Loving Day Mixed Media Collage Project

Happy Memorial Day Weekend Friends and Followers!

This weekend the MXRS team got together in preparation for our commemoration of Loving Day 2015: Visualizing Loving Day. This year we thought it would be fun to celebrate the radical love of Richard and Mildred Loving, as well as the pivotal Supreme Court Ruling allowing interracial couples to marry by creating a mixed-media collage. Check out what we did and share your own Visualizing Loving Day projects, activities, and stories!

Materials:

Printed Copy of The Loving’s Story (Print story from www.lovingday.org : here)

Small Canvas

1 Pack of Sticker Numbers & Letters

1 Tube of Paint in a Color of Your Choice (acrylic works best, but tempora will work too!)

Sponge brush or old dish sponge

Decoupage or Mod-Podge

Glue Stick

Scissors

Old Magazine

How to:

Step 1: Read the Loving’s Story. If you are doing the project with friends and family members, discuss what this story means for you and why learning their story is important. If you are doing the project with children consider “The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage” by Selina Alko.

 

Step 2: Cut or tear images, colors, interesting words, and/or textures from the magazine. Collage pieces together with quotes from the Loving’s story and adhere to your canvas using the glue stick. TIP: Concentrate color and meaningful text in the center of the canvas. Bright colors and unique textures work best.

                     

Step 3: Once you are satisfied with your collage, use the Mod-Podge to seal your design. Let this dry completely (at least 20 minutes).

 

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Step 4: Once your collage has dried use the sticker letters to spell “Loving 1967,” or “Loving Day 1967”.

            

After the stickers are secured to your collage in a place of your choosing, use sponge to dab paint over your collage, covering the letters completely. Let dry.


            

Step 5: After the paint has completely dried, carefully peel the letters off of the canvas.

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That’s it! Now display your collage momento for friends, family, and guests to see in order to continue the conversation year round!

 

Happy Loving Day from MXRS!

Be sure to send us pictures of your Loving Day Mixed Media Collages!

 


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.


Mixed in Love

 

Call for Guest Bloggers: 

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Fun, story-seeking crew looking for guest bloggers who enjoy writing about their mixed experience and love. Must like discussing love in the context of mixed identity or interracial relationships.
Discussion should include, but is not limited to, reflections on one’s own or others’ interracial relationships; or a broader acceptance of loving one’s self, friends, communities, families, etc.
All stories (and story telling methods) welcome!
Send “Mixed In Love” Guest Blogger submissions to mxrsblogger@gmail.com, now through February 14th.

 


CMRS Mixed-Race Irish Film Keynote Links

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

 

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

Recut trailer for Irish language TV channel TG4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QHYFXDGf4Y

Full documentary: http://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/1378-radharc/355633-the-black-irish/

 

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_aO9pv0Y7I

 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQLMqZ5I_Xs

 

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

 

In rom-zom-com Boy Eats Girl (Bradley, 2005), a budding romance between teenagers Jessica (played by Irish-Zambian popstar/actress/model Samantha Mumba) and Nathan (David Leon) is disturbed by a zombie attack. Nathan fears that Jessica has stopped loving him and so commits suicide. His mother uses voodoo to bring him back from the dead and as he feeds he produces a zombie army. Here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr3uDod2Kd4

 

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

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHUdt6abG64

 

Multicultural Irish Shorts (full film links):

Moore Street Masala (Ireland, O’Sullivan, 2009): http://www.thisisirishfilm.ie/shorts/moore-street-masala

Oscar nominated New Boy (Green, Ireland, 2007): http://www.thisisirishfilm.ie/shorts/new-boy

Racist B&B (O’Brien, 2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J80q7Q3UIEM

The Blaxorcist (King, Ireland, 2007): http://www.thisisirishfilm.ie/shorts/the-blaxorcist

Cactus (Molatore, Ireland, 2007): http://vimeo.com/6213753

 

 

2013 Irish Films on Mixed Roots

Paula Kehoe’s An Dubh ina Gheal [Assimilation] is a documentary on the Irish-Aborigines of Australia: http://vimeo.com/92388921

 

Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s film Mister John positions the Irishman within an interracial family in Singapore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cUpuB5s-rw

 

Donal O Ceilleachair’s documentary Aisling Gheal [Bright Vision] follows the life of Shahira Apraku, a young mixed-race pupil of sean-nós (traditional song), in the Gaelic speaking region of Connemara in the West of Ireland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orCEyy206iI

 

 

Further Irish Films Featuring Mixed and Black Actors Include:

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


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

 

By Dr Zélie Asava


 

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

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

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


 


“Mixed Race Representations in Contemporary Irish Cinema”

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We were honored to have Dr. Zélie Asava as our Mixed Roots Stories keynote at the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference.

Dr Zélie Asava is Joint-Programme Director of the BA in Video and Film at Dundalk Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses on film and media theory. She also lectures in UCD Film Studies. Her monograph is entitled “The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Irish Identities on Film and TV” (Peter Lang, 2013). She has published essays in a wide range of journal and essay collections, including: Masculinity and Irish Popular Culture: Tiger’s Tales (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014); Oxford Bibliographies Online: Cinema and Media Studies (Oxford University Press, 2013);Viewpoints:Theoretical Perspectives on Irish Visual Texts (University of Cork Press, 2013);The Universal Vampire (Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013); France’s Colonial Legacies: Memory, Identity and Narrative (University of Wales Press, 2013).

You can view her keynote from the conference below:

You can find a follow up guest blog from Dr. Asava with the links to the videos referenced here.


From an Intimate Distance: A Mixed Perspective on Embracing Gratitude

“The problem is not that we all have these different view of things, it is that we each consider our views the only reality. We forget that life is truly a matter of perspective.” –Angel Williams, Being Black

 

I was on the phone with my friend, Lily, the other night, delving into one of our many uniquely personal and academic discussions, when she says, “Forget hallucinogens. If you want to go on a real trip, try becoming a woman.” As a biracial cis-woman, I am unable to comprehend what this transition must be like, but I laugh, recognizing that at the root of her comment is a shared an experience of mixed marginality—of being able to see the ugly truth about race and sex in this country from both sides of the binary.

When I met Lily, she was still coming to terms with her gender identity and has only recently come out as a trans-woman. In our discussions about her transition and some of the challenges she now faces, we found in one another a new commonality of perspective unique to those who find themselves an outlier, a categorical anomaly, within the strictures of our black/white, male/female binary system. “Sometimes I’m read as male, sometimes female, “ or, often, she describes simply being stared at as people try to figure out what she is. While I understand that there are quite a few significant differences between trans and mixed people’s experiences, there are also a striking number of similarities that exist as a result of being cast into a liminal identity. Being stared at, fetishized or ostracized for being something outside the realm of puritanical gender categories is something that I, as a mixed black/white woman, can certainly relate to. Often, we mixed folk bemoan the weight of expectation people unfamiliar with our unusual, unidentifiable looks place upon us. Certainly we have every right to complain about being asked again and again what we are instead of being recognized for the people we know ourselves to be. This is part of our experience. But with our liminal perspectives, also comes a grace and maturity of wisdom that deserves equal attention and celebration. What Lily expressed to me that night as she discussed her experiences of living once as a man and now sometimes read as a woman, was her unique ability to really see and understand how being a man or woman in this society affects your quality of life. And isn’t this similar to many interracial families and mixed people’s understanding of how deeply one’s perceived race truly affects one’s life?

As incredibly difficult a journey Lily is on, I deeply respect her ability to find cause to celebrate, or at least appreciate, her unique perspective on gender. This, I think, is something that we in the mixed community can also draw from. The “Tragic Mulatto” trope has been used to dissuade people from entering interracial relationships by conveying mixed children as perpetually lonely and confused outsiders. To be mixed, then, is seen as a weakness. But after having attended the Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) Conference in Chicago, I, along with the 600+ other attendees, would probably have to disagree. We are clearly not alone and if we are outsiders, we are only outsiders to a structure that has historically been used to perpetrate structural inequity and oppression.

This conference helped me to recognize that our tragic flaw is also our fundamental source of strength. It was affirming, for instance, to see so many mixed people positively sharing and discussing their experiences and research on being mixed. Panels and roundtable discussions explored everything from historical mixed race communities and the emergence of Diasporic mixed communities to contemporary analyses on creating safe spaces and support structures for mixed race students, and the future of the language surrounding mixed race in an age of post-racial color blindness. We talked about Mexipinos, Blaxicans, Hapa Black Hawaiians, “Hafu” Japanese, and so many other varieties of mixes that I didn’t have a chance to get into. There was an underlying assumption through all of this discourse that I rarely experience within a monoracial setting—an understanding of the mutability of race. It’s understood that race is inescapable in structuring our social and professional lives. But we are graced with a perspective that enables us to see beyond these physiognomic divisions, to question our own assumptions about race and discuss issues of race with an understanding of the harm and alienation that picking sides perpetrates; we have the incredible gift of seeing beyond these structures in a way that people blinded by color cannot. What I found at this conference, then, was a complete rejection of the Tragic Mulatto that insists that we are relegated to a life of lonely wandering between our various ethnic/racial/cultural communities, never quite fitting in. Instead, here was a community of people celebrating mixed heritage and trying to figure out how to use the privilege of their in-betweeness to discuss new perspectives on an antiquated system that arbitrarily divides communities and families.

I am certainly not the first to draw attention to the power of perspective. Kristen A. Renn’s study on mixed race college students calls this strength “positive marginality.” She observed that many mixed students have the ability to adjust their racial identification depending upon what a situation calls for. This is evident of “a highly evolved skill requiring emotional maturity and cognitive complexity.” (80) This is more than just flattery, but recognition of a multiracial person’s ability to understand race as an indefinite and often inaccurate social qualifier of difference. Out of this awareness, she states that mixed people are capable of “increased tolerance for difference and appreciation of commonalities, as well as multiple points of reference.” (18) Gloria Anzaldua also recognizes the power of maintaining a mestiza, or mixed, consciousness in the face of Western modes of binary thinking. In her book, Borderlands/La Frontera, she writes, “La mestiza constantly has to shift out of habitual formations; from convergent thinking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals and toward a more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes.” (141) We as a community can embrace a huge variety of perspectives; diversity, for Anzaldua, is not about our differences as they divide us, but the way in which this variety strengthens and unites us as a whole.

To be clear, I am not advocating that we recognize the privilege of our perspective out of any sort of post-racial, anti-affirmative action nonsense. Quite to the contrary, I think that becoming aware of our “positive marginality” enables the mixed race community to remain conscious of race and to resist color-blind rhetoric that seeks to assimilate and, essentially, lighten/whiten communities of color. By virtue of our birth, origins, and families, we cannot ignore the presence that race plays in our lives. Nothing about a mixed racial identity is intrinsically assumed. It is complicated, a process of constant personal upheavals and daily confrontations with people trying to mentally shuffle us into the correct racial category. We are never a who, but a what. To be able to understand the fluid and faulty nature of race on such an intimate level affords us an incredibly unique perspective on those invisible fissures that have for so long appeared to divide us.

We can endlessly argue about systemic racism and complain about the various micro-aggressions we face. We need to keep up discussions around how cases like that in Ferguson are a part of the same white supremacist trappings that frustrate, hurt and oppress us in the mixed community. This is entirely necessary to discuss and often underpins our identities as mixed race individuals. But how often do we stop to give thanks to our families for bestowing us with such a unique blend of cultural traditions, lineages and stories, including and/or in spite of the racist views that come with it? How often do we ever look at ourselves in the mirror and feel grateful for being so damn good looking despite being exoticized as a result? I think that we can be brave, like Lily, and embrace this discomfort and these challenges with strength, humility and gratitude. Moreover, we can do this together; meet-ups like the CMRS conference have made me even more grateful for the mixed race community and our ability to collectively celebrate our many heritages.

Sources:

Renn, K. A. (2004). Mixed Race Students in College: The Ecology of Race, Identity and Community on Campus. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Anzaldua, G. (2004) La Conciencia Mestiza: Toward a New Consciousness. In Ifekwunigwe, J. O. (Ed.) Mixed Race Studies: A Reader. (pp. 139-141). New York: Routledge.

Williams, A. K. (2000). Being Black. New York: Viking Compass.

 

By Guest Blog Coordinator, Kaily Heitz

[rescue_column size=”one-third” position=”first”]KHpic[/rescue_column] Kaily Heitz is a recent graduate from Pitzer College, where she co-created a club for mixed race students called MERGE. While she received her degree in Environmental Analysis, her research interests are just as mixed up as she is; these include art, photography, spirituality, environmental justice, politics and mixed race studies.  She currently works as a writing tutor and freelance writer, editor and researcher in the Bay Area. You can find more of her writing on her blog, kailyheitz.worpress.com.




MXRS Episode 4 – The Singer & The Songwriter

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TSATS & MXRS 2We were finally able to sit down with the wonderful duo who created our MXRS Podcast jingle: Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran – also known as The Singer & The Songwriter. Be sure to listen to the end, when they share a special treat with us – a live performance in Mark’s living room!

Here’s where you can find more info and purchase their debut album: http://thesingerandthesongwriter.com/


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

My thoughts on Multi Racial identity throughout my college experience are still shifting, as this is written three weeks after my graduation from Chicago. In the infamous words of Zhou Enlai, “It is too soon to tell”[1]. Regardless, there were some definitive changes on campus that were apparent as soon as I arrived. The major was a demographic shift in terms of race and class. Upper class and white individuals now made up the majority of my immediate peer group, perhaps for the first time in my life. I was told that College was a time in which I was supposed to be pushed out of my comfort zone, so I supposed engaging in a very different aspect of society was part of that general shift.

There is, however, a distinction between feeling uncomfortable, and feeling threatened, and it was between these two feelings that I spent a majority of my time at Chicago. When I say I felt “threatened”, I should probably clarify. This wasn’t necessarily feeling threatened by physical violence—it was feeling threatened by a general sense of bad faith, and poor concern. While it has become a standard complaint that college campuses are hotbeds of “political correctness” that threaten the very essence of “academic freedom”, I would assert there being a difference between stifling discussion, and making discussion bearable for minority individuals of all demographics. A prime example of this was during our Orientation Week, which is the first week that first years are on campus. A series of exercises were designed to get students to “think” about their conceptions of race. One such exercise (and these have changed since my year): you’re walking alone late at night, and you see two black males walking towards you. Do you cross the street? Little discussion was actually had on the point.

The University had the awkward job of attempting to efficiently maintain boundaries, while not appearing racist. So, with one hand, they loosely offered support to minority communities of race, gender and class, while the other tugged on the strings of the UCPD, racially profiling people on campus to ensure that, in particular, African Americans not part of the UChicago community spent as little time on campus as possible. I remember being told to stay away from certain transit lines, as I would die if I took them.

Things get interesting when we remember that Chicago, as a university, is structurally a Western creation, and this made transitions for non-Western groups incredibly difficult. I can only speak to the Chicago experience, and only of my perspective on that experience, but there appears to be occasional moments in which similar frustrations have been expressed. The Black Bruins’ spoken poetry last year[2] and Alok Vaid-Menon’s “Break-Up Letter with Stanford”[3] both speak to this tension of maintaining one’s sanity, while having feet both in a part of the hierarchy created, and as an outsider. If we read people like we do texts, then the role of a University is to produce people who can be read as marked by Reason, with a capital R. The sort of Reason that one might expect from a Western Enlightened institution.

Chicago may have been a slightly better place in the sense of coming to terms with its origins in this regard. As a friend of mine once remarked: “At UChicago, you’re only as good as your last argument”. In theory, this sounds like the brilliant beginning of a serious engagement with a post-racial world, and I would like to believe it was. On the other hand, there was a definitive double standard for the theories that pointed out the need for multicultural engagements. I’ve seen and heard more than one classmate in this regard refer to the academic projects of provincializing the West as “bullshit”. In this regard, we might say the transition to college included a reflexive aspect of inquiry, one that might even be said to challenge the empirical realities of a student’s past.

We might say this if it wasn’t for the fact that white hierarchy was shown, again and again, to reject the offerings of diversity and discourse. This may seem like a radical claim, but it is difficult to shy away from when one considers how, year after year, another series of incidents occur to de-stabilize the utopian racial harmony construction that diversity was supposed to engender. One year, it was African Americans being body slammed in our main library[4]. Another year, it was a party entitled “Conquistador Bros and Aztec Hos”[5]. Despite Asians only making 16% of the College, there was a constant barrage of whispers about how there were “so many Asians”, which of course, discounted the South Asian demographic. During my second and third years, a variety of anonymous sub forums would reveal the drastic difference in how individuals perceived race—some going so far as to suggest African Americans ought to be removed from the University, and that Hitler might not have had the worst ideas.

Of course, one might defend the College experience by claiming “not all white people” or “not all men” whatever the category in question may be. However, that such vitriol existed is enough to suggest that the navigation process was extraordinarily different than the one that had existed in high school. When I invoked “threatened” I meant that, at certain points, I was no longer sure how much I could actually trust classmates.

The worst aspect of this environment was that it fell upon minority voices to offer pushback on most of these issues. What had been billed as “diversity” actually entailed minorities on all fronts to defend their rights to exist. And at times, this included opposition from the University itself. Thus, when someone like Sy Stokes says “Because our faces are just used to cover up from the public what’s really inside//Revitalizing lies to perpetuate your disguise//Stop pretending that the wounds of our past have healed”, one might imagine how this could resonate with a larger population than simply students within UCLA.

This was what I meant when I earlier stated that the failure of early humanities education on a whole made the diversity project harder. Rather than having a basic sense about how the past influenced the present, and how racial structures permeate through time, to the present, it was easier for people coming from privileged backgrounds first experiencing other groups to deny there was anything wrong with society. Eighteen years of structural validation meant that transforming perspectives on the relationship between empirical and conceptual race-thinking was much harder than it should have been. This was best illustrated by an unwillingness, for example, to acknowledge the backhandedness of a comment like “you speak so well for someone of your culture”. To challenge the authority of the cultural hegemony laid down by racial hierarchy was to challenge everything a majority of the College had experienced up to this point.

Combine this with a deep commitment to the Marxist tradition at the time—the elimination of class would eliminate other sources of social struggle—and you understand why I did not initially desire to engage my classmates on issues of race. Part of this was a deep desire to believe that society was structurally fine, and that our problems were based in a couple of unintelligent people who would never amount to anything politically relevant. However, the longer I remained in the College, the more I realized that Arendt’s diagnosis of Eichmann was equally applicable to most of my classmates, in some regard. Darin Strauss best expressed what I mean in his use of Arendt during the Paula Deen scandal:

“ In Arendt’s most famous book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she argued that sometimes what we call evil — and what can bring about the most horrible outcomes — can often more accurately and simply be thoughtlessness of a sort…

…Again, Arendt was perhaps the first to write coherently about the trouble communities have in seeing the world as being something other than what they have been conditioned to see — without any kind of cultural empathy.”[6]

If we take this suggestion with some merit, then it appears as though the role of college diversity is to inject this cultural empathy that had been lacking for so long from my classmates’ experiences. Yet, this completely ignores the fact that this conditioning is also operative for the sources of diversity that are expected to maintain cool, calm and collected in the face of comments, microaggressions and queries that make us re-evaluate our role in these schools on a day-to-day basis.

I would like to end this story, coming full circle. I started with the empirical facts of my race, and the conceptual aspects assigned to me by my peers in kindergarten. One of the points of college is to escape from parental units, and looking at one’s life without the shadow of constant adult supervision. In my case, this meant being removed from the most powerful reinforcement of my white identity—my mother. I didn’t see it in this way until much later—as Vaid-Menon wrote, “your parents – called it ‘becoming an adult’ but you called it staying out past your bedtime dancing, called it holding his hand on the street, called it safe, and sometimes even freedom”.

It was late one night, after a study session in our main library, and I was heading back to the dorm, during winter. I had a large North Face jacket, the sort with fur around the hood, which was up because Chicago winter. I had been walking briefly, when I saw a friend walking towards me, somewhere ahead of me. I went to shout a greeting, but before I could, he stepped back and crossed the street. I don’t know if he recognized me, or if he just saw a large hooded jacket headed towards him. There could be any number of reasons this occurred, but I think one would be a fool to not consider the reality of the situation. I had begun with an identity that was completely maintained in the sphere of White, and ended with experiences that rapidly placed me into Black.

I wasn’t quite sure how to react, so I didn’t, and I’ve quietly born the experience alongside the many others I have had as I watched other people balance where I do or do not live, and what claims I do or do not get to make. Even now, I get the random email or message from some person or another questioning about what right I have to appropriate racial experiences.

I am still unsure if I have mapped out exactly what I wanted to bring to the discussion about Multi Racial identity. My basic point is to illustrate the power society yields in the deployment of conceptual categories in regards to race, and what Multi Racial bodies have to do in order to navigate those politics, for where there is power, there is certainly a set of politics that guide how that power is used. And it is through the careful engagement of these navigations that we may be able to formally create spaces in which Multi Racial subjects of all backgrounds may feel comfortable laying claim to all engagements of this social power, since the way people perceive us is incredibly dynamic and dependent on a variety of factors beyond our control.

 

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.

 

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