

We are eager to see your Mixed Roots Story on film – and GoodDocs.net might be the perfect partner to help you complete and distribute your film!

Here’s the link to the website: http://www.gooddocs.net/



Film Starring Garcelle Beauvais

Garcelle Beauvais has been in a number of TV shows and films, and she’s also the co-author of children’s book I Am Mixed (here’s the link to our post about the book: http://mixedrootsstories.com/i-am-mixed-reserve-your-copy-today/

Beauvais is in a new film by Ghanaian filmmaker Leila Djansi; here’s a blog post with pictures from the production: http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/exclusive-1st-look-pics-poster-for-leila-djansis-and-then-there-was-you-starring-garcelle-beauvais?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews