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.


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.

January 2016 Commons: Island Relationality: Diasporic Indigeneity and Critical Mixed Race Studies

Dear Friends and Communities of MXRS,

     We are so pleased to introduce our new MXRS Commons as part of our Arts and Education Programming. This online forum invites scholars, artists, and activists to gather around central themes and debates taking place in Critical Mixed Race Studies today. Our MXRS team hopes to facilitate thoughtful responses to challenging and controversial issues, as well as critiques of Mixed Race Studies, popular culture, and public discourse.

     This Commons takes shape as a collection of concise thoughtpieces–most organized into cluster conversations between each of the participants. We invite you to follow these conversations as they take place right here on our website each month.

     Our inaugural conversation,  Island Relationality: Diasporic Indigeneity and Critical Mixed Race Studies, is one of great importance and its topics are often overlooked or understudied within Mixed Race Studies contexts. This first Commons brings together three innovative graduate students doing interdisciplinary work at the intersections of race, place, and decolonial studies, and we are excited to share with our MXRS communities a preview of their work.

     Thank you for your continued support and curiosity. And most importantly, thank you for sharing your stories!

Stephanie Sparling Williams

Arts and Education, Chair

MXRS Commons Editor

Mixed Race and Diasporic Indigeneity in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game”

By: Joyce Pualani Warren

Rather than discrete concepts, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) epistemology theorizes time and space as enmeshed and liminal. They are mutually constitutive: In the Hawaiian language, the past is ka wā mamua, what is in front of us; and the future is ka wā mahope, what is behind us.[1] This relationship is mediated by the Kanaka Maoli body and its maintenance of kinship ties between humans and their surroundings: As Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa asserts, “the genealogies are the Hawaiian concept of time, and they order the space around us.”[2] However, over the last two centuries U.S. political and economic interests have consciously displaced genealogy as a tool for understanding the Kanaka Maoli’s position in the world, and instead privileged racial blood quantum as the determinant of group belonging. But how is belonging perceived among contemporary Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) who evade or refuse the exactitude of blood quantum? Furthermore, with a huge portion of Kānaka Maoli residing in the diaspora, how are issues of belonging now compounded by space and time, by how far or how long one has been away from the islands?

This paper utilizes the bodily liminality of the epistemological connections between time and space to index the shifting articulations of belonging in contemporary Kanaka Maoli communities; particularly as they are presented in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s short story “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game.” This is Paradise, Kahakauwila’s collection of short stories, reveals the malleable intersectionality of diasporic Kanaka Maoli identity: localness is racialized in one text and temporalized in another; indigeneity is spatialized in one text and racialized in another. By close reading key moments of bodily engagements with time and space in “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game,” I offer a theorization of indigenous cosmogony and epistemology that embraces the liminal as a productive site for discussions of belonging for mixed-race and diasporic Kānaka Maoli.

“Hawaiian, but no Local”

“Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game” pushes us to explore how diasporic offspring bring their own experiences of place and race to bear on their interactions with on island relatives and communities. The anonymous protagonist, a hapa haole (half foreign, half white) English major from California, moved back to Honolulu a year ago to be near her ailing grandmother. The story unfolds during the funeral services and wake for her grandmother, detailing how both the protagonist and her relatives come to understand and accept her liminal positionality.

This liminal positionality is located at the intersection of place and race. The protagonist often finds herself “hovering around the exterior,” feeling as if she does not quite belong because she presents as mixed race and grew up in California.[3] In this story, race and place combine to enhance her marginality, as she reminds herself: “After all, you were not born on Kauaʻi. You weren’t even born in Honolulu. No, you were raised a California girl, like your mother before you. She is haole. White. A foreigner. This makes you hapa haole. Half white. Half foreign.”[4] As her distance from Kauaʻi increases, so does her foreignness. This distance seems to compound her racial foreignness. Because her mother, a foreigner, is white, the protagonist is then perceived by herself and others as racially and spatially foreign. Her father, who is Hawaiian, is also of mixed ancestry, yet this goes unmarked, as her composition of “half foreign” is predicated on her being half native. The only reference to her father’s racial background comes when she sees a photograph of her paternal grandfather for the first time and observes, “He pulls more Chinese than you expected.”[5] Her father’s mixed racial background is mitigated by his proximity to Kauaʻi, being born and raised there.

However, his location and genealogical ties are also complicated by his desire to live a life that is not necessarily in step with traditional Hawaiian cultural protocol. As the narrator observes, “he is Hawaiian but no local.”[6] In observing familial interactions she reflects on her father’s divergent path and creates Rule 29: “Understand your dad was different from the outset…After all, to be a boy and diverge…to leave the island for boarding school; to want to go to college on the mainland; to want to stay there, on the mainland, with only one child to his name, and a girl at that, is to cease to want what men want…Because he is Hawaiian, but no local.” The protagonist’s burgeoning awareness of this mixed identity is part of a shift in her own understanding of Kanaka Maoli kinship systems, racial identity, and constructions of belonging.

A family gathering in Hawaiʻi filled with aunts and uncles as well as “eighth cousin[s] four times removed” and hānai cousins is the perfect backdrop to navigate belonging for a mixed race, diasporic, only child.[7] As nineteenth-century Kanaka Maoli historian David Malo reminds us: “The genealogies have many separate lines, each one different from the other, but running into each other. Some of the genealogies begin with Kumu-lipo…This is not like the genealogy from Adam, which is one unbroken line without any stems.”[8] After talking story with relatives and recognizing how Kanaka Maoli genealogies may incorporate other racial identities, as in the case of her father’s Chinese ancestry, the protagonist begins to recognize the ways her family consciously affirms her belonging.

This affirmation is presented through constructions of spatial inclusion. In contrast to her initial inclination to “[hover] around the exterior,” a cousin invites the protagonist to go surfing with a group: “He’ll tell the other guys to let you catch some waves. He’ll tell the other guys you’re his cuz. He’ll take care of you, and you know what this means: You are no longer some Honolulu hapa. You are a Napili. You have one more name, another branch of family to whom you belong. One more from which you can’t escape.” [9] In contrast to the linear and static ideas of Western identity which undergird the protagonist’s initial feelings of marginality, Kanaka Maoli epistemology affirms that one’s current kinship ties, and subsequently one’s status, are not necessarily fixed from the moment of birth but may broaden and shift—as evidenced by the protagonist’s realization that she is “no longer some Honolulu hapa.”   As J. Kēhaulani Kauanui writes: “whereas in the colonial frameworks a person’s vital substance comes from genetic inheritance, in the Pacific Islands context, one’s substance is acquired through genealogical inheritance and sustenance from feeding in any given set of relationships.”[10] American notions of identity are based largely on the immediate conditions surrounding one’s birth and the supposed inherent qualities of nationhood and race became conflated in an attempt to pre-determine the character and quality of a being.  In this way the American concept of kinship is a restrictive force, an “unbroken line” with no “stems,” that only recognizes immediately tangible relations with no significance placed on shared histories and is essentially restrictive or exclusionary while the Kanaka Maoli mode is inherently extensive and inclusionary. This extensive and inclusive mode reveals a potentiality for belonging that is located within the body, but is not beholden to American discourse’s finite and tangible constructions of identity which initially plagued the protagonist.

Conclusion: Looking to the Source

Oddly enough, I’d like to close this piece with a discussion of this boundless potentiality. Specifically, I’d like to genealogize some of these constructions of belonging by keeping the Kanaka Maoli cultural mandate to nānā i ke kumu, to look to the source. In the aforementioned  quote from David Malo, which discusses kinship systems, he affirms that many genealogies begin with Kumulipo. And as Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa again reminds us, “the genealogies are the Hawaiian concept of time, and they order the space around us.” A 2,000 line chant that is simultaneously cosmogony, genealogy, poem, and history, the Kumulipo details the unfolding of the universe from the potentiality of pō—the void, the night, the generative space—all the way through the gods, plants, and animals to man.

This unfolding of the universe through pō and ao is divided into 16 wā. More than handy divisions for storytelling, the wā also reflect the epistemological constructions of time and space which are part of the development of the universe. In Hawaiian, wā can mean era, time or season, as well as “space, interval, as between objects or time.”[11] The enmeshed and liminal relationship between time and space, and the fact that they are constitutive elements of Kanaka Maoli genealogical connections to the universe and humanity, reveal bodily mediations of time and space as defining elements of Kanaka Maoli belonging. As a history of creation and a genealogy which connects the Kanaka Maoli individual to the rest of the universe, the Kumulipo reveals the pō as a tool for understanding and maintaining one’s place in the world—and as such, many Kanaka Maoli see the pō’s liminal potentiality as that which orients and secures their identity.[12]

From this position of privileging humanity’s relationship to the potential of liminal times and spaces, I read Kahakauwila’s work as a theorization of indigenous epistemology that embraces the diasporic and intersectional belonging of contemporary Kanaka Maoli. Wā, as time and/or space, is a simultaneous recognition of difference and relationality and is something to be nurtured. If the future is truly ka wā mahope, that which is behind us, then serious conversations of decolonial futures must be firmly rooted in the past. Thus, if we take seriously the charge to nānā i ke kumu, to look to the source, it seems that we must embrace the liminal as a productive site for discussions of belonging for mixed race and diasporic Kānaka Maoli.


Joyce Pualani Warren is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include: Kanaka Maoli epistemologies and ontologies, indigeneity in the diaspora, decolonial theory, critical race and ethnic studies, American studies, Pacific Islands literature, and American literature.


As Joyce accurately stated in her discussion on bodily liminality, examining the past is an instrumental component to decolonization.  As a historian, I constantly remind my students that history is important because it helps explain the present.  Moreover, Joyce’s statement on Kanaka Maoli epistemology regarding time and space gives us insight into understanding how native Hawaiians understand genealogy and how it differs from western notions of family.   Thus, Kanaka Maoli epistemology regarding family, kinship, and land provides a conceptual alternative to western notions of race, diaspora, and belonging.  This alternative is flexible since time and space are “enmeshed” and transcends how most people interpret western constructs of race and inclusion/exclusion.  All in all, I believe Joyce’s work provides a point of entry in which we can rethink diasporic identity.

-Alfred Flores

By engaging Kanaka Maoli spatial and temporal frameworks, Joyce articulates the ways in which one can more easily envision the many lenses from which people theorize their own genealogical connections to land, futurity, the past, and our shared contemporary moment.  Joyce’s work powerfully destabilizes continental conceptions of spatiality and temporality that are used to Other island knowledge as isolating and insignificant, as also noted by Epeli Hau‘ofa (1993).  By highlighting the complex “enmeshment” of Kanaka Maoli conceptualizations of time and space, Joyce brings to the fore the multiplicity and infinite potentiality of relational experiences within the diasporic Kānaka Maoli and mixed race communities.  In noting that “decolonial futures must be firmly rooted in the past” Joyce also actively contests the eradication of Kanaka Maoli cosmogony and reasserts its integral importance within active processes of decolonization and US deoccupation that continue to manifest throughout Hawai‘i’s archipelago.

-Becka Garrison

Island Relationality and Settler Responsibility

By: Rebekah Garrison

In the past year I have begun to think more relationally about particular island spaces and their interconnected histories that produce counter-narratives to US imperialism and militarism.  These counter-narratives are understood through the lens of Indigenous geographies that continue to disrupt colonial cartographies that insist on static notions of regionalized areas.  As the members of the International Women’s Network Against Militarism (IWNAM) illuminate, the Pacific and Caribbean are not contained, but rather, surge together through demilitarization solidarity.  And, as a white settler doing research within Indigenous island space, I continue to work under the methodological approach that I am calling “settler responsibility.”

My research looks at how Indigenous women activists in the Mariana Islands, Hawaiʻi, Vieques, and Puerto Rico link the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea through demilitarization, as the core, of their social movements.  I examine community mobilizations that resulted in the expulsion of the US military, and its allies, from Kahoʻolawe in 1990 and Vieques in 2003 to demilitarization tactics within the contemporary Mariana Islands.  Using a combination of archival research, interviews, and participant observation, I write a history of “island relationality.” Meaning, my research disrupts singular studies of islands, and instead, works through the analytic of demilitarization for comparative analysis.  By focusing on the IWNAM, I argue that members of this organization construct their own decolonial theorizations of geography.  In working together towards creating a network of relations, participants redefine the parameters of thinking through islands as comparative units. I articulate how the histories of Kahoʻolawe and Vieques circulate within the Mariana Islands and cognitively map decolonial forms of island relationality between Pacific and Caribbean islands.  Analysis of the IWNAM provides a new discourse regarding the ways in which Indigenous women activists across multiple island sites mobilize solidarity that disrupt cyclical histories of colonialism, while also, imagining a future free of US military imposition.

Before going any further, I’d like to take a moment and flesh out the methodological approach I’m calling “settler responsibility.”  As a floating member between the Vieques, Hawai‘i, California, and soon the Mariana Islands chapters of the IWNAM, I am continuously inspired by the California members who fight US militarization from within the “belly of the beast.”  While the California chapter is comprised of settlers from various diasporic communities, who may or may not identify as Indigenous, there are also white women who actively participate in the organization, myself included.  I situate this diverse set of settlers within a methodological framework of “settler responsibility” that derives from the work of Kanaka Maoli scholar ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui and her articulations of “kuleana consciousness” (2012).

In Hawaiian “kuleana” translates to many concepts, but is more generally understood as “responsibility” and “privilege.”  According to ho‘omanawanui, “kuleana consciousness extends to all.  Settler colonialism benefits settlers and is bent on eliminating the Native.  Settlers and others with new insights, having heard this story, can adopt a form of kuleana consciousness” (loc. 2901).  I believe that settler responsibility is a form of kuleana consciousness that greatly values listening, and for this reason, the incorporation of oral histories is crucial to my work.  When settlers, particularly white settlers are quiet, there’s less cacophony and more mediation towards breaking down socially constructed divisions that continuously hinder us all from transforming how we interact with one another, at both quotidian and structural levels. In adopting a form of kuleana consciousness, I believe that white settlers, too, may participate in processes of decolonization that break from violent narratives that homogenize multiple island sites as an amalgamated Other, as articulated by Epeli Hau‘ofa (1993).

As noted by the work of decolonial scholars like Haunani-Kay Trask (1999), Vince Diaz (2004), and Dean Saranillio (2014) there has been an ongoing call to settlers to be accountable for and take seriously their settler positionality within continual forms of Indigenous dispossession.  Saranillio, who has been greatly impacted by the life, scholarship, and activism of Trask, like myself, has an incredibly inspiring utopic vision for settler and Indigenous solidarity.  According to Saranillio,

By taking seriously Indigenous knowledges and economies, we can create another future, and in the creation of an alternative future, more space for mutual respect can occur.  Settler states have no interests in non-Natives identifying with native movements, as such identification opens our world to alternatives that the settler state denies are possible (204).

I want to be a part of that world which is denied to all of us.  Because history making is never experienced by a single group, but rather, is the formation of a shared past, the rendering of history solely through a white colonial lens is not only inaccurate but is violent to us all.

My concept of “island relationality” opens a space of possibility for the development of a more unified island historical discourse, as expressed through the oral histories of Indigenous island subjectivities across multiple regionalized and militarized areas.  By incorporating oral histories into my work, past memories entwine with future aspirations and preserve a historical record of island relationality through the lens of demilitarization.  Relationality and demilitarization, then, are not in opposition to one another when viewed through the lens of the women of the IWNAM, but rather, complementary to each other.  As histories of demilitarization strategies navigate across multiple island sites, so too does a greater understanding of these struggles expand and inspire utopic geographies of Indigenous women activism across oceans and seas. The voices and histories illuminated throughout my research conceptualize new ways of decolonial relationality by emphasizing how human mobility can never be contained to static notions of colonial cartography.

As my work highlights, the ways in which relationality is theorized does not necessarily have anything to do with one’s physical proximity to others, but can be conceptualized in terms of experiential ways of knowing and seeing the world.  As the women of the IWNAM bring to bear, the violent totality of US Empire cannot be understood through the research of a single regionalized area.  Rather, US Empire must be re-territorialized through the lens of island spatiality, temporality, and subjectivities and contextualized through a multiregional framework. Demonstrating a lingering discontent since the islands were illegally annexed or ceded to the US in 1898, my project addresses the inflexibility that colonial cartographies presume.



Rebekah received her B.A. (2006) and M.A. (2010) degrees in Spanish Literature from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC.  Her research interests include the intersections of empire and island relationality, Indigenous geographies, colonial cartographies, settler responsibility, demilitarism, and decolonial theory and praxis.



Militarization is a pervasive force that has and continues to negatively impact the lives of people regardless of racial or ethnic background.  It also transcends national and territorial borders, which makes it challenging for individual people to combat.  However, Becka’s work on the connections of demilitarization in the Caribbean and Pacific reminds us that people have agency against capitalist forces such as militarization and globalization.  This agency is also rooted in the possibility of interracial and interethnic solidarity that includes people from various geographic and cultural backgrounds.  Just as importantly, Becka offers us a way to think about how white settlers can also be part of this process of decolonization through “settler responsibility.”  Moreover, I believe Becka’s work is part of a growing scholarship that is calling for greater solidarity similar to that in the documentaries entitled, Living Along the Fenceline (2011) and Insular Empire (2009).

-Alfred Flores

Becka’s emphasis on the dynamism of indigenous constructions of space and memory underscores the ways lived experiences may combat the rigidity of imperial discourses of knowledge and identity. In highlighting the collaborative work of activists across geographical regions, this piece reminds us that static settler cartographies cannot contain these vibrant and fluid constructions “because they are always transforming through new narratives.” Her attention to the ways women have countered militarism and the imposition of colonial cartographies also provides an entry point for discussions of how intersectional feminisms are useful in combating specifically patriarchal aspects of empire and settler colonialism. In addition to privileging the voices of indigenous feminists, the framework of “settler responsibility” invites a plurality of voices. This reliance on gendered, ethnic, racial, regional, and indigenous diversity is a welcome contribution to demilitarization efforts and settler colonial studies, drawing its strength from the endurance, resilience, and vitality of lived experience.

-Joyce Pualani Warren

 U.S. Military Expansion and Settler Colonial Studies

By: Alfred P. Flores

Guam is a 212 square mile island located in the western Pacific Ocean.  Specifically, it is the southernmost island of the Marianas Archipelago.  The indigenous inhabitant are known as Chamorros.  Since the 17th century to the present, Guam has been under the colonial authority of three different nations (Spain from 1688 to 1898, United States from 1898 to 1941, Japan from 1941 to 1944, and the United States from 1944 to the present).  Today, Guam is categorized as an unincorporated territory of the United States.  While those who are born on Guam are U.S. citizens, they have limited protection under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.[1]  Due to this colonial legacy, scholars have been rewriting the history of Guam by including the marginalized voices of its people.

One of the widely accepted ideas of Guam history is that the Chamorros of Guam were grateful to the U.S. military for “liberating” them from Japan during World War II and were thus, willing to give their land to the U.S. military as an act of gratitude.  By 1950, the U.S. military had occupied approximately thirty to thirty-five percent of the entire island.  Utilizing declassified archival records from the U.S. National Archives, unseen archival documents from the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library, and thirty-three oral histories I conducted on Guam, my previous work argued that some Chamorros were actually critical of the U.S. military and vehemently objected to the confiscation of their lands.  This was most evident in their opposition to the U.S. military’s attempt to make public spaces such as beaches into restricted areas that were reserved for only the military to use.  I also argued that Chamorros continued indigenous practices of land stewardship that included reliance on land for self-subsistence, the cultivation of clan relationships through family gatherings, and on Chamorro preference for land in-exchange rather than monetary compensation for their property that was confiscated.  While my approach to studying empire and indigenous resistance has helped me complete the writing of this chapter and my dissertation, I want to push the boundaries of my work to think even more broadly on how the U.S. military has confiscated the land of indigenous people in other parts of the world.

A category of analysis that I am now considering to foreground in this chapter and for my entire manuscript is the idea of settler colonialism.  Based on the work of scholars such as Haunani-Kay Trask, Andrea Smith, and Patrick Wolfe, I believe settler colonial studies provides a framework that allows me to not only underscore U.S. military land acquisition as an imperial project but one with the particular goal for the settlement of the U.S. military as a permanent fixture on Guam.  Moreover, the settlement of the U.S. military on Guam also works in concert with the displacement of Chamorros from their lands, which is an ongoing issue for Chamorros today. Thus, this will allow me to connect the experiences of Chamorros in Guam to other ethnic, indigenous, and racial groups who have or currently still do live in U.S. military occupied sites.  This approach should also lead me to other ways in which people throughout the world have resisted against U.S. military occupation.


Alfred P. Flores obtained his Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Currently, he is a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach and at Pitzer College.



In this piece, Alfred does an excellent job underscoring how in many instances cartography, the science, practice, and art of drawing maps acts as a mechanism for colonial and militarized processes of Indigenous dispossession, as also noted by Margaret Jolly (2007).  In highlighting that some of Guam’s Chamorro community were in “opposition to the U.S. military’s attempt to make public spaces such as beaches into restricted areas that were reserved for only the military to use” one can more accurately see how Indigenous geographies continue to disrupt colonial cartographies.  Through the lens of Chamorro oral histories, Alfred’s work actively demilitarizes ways of conceptualizing Guam’s colonial cartography.  Alfred’s critical engagement with previously classified archival records demonstrates the ways in which Guam’s Chamorro community continues to challenge settler conceptions of the island’s Indigenous geography and historical discourse.

-Becka Garrison

By responding to the complex historical layers of foreign military presence on the island of Guam (Spanish, Japanese, and U.S.), Alfred’s work also opens up avenues for how Chamorro people can find solidarity in decolonial and demilitarization efforts across the globe. His emphasis on global indigenous solidarity coupled with his use of indigenous voices to counter the imperial archive point to the ways mixed methodological approaches—and their variously mixed roots—provide an adaptive and holistic framework for indigenous peoples. In Alfred’s juxtaposition of the indigenous voice and the settler colonial written word, he crafts a space for displaced indigenous peoples to literally talk back to empire(s). Alfred’s attention to the potential of a global indigenous polyphony talking back to imperial archives can be usefully situated alongside pieces such as Achille Mbembe’s “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits” (2002) and Jodi A. Byrd and Michael Rothberg’s “Between Subalternity and Indigeneity” (2011), both of which endorse a critical reappraisal of archival and historiographical processes.

-Joyce Pualani Warren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] Stuart Hall, “Race as a Floating Signifier”:

[2] As an informal guide, the Wiki page on Deconstruction is helpful:

[3] For this particular commercial: . The comments had to be disabled.

[4] . This statement is demonstrative of what is called “positivist” tendencies about diversity—its value is only determined by what it produces.

[5] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published initially by Jovanovich in 1973, available here: .

[6] This was a review of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, given by Edward Said in a lecture. For the transcript: . For the lecture itself: .

[7] Timothy Egan, “Lost in the Past” .


By: July 2014 Guest Blogger- Marley-Vincent Lindsey


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 ( or through his notebook-blog ( He also really likes cats.


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

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!



“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Eldest Son

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

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

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

“Yes, but his mommy is white.”

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

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

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

“Yes,” he answered.

“Why is that Rafi?”

“Because we are all the same color.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

self-proclaimed eccentric.

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

Why do humans perceive an Other and does it Matter?

A challenge of the human condition is overcoming bias from others and from within ourselves.  One very problematic bias is the Other-Race Effect. We categorize people based on assumed racial features as either Us or Other. Why does this happen? The oft political response is that people or societies are racist , but that answer does not satisfactorily answer the question.

For me, this kind of question demands that we focus on the evolutionary origin of the trait?” Finding the root is an effective means of understanding causation then working towards changing the effect (i.e. outcome).  That is why I found Ross Pomeroy’s, commentary in Big Think on the subject of “The Other Race Effect” intriguing.

Pomeroy clearly articulates why the issue should be studied, then highlights research that offer the most promising hypothesis for why we do it.  Finally, he closes with answers to the most important question, “Is there any way to prevent or minimize the Other-Race Effect?” Pomeroy’s response is, yes. As he reports:

If infants regularly see and interact with people of other races before nine months of age, the Other-Race Effect may never emerge. But for those who are already inept at distinguishing between people of other ethnicities, don’t fret, there’s still hope. According to University of London psychologist Gizelle Anzures, “the Other-Race Effect can be prevented, attenuated, and even reversed given experience with a novel race class.”

Storytelling is a fundamental to human interaction and can be an effective means of overcoming bias, but stories work best when shared in a safe space. Mixed Roots Stories provides an online platform for sharing and engaging with stories. What is your story?


One Drop of Love at Choate Rosemary Hall

I had the immense pleasure of performing One Drop of Love for over 300 students at Choate Rosemary Hall last weekend in Connecticut. Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the students, and a link to the full review:
I’ve seen a lot of white struggle stories, and a lot of black struggle stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mixed struggle story. Zemia Edmondson ’16.

Is Race Colorblind?

Professor of Law, Osagie K. Obasogie recently (11/2013) published a book titled, “Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind”.  As stated by Professor Obasogie, “Given the assumptions behind this influential metaphor—that being blind to race will lead to racial equality—it’s curious that, until now, we have not considered if or how the blind ‘see’ race.

His research reveals that race is not colorblind. The blind do not “ see” color, but they do have a visual concept of race. Hence, they make choices on friends and relationships using the same construct as the sighted. (link to YouTube interview) 

It is an intriguing thought exercise to contrast Professor Obasogie’s findings with the ambitions of a colorblind society desired by Ward Connerly.

Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly led the charge on passage of Proposition 209 (1998) that eliminated affirmative actions in both state schools and in government in California. Again in 2003 he pushed for Proposition 54, which did not pass, to eliminate racial preference or acknowledge racial/ethnic categories at all levels of society in the State of California, believing it would put us on the path towards equality.
The jury is out on the impacts (pro or con) of Proposition 209 here in California and similar legislation in other states, nevertheless a simple truth remains, race is a social construct further evidenced by Professor Obasogie’s findings. The good news is we constructed it, so we can deconstruct it, but using a blunt political instrument like propositions is not the path.