Tag Archives: multiracial

The Wormiest of Cans: who gets to be “mixed race”?

A few days ago on Facebook I watched two community activists have a throwdown over the phrase “mixed race.”

It began when Activist X posted a link to this article about the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and noted with some irritation that despite the festival’s claims to inclusivity, there were no Latin@s mentioned in the article. X asked: if Latin@ people are the largest group of multiracial people in the Americas and the festival is supposed to be open to everybody, why weren’t Latin@ people included? A few people agreed with X, and some people who had been at the festival said that they thought Heidi Durrow and the festival were great, but that they could see X’s point.

Enter Activist Y: after expressing some trepidation, Y said that the festival was using the term “mixed race” or “multiracial” to refer to people who had parents of two or more different racial categorisations. Activist Y said that if your whole family shared the same ethnic identity, then you were not mixed in the way the festival intended.

Dear Racializens, I am sure you can imagine what happened next: a veritable Facebook wall brawl — albeit one that was highly intellectual and restrained. Most people sided with X (it was X’s wall to begin with) and Y, after making several long attempts to explain themselves, eventually left in a digital huff.

This exchange brought back some of the most difficult writing that I have ever done on Racialicious: where readers challenged my right to call myself, as a mixed race person with parents of two different races, mixed in a separate way from those who are mixed race but share the same identity as their whole family, for e.g. folks who are mestizo, Creole, African American, Metis, Peranakan…

(From here on in I will refer to people who come from mixed lineage as MRs, and people who have parents of two different and separate racial categorisations as MR2s.)

So here is one of the most important things I have learned from all my years of toiling in the anti-racist trenches here at Racialicious: when you are talking about race with anti-racist people of colour, you are speaking from a place of pain, to a place of pain. (Ok obviously we are about more than pain, but pain is always on the table.) Many of us come to anti-racism through struggle. We are used to having things taken away from us, and we turn to anti-racism to try and arm ourselves against the corrosion of racism. We are sensitive, and we come by it honestly.

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Has multiracial identity become more accepted?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

When I first moved to the U.S. and people asked me why my last name was Van Kerckhove, I would go into the whole explanation about how my mom is Hong Kong Chinese and my dad is Belgian. After I answered the question in detail, inevitably people would reply: “Oh. So you’re really just Asian then.”

I realized then how uncomfortable Americans were with the idea that you could be more than one thing at the same time. Eventually I also learned about the one drop rule and how deeply ingrained that mentality was in this country.

The clips above are from the workshop Cute But Confused: Myths and Realities of Mixed Race Identity. When Jen and I started New Demographic in 2004, one our primary goals was to dispel common stereotypes of multiracial people as being confused about their identity, trying to escape racism, trying to be white, and so on.

Since then, I’ve noticed that while those stereotypes still persist — ahem, see this or this thread for instance — overall, there seems to be less resistance to people identifying as multiracial.

Multiracial folks, what do you think? Do you get less pushback now than maybe 5 or 10 years ago when you identify as mixed, biracial, or multiracial? Are there any differences in the reactions you get?

A story in today’s New York Times explores how multiracial folks are identifying with Obama’s frank discussion of his own racial background:

Being accepted. Proving loyalty. Navigating the tight space between racial divides. Americans of mixed race say these are issues they have long confronted, and when Senator Barack Obama recently delivered a speech about race in Philadelphia, it rang with a special significance in their ears. They saw parallels between the path trod by Mr. Obama and their own.

…Carmen Van Kerckhove, a diversity consultant who runs a blog on race and popular culture, racialicious.com, said she doubted that the uproar that greeted Tiger Woods when he described himself as “Cablinasian” (for heritage that includes Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian) in 1997 would be as strong today.

“When you’re multiracial, you can be several things at the same time,” said Ms. Van Kerckhove, 30, who is white and Asian and has endorsed Mr. Obama on her blog for moving the race debate away from “who’s black and who’s white, or who’s a victim and who’s an oppressor.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Van Kerckhove added, suspicions persist about the motivation of people who identify themselves as mixed race. Many people, she said, wonder, “Are multiracial people trying to be multiracial as a way to escape racism?”

Garcelle Beauvais derided for her “white twins”

by guest contributor dnA, originally published at Too Sense

There’s a lot of hating going on over at Bossip on a thread that posted the cover of Jet, featuring the gorgeous Garcelle Beauvais and her adorable twins:

(The one on the right is making a black power fist. I’m for surrious.)

Most of the hating takes the form of the “why she datin’ that white man” or “them babies is white and ugly” or “I thought they had AIDS” ect, ect. The kids better get used to it though, because just judging by the choice of wardrobe, Mrs. Beauvais-Nilon is going to be raising those kids to think of themselves as black, so they’re going to hear a lot of this:

That white man got some STRONG genes. What is he german?

And:

Not impresssed at with her ALL WHITE TWINS!!! Just what we need more white folks in this world. Pathetic!!!

Sigh.

Interview with Mat Johnson, author of graphic novel Incognegro

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Mat Johnson is winner of the prestigious Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction and currently teaches at the University of Houston, Creative Writing Program. Read more about him at Niggerati. Click the thumbnails below to read full-size pages from his new graphic novel, Incognegro.

Carmen: Mat – congrats on all the great media coverage your new book is getting! (New York Times, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

Mat: Thanks. It’s a hell of a lot better than watching a book tank, I’ll tell you that.

Carmen: LOL I’m sure. Well you’ve been a co-host on our podcast, Addicted to Race a couple times (episode 57 and episode 61)…

Mat: I miss that. We had fun.

Carmen: …and longtime listeners will remember that former co-host Jen and I used to do a segment called “Racial Spy.” Your book takes the racial spy concept to a whole new level – can you explain to our readers what Incognegro is all about?

Mat: Incognegro is about a mixed race Negro journalist who looks white who investigates lynchings in the 1930s. The story is about when his own brother is framed for a murder, and he must go Incognegro to solve the crime and free him.

Carmen: As soon as I read that synopsis, I was hooked.

Mat: So was Vertigo. I sold them the idea based on the synopsis. [Note from Carmen: Vertigo is Mat’s publisher, they’re an imprint of DC Comics.]

Carmen: How did you come to make Incognegro a graphic novel?

Mat: I have read comics since I was 6 and still read them. I thought this story had the elements of the comic hero, but had the chance to do something new in the form as well. With my prose, the work is character based, prose based. Graphic writing just let me focus on the story and the dialogue.

Carmen: I think the format really works well – as I was reading it, I kept imagining what an awesome movie it would make. Speaking of… I hear there is interest in turning Incognegro into a film. Anything you can say on record about that at this point? Continue reading

Kelly Hu: Do Your Own Thing

by guest contributor Jennifer Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

While in Las Vegas, this weekend, I had the opportunity to interview actress Kelly Hu. This is that interview. Many thanks to Cate Park, of Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, for setting up this interview, and of course to Hu herself for agreeing to do it.

Whether portraying a deadly mutant assassin or a sensual Egyptian queen, Kelly Hu appears to be a larger-than-life character: the quintessential warrior woman. For those of us who aren’t part of the film industry, it’s easy to blur the line between reality and this entertaining fiction. I admit – when I first heard that I might have the opportunity to meet Hu during my trip to Las Vegas this weekend, part of me wondered whether she would be anything like the intimidating characters we are familiar with on-screen. Would she attempt to canvass in the chilly Nevada weather wearing the scant costume of The Scorpion King fame? Would an inappropriate remark cause her to metamorphose into the terrifying martial artist that had X2’s Wolverine shivering in his overly-tight X-Men britches? Should I be checking for mutant claws?

It only took a few minutes of chatting with Hu for me to put those silly fantasies to rest. In direct contrast to the emotionally severe women she has played in her most well-known roles, Hu is warm, open, and clearly impassioned.

According to her IMDB entry, Hu is a fourth-generation Asian American of Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian and English identity. Originally from Hawaii, Hu made a name for herself in Hollywood in the late 80’s and early 90’s as one of a limited number of female Asian American actors consistently finding roles. “There weren’t many [Asian American actresses] to choose from,” Hu notes, listing Tamilyn Tomita, Rosalind Chao and Tia Carrere among her competitors at the time. With so few actors competing for the same roles, “it was easier to get noticed.” Hu also cites her “cross-over look” as one of the reasons for her success: “I could [also] go for roles not specifically written for Asian Americans”.

With that success, Hu has ventured into political activism. In 2004, Hu recorded a PSA, still available for download at LeastLikely.com, about Asian American voter participation. And in a recent YouTube clip, Hu (along with several other notable Asian American faces) vocally supports Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy for the presidency.

I asked Hu: why Obama?

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Jessica Alba Talks to Elle Magazine about Race in Hollywood

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Really, I say, has your skin color hindered you that much?

Alba shoots me an exasperated look.

Yeah, I could let this be the beginning and the end of this post. Jessica Alba is being interviewed by Andrew Goldman in the February issue of Elle Magazine and he poses the question to launch a thousand eye rolls.

Hello – have you read the last 50 or so interviews with any woman of color in the film industry?

Everyone from Maggie Q to Nia Long has complained about the lack of good roles for non-white folks. More times out of not, you’re auditioning for a niche role in an indie film that targets xxx community, competing for a high profile role playing a stereotype, or trying to nail the audition and convince the director that you can add your own brown flavor to the film and still make it work.

Still, I must admit, the coverline did hook me a bit: “Jessica Alba on race in Hollywood, using sex to get ahead, and why actors make bad boyfriends.”

Considering Perez Hilton’s long term diatribe against her and the professional penalty actors may pay when they find themselves speaking out against domestic injustices, Alba was the last person I expected to go on the record about her feelings on race. I wondered if the text would be some watered down version of “It’s not about my race, it’s about talent.”

A page or so into the article, it becomes clear that Alba has not been drinking the Tiger Woods Kool-Aid:

As assimilated as Alba’s upbringing was, she never felt there was a well-defined place for her in Hollywood. “Nobody really knew what to do with me,” she says. “Everyone wants to categorize you and pigeonhole you. I’m half Latin, but I grew up in the States, and I can’t get roles playing a Latina because I don’t speak Spanish. And I didn’t want to be the best friend, or the promiscuous girl, or the maid, because those stereotypes still exist with Latin roles. I wanted to be a leading lady. And I thought that because I have brown skin shouldn’t make any difference. Why should only Aryan-looking girls be that girl?”

Really, I say, has your skin color hindered you that much?

Alba shoots me an exasperated look. “How many leading leadies are you aware of?” she says. “Lindsay Lohan, Kate Bosworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jessical Biel, Rachel McAdams. We have Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, me, and who else?”

Uh, Eva Mendes?

“Mendes,” she says flatly. “But is Mendes greenlighting movies?”

A good point.

So often in these kind of conversations, people only look at the superficial representation of the problem (As in, “But I know of at least three black characters on major shows! Why is this such a big deal?) rather than thinking about the power dynamics in the entertainment industry. The reporter in this piece implies that she is exagerating the problem by quickly naming another lead woman of color – without thinking about how representation without power or influence is kind of a hollow victory.

What is most telling about this piece – whether it was by whim of the reporter or whim of the editor – is that after Alba makes a critical point power and race, the piece jumps to her personal history.

Her question to the reporter is left hanging.

Seven paragraphs later, the piece ends. Race is never mentioned again.

Shelby Steele on Hillary Clinton: ‘In many ways, she’s blacker than Barack Obama is.’

by guest contributor David Mills, originally published at Undercover Black Man

That’s right, people. Shelby Steele, a black man of supposed high intellect, declared – on national TV! – that Hillary is “blacker than Barack Obama.”

He said it Friday afternoon on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” He was a guest alongside Michael Eric Dyson.

You know I got that audio. You know that, right? Click here. The clip begins with Prof. Dyson talking about the impact of Oprah Winfrey’s support of Sen. Obama.

(The complete 10-minute segment is downloadable as an iTunes podcast. Move quickly if you want it. It’ll be gone by Monday night.)

Coincidentally (or not??), none other than Andrew Young – former U.N. ambassador, former mayor of Atlanta – is quoted in an Associated Press story (hyped today on the Drudge Report) as saying that “Bill [Clinton] is every bit as black as Barack.”

Young added: “He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.” His audience laughed, and Andy Young was quick to say, “I’m clowning.”

Now… if I was conspiracy-minded, I might say it’s no coincidence that, on this weekend when Oprah’s stump-speaking on Obama’s behalf is the biggest political news in the country… along come two prominent Negroes to publicly question Obama’s “blackness” (to the presumed benefit of Clinton).

Weird thing about that is, as Shelby Steele also said on “Hardball,” Obama’s strength is among white voters. So who thinks it’ll turn off them white voters to be reminded that Barack Obama doesn’t fit their stereotype of “blackness”?

Perhaps the string-pullers are thinking: “Well damn, if black voters get fired up behind Obama too, we’ve really got problems. Let’s at least nip that one in the bud.”

Or, heck, maybe it was all just some random shit that happened…

A clarification: Andrew Young evidently made his remarks back in September, though they just came to light. Anyway, let’s roll the videotape:

And then we get things like Blatino porn

by guest contributor Luke Lee

Ugh. Who would’ve thought that a conversation about pheromones and guys from Eastern Europe would’ve led to talking about Mendel, evolutionary biology in terms of “interracial mixing” and accountants dating accountants. Such was the case on Episode 57 of Dan Savage’s Savage Love Podcast (“Lovecast” as it is officially called).

Dan Savage, a syndicated sex-advice columnist who I’ve always been a big fan of had The Stranger’s (a local Seattle newspaper) resident science expert Jonathan Golob on the podcast to answer the various listener questions that came up. As one person inquired about the legitimacy of pheromones and whether he (the listener) had a weakness to the pheromones for men from a certain country from Eastern Europe, the conversation somehow stumbled to:

[13:03-16-12] Dan: We know that mutts are healthier than purebred dogs, right

Jonathan: Oh yea, for sure

Dan: So genetic mixing, [lowers voice] race mixing…is actually good and healthy for human populations and human society.

Jonathan: Oh for sure. I mean The more mixed you are…the bigger the difference genetically between…you and…your parents…You just tend to do better. I mean everyone has two copies of the same genes, blah blah blah…

Dan: That’s why those Euroasian guys are so fucking hot.

Jonathan: Exactly, and so it’s F1…F1’s the key. It gets the biggest pea plants with the best peas..this is Mendel going back to…

Dan: OK, so I have a question about that…because we know that to be true…that dog mutts are healthier from dog mutts to human mutts. Is there something in us that compels us to…you meet people that are attracted to their ethnic or racial polar opposites. And some people think that’s all formed in a welter of racism. That it’s an objectification…you know a White guy only into black girls. You know, uh an Asian guy whose only into white women. You hear that this is ohh racism expressing itself. Is there some sort of like genetic compulsion there? Where there’s some people who there for the health of the greater population seek out the radically different…racially, genetically?

Jonathan: I think there is. It’s a really hard thing to test. Cause it’s hard to separate the genetic from the cultural and the race and all this stuff. And you tend to date the people you tend to see…

They then start talking about interracial dating preferences and some studies which Jonathan makes some references to which he says that women are basically more race-specific when it comes to choosing potential partners whereas men “will fuck anything.” Towards the end they start talking more in general biology terms with the whole hybrid vigor “race mixing is good for the planet” suggestion led by Dan and backed up by Jonathan. So prepare for eyeballs to be rolled, the three minutes of “race mixing talk”, very much unlike Dan’s usual podcasts and columns, are all over the place.

Check out his podcast here.