On Tyra: Biracial Women Who Hate Their Other Side

by Latoya Peterson

Checking my Clutch feeds, I stumbled across this video from the Tyra show*. Literally, the title of the post sums it up. It’s about biracial folks who hate one side or the other.

The video is 32 minutes long.

The video features Jenna, who is half black and half white, who denies her blackness; Tabitha, who is half latina and half white, who denies her whiteness; Jaselle, who is black and Puerto Rican, who denies her PR heritage; and Sohn (her segment was not included in the video I watched.)

While Tyra focused more on Jenna for the majority of the segments, but the other guests actually brought up some really good points about race and identity.

Jenna appears to have been a ratings ploy – she espouses extreme hatred of other blacks, denies of all positive aspects of her non-white heritage, reaffirms stereotypes as truth, explains a preference for a “white” way of living, proudly displays three rebel flags (using the customary “get over it, it’s heritage not hate, it’s in the past” defenses without any acknowledgment of her own contradiction) and even has a photo of her in makeshift Klan gear.

[One of the Clutch commenters called her a sighted Clayton Bigsby. Was Chapelle's art imitating life? Or was that skit based on a true story?]

Yeah…moving on.

Tabitha discussed very frankly her hatred of whites, explaining that whites all have the same views, they look at her differently, she has never been perceived as white, and that most whites were racist. (The irony of her own generalizations seems to be lost on her.) However, a much more toned down version of this dynamic has been described to me by my biracial friends – that they felt excluded more so from whiteness, than from blackness (though there was friction on both sides, normally.) Tabitha’s experience of embracing her nonwhite identity is a common one. Her conclusions, though, weren’t interesting, and she wasn’t able to provide much rationale as to why all whites were included in her hatred when the actions were taken by a few.

Jaselle, who is black and Puerto Rican, also cited an additional issue when it comes to formulating identity – being estranged or excluded from one side of the family. While most of her responses where stereotypes (she hates PR girls because they dress trashy – the example she gave was sneakers with skinny jeans, which prompted an irate response from Tyra), she did mention that she never really knew her Puerto Rican father – all the family she has ever known has been black.

The next segment presented three women who are often mistaken for being biracial – though they are all African-American by birthright. All three women felt anger at having their racial identity overwritten in the eyes of others since they did not phenotypically conform to the standard idea of “blackness.”

An interesting twist in this conversation occurred when a member of the audience stood up and called the women’s complexions into question. Kandice mentioned intra-racial issue with colorism, saying that people often assumed things about her personality based on her fairer skin and longer hair. She asked for people not to make assumptions based on how she looks.

In response, the audience member (Janell) stood up and said that while African Americans share similar struggles, the world perceives light skinned women and dark skinned women differently, and so their movements through the world receive a different kind of reaction. She points out how when people are excited to guess Kandice’s race, “the excitement that they feel for you reflects the contempt that they feel toward me.” She also called herself “slave black,” which she is using in the sense that she is unambiguous. Kandice pushes back, explaining that negative or positive perceptions of skin tone are based in society’s ranking system – not perpetuated by her personally.

Janell talks about how the women still have it easier, and points out that society caters to a lighter skinned version of blackness. At this point, Adriea comes in to the conversation, explaining how difficult it was for her to be teased about her fair skin and hair texture and how she often wished she was darker so she would fit in.

The clip jumps again, and this time, it’s Yolanis, a new introduction to the stage, discussing how frustrating it is to be constantly called Mexican when her nationality is Nicaraguan. She also says she doesn’t want to be associated with “that.”

Yolanis mentions she hates being hit on by Mexican men, which prompts Tyra to pretend to be men of different nationalities trying to spit game. She provides stereotypical representations of white men, French men, Italian men, and black men. The next panelist, Mercedes, is often mistaken for being Spanish/Italian, but she is actually Mexican. (She slides an uncomfortable glance toward Yolanis.)

Yunis is ethnically Korean, often mistaken for Chinese. Yunis discusses how she is often subject to racist taunts that are intended for Chinese people. Margo is Chinese, but is often mistaken for being Korean. Margo shares her low opinion of Koreans to the audience.

Tyra concludes that this goes to show that intra-racial hatred is a cross-cultural phenomenon.

She then says to Margo “I feel sad that I feel more connected to Koreans than you do, and you’re Chinese!”

Huh?

Tyra, quit while you’re behind.

Ultimately, the episode has value, but it was a really strange viewing experience. More often than not, Tyra relied on stereotypes to add humor or to make a point, and didn’t appear to hear what the participants were really saying about their own identities.

That being said, I thought the participants brought up some really interesting ideas about multiracial identity, intra-group struggles and complexion issues. Commenters, what struck you the most about the issues raised on the program?

*Note to Carmen – Dude, you’re slipping. Once the pre-eminent Tyra hater, I’m surprised you weren’t all over this one. I should have at least gotten an eyeroll in an email or something. And no Keanu updates either? If this keeps up, we’ll have to change the mission statement.