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


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.