By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris
Finding the fails in Buzzfeed’s recent article, “34 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Multiracial” is truly like shooting fish in a barrel, yet I can’t resist going in on this ill-conceived list–a bold illustration that, despite post-racial protestations, having a biracial, black-identified Commander-in-Chief hasn’t made mainstream conversation about race a lick smarter. Or rather, it hasn’t made Buzzfeed staff writer Dave Stopera any smarter. He endorses four Race 101-level fallacies:
1. You can spot a person with brown ancestry. Why does Stopera assume we “never knew” the celebrities on his list were multiracial? Because the assumption is that mixed-racedness (and particularly non-whiteness) always tells on itself, and that members of a particular race always share stereotypical physical characteristics. Therefore, how can blonde and blue-eyed actress Sara Paxton be half Mexican or R&B singer Ne-Yo be a quarter Chinese?
2. White is normal. Brownness is remarkable. Stopera spends most of his article outing bits of “other” in celebs the mainstream has deemed white. We learn that Mark-Paul-Gosselar is a “quarter Indonesian” and that Shannon Elizabeth is “half Arab.” The article does not mention that Olivia Munn is half white; instead it identifies her “part Chinese” ancestry.
Most telling is the inclusion of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Mercury is of Parsi ethnicity and was born in Zanzibar. He is not multiracial. The message here seems to be: “Hey guys, did you know that rock God Freddie Mercury isn’t white? I mean, white-white … like English?”
3. White = Anglo-Saxon. The Buzzfeed article reliably confuses race with ethnicity and nationality. Being “half Cuban” does not make actor David Gallagher multiracial. His Cuban mother could easily have been as white as his Irish American father. That Lea Michelle is “part Spanish” tells us nothing about her race. What Stopera seems to be doing is identifying non-WASPiness, as well as clinging to regressive racial rules born of American colonialism and white supremacy.
4. Identity is based on blood. What good is knowing that a celebrity, heretofore identified as monocultural, has a fraction of “other” blood? What does it tell us? Nothing really. Multiracial ancestry, for many groups, is more the rule than the exception.
Besides, self-identifying is less about blood than culture and personal experience. We define our racial identity not our blood. Remember black scholar and activist Henry Louis Gates learning that his DNA is 50 percent European on one of his PBS genealogy shows? If Nicki Minaj identifies as a black woman or Eddie Van Halen identifies as a white man (I don’t know how either star identifies.), there is nothing else we need to know.
About This BlogRacialicious 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 ReevesJohn 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- ballewal on Quoted: Lucy Liu On Racial Image And Romantic Comedies
- racialicious on Friday Silliness: God (a.k.a. Morgan Freeman) Falls Asleep During An Interview
- Ruthie O on Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.8: “The Crash”
- littleeva on Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.8: “The Crash”
- SuperHyugaYoshichan on Friday Silliness: God (a.k.a. Morgan Freeman) Falls Asleep During An Interview
- Friday Silliness: God (a.k.a. Morgan Freeman) Falls Asleep During An Interview
- Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.8: “The Crash”
- Quoted: 100 Questions Toward Cultural Competency
- Book Review: Storm Warning by E.A. O’Neal
- The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.23.13
- Meanwhile, On TumblR: In Defense Of Beyoncé–Again
- Amitabh Bachchan In The Great Gatsby: Is Desi The New Jewish?
- Scandal Roundtable 2.22: “White Hat’s Back On”
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black blackface celebrities comedy culture diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity international interracial relationships latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes tv Uncategorized white youtube