Mixed Media Watch Throwback: On Hybrid Vigor and Fetishizing Mixed People

Compiled by Latoya Peterson

Hybrid Vigor

Jen Chau – Oh No, Hybrid Vigor on the Big Screen?!

By the way, for those of you who are not famliar with the term “hybrid vigor,” the definition is:

    the marked vigor or capacity for growth often exhibited by crossbred animals or plants

However this is not based in reality…it’s bull…and we at MMW do not like hybrid vigor theorists who go around spouting this nonsense. I’m sure you’ve all heard it (sometimes from mixed people themselves!): “Mixed people are the most beautiful and the healthiest and the smartest and the……..” JUST STOP.

Carmen (Van Kerckhove) Sognovi – Half Asian is the New White?

The Jan/Feb issue of Psychology Today magazine included an article titled Mixed Race, Pretty Face? It was all about–you guessed it–hybrid vigor. But specifically, it was about the fact that Asian/white mixed people are supposedly the most beautiful of all. Oh and look, who’s the first person they mention in the article? Nice! this gives me an excuse to post another pic of Keanu Reeves on MMW! 😉 Point Break-era Keanu, nonetheless.

    Actor Keanu Reeves and supermodel Devon Aoki have more in common than fame, fortune and good looks—both are also part Asian. Known in popular culture by the Hawaiian term hapa (meaning “half”), people with mixed Asian and European origins have become synonymous with exotic glamour. In Hong Kong and Singapore, half-Asian models now crowd runways once dominated by leggy blondes. In the elite world of Asian fashion, half-Asian is the new white.

So the article goes on to quote several scientists who talk about how genetic diversity supposedly equates to beauty. And they also base a lot of the story on this really bogus-sounding study from Australia (we told you about it back in October) that claimed “Caucasians and Asians rated average Eurasian faces as more attractive than average faces of either race.”

Jen Chau – Do Our Faces Really Need to Be Examined More?

I was actually asked to participate [in The Hapa Project] at a mixed student conference a handful of years ago. When I respectfully declined (because it already seemed questionable to me), the student who was helping Kip looked at me like I was crazy. He might as well have said: “What?! You’re passing up the opportunity to be in a book, pictured in all of your naked-collarbone glory with other hapas? HAPAHAPAHAPAHAPAS forever!!!” 😐

At the time, the project came off as slightly self-fetishizing to me. I know there is a thin line between that and pride. And it seems that Kip’s intention is to lean more towards pride, but I don’t know whether that will be accomplished — The Hapa Project’s mission statement:

    The Hapa Project seeks to promote awareness and recognition of the millions of multiracials of Asian/Pacific Islander descent in the U.S; to give voice to multiracial people and previously ignored ethnic groups; to dispel myths of exoticism, hybrid vigor and racial homogeneity; to foster positive identity formation and self-image in multiracial children; and to encourage solidarity and empowerment within the multiracial/Hapa community.

I am just not convinced that we need a book like *this* in order to increase visibility and give voice. It just seems like another chance for people to obsess and pore over the ambiguous looks of hapas. I can see people using the book like a game — covering over each person’s identifying ethnicities and trying to guess. 😐 Perhaps I am cynical, but I doubt that many will come away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be hapa. It bothers me that the visual aspect is the focus. And I don’t think it will be challenging ideas of hybrid vigor — from what I have seen, it looks like there are nothing but attractive people in the book.

Jen Chau – Scientifcally Beautiful!?

OH no! A study to show that there is a “scientific” basis for why people think Eurasians are more beautiful? Just what we need. And what does this prove? Not that these people really ARE more beautiful — just that so many people have been socialized to think they are more beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…. :) And please, what scientific basis is there really? I see no proof in this article. Mainly by saying that a mixed person “looks healthier?” That somehow becomes a statement with biological implications?!

Carmen (Van Kerkhove) Sognovi – Hyphen takes a look at “the Multiracial Dream”

This post talks about Ward Hines, the recent Miss Georgia (I can’t believe we didn’t post about her! :)), and an article that appeared in Hyphen, by Claire Light, Multi-Racial Dream. She takes a stab at all of the ridiculousness surrounding our fascination with mixed race people and how they are going to “change the world and lead us into colorblindedness!”. Here’s a part of her rant:

    See, this is why I’m glad to be biracial. All of you monoracials out there are just people, but me? I’m a magic pill on legs. Doesn’t matter if I never lift a finger in my life, even to pick my nose. Like Haile Selassie or Frodo Baggins, I was born to a higher purpose: to end the racial problem by erasing it. 

    This is just the pseudo-scientific leading edge of an idea that’s been around for decades, an idea that wets the panties of every American who’s ever felt helpless about being privileged. It’s the dream of future racelessness. If we all shut up and stopped “Balkanizing” into our little identity groups, we could start fucking our way into a dark beige future. My parents got a head start, and once I marry a black/latino/arab, my kid will be a united nations of one. Won’t you join us? Dreaming of a raceless future is much, much easier than getting a handle on racial issues now. In fact, if you contribute to multiraciality (or even just wish along with us) you don’t ever have to wonder if you might be racist, too, or change your lifestyle, ideas, attitudes and behaviors. In fact, if your kid is half black/asian/indian/latino/arab/brownish-something, you’re officially not white anymore.

Say it, sister! 😉

Bonus: Addicted to Race 13


Carmen and Jen interview Dr. Joseph L. Graves, pre-eminent evolutionary biologist and author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America. He’ll answer everything you always wanted to know about race and biology. What exactly does it mean when we say that race is a social construct? Why can racial DNA tests be misleading? Is it true that if you need a bone marrow donor, you can only find a match with someone of your own race? Are African-Americans really better at basketball than any other people? Are mixed people really more healthy/beautiful/intelligent/strong than non-mixed people?

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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  • http://twitter.com/thelocalcouleur The Local Couleur

    Great read! Latoya you should definitely consider doing a Racialicious Remixed/Mixed Media Watch Throwback series. I think it would be great for both long time and new readers –SayNay

    • Winn

      I agree! I was great re-visiting these posts from Carmen and Jen. I know there is so much great archival information and unless you are compelled to search for it, its easy to miss out on insightful and still relevant material “from the vaults”. And besides, I miss Addicted to Race so hard…