Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Newest Member of the Mixed Race Community

First, and most important, Happy Birthday Bitty Boop!!! My baby turned 8 today!!!!!

Today I am counting my blessings. One of the things that has been said to me, all too often by those who oppose mixed race as an identity, is that there is no community. I am here to testify to the fact that this is a complete untruth. My blog is not a month old and I have already connected with a "community" of mixed race thinkers. I will be attempting to add links to their blogs after I post this. I feel blessed to have something that looks like proof now. WE are a community, we have common experiences, and we recognize each other immediately as mixed race people. Being able to talk to other people about my socio-racial identity without fear of judgment; or without tailoring what I am saying in order to be accepted, is a gift.

These denouncements of mixed race identity come often in academia and frequently in everyday life. One such experience occurred after a department meeting at the college I am teaching at. One of my new "colleagues" cornered me and questioned me on my choice to study mixed race. "There is no community or culture" he informed me. I strongly disagree. My experience has been that there is a community, but like many marginalized communities, it is one that has not been allowed a physical space to call home. For me, mixed race is a kind of diasporic identity. This diaspora is uniquely positioned inside the community or communities that are responsible for the generation of a diasporic experience for those who claim a mixed race identity. For example, being a mixed race person living in a monoracially black or white community.

The narratives that my collaborators have been sharing with me suggest that they feel disconnected, not only from the majority race they belong to but from the minority race as well. That is to say someone who is black/white or asian/white might relate experiencing rejection not just from the white community that one parent came from but from the minority community that the other parent came from as well. For me, the majority of the rejection I have experienced, at least overtly, has been from the black community (and black scholars like the colleague in my story above). The accusations leveled at me have been of race trading and of denying my blackness. No one ever accuses the mixed race individual of denying her whiteness even when one or both parents are or appear to be white.

This colleague of mine, after literally backing me into a corner of the conference room and holding me hostage for about 20 minutes, then informed me that he had married a white woman (he is black) and that his child is a product of that union. So here is a man, allegedly an academic, who has made the intimate choice to marry a white woman and have a mixed race child, denouncing mixed race studies and identities. If his black community, black identity and monoracial identity as black is so important to him, why did he make this choice? I rationalize this and other attacks as best I can, there is something about me that suggests that I have an easier time embracing my mixed raceness than others might have (by the way, this is not true - I am making a political choice that reflects my intimate relationships). It may appear that I somehow have "special" permission or epistemological privilege that allow me to reach across monoracial borders and claim both blackness and whiteness (again, not true - however I will say that I experience a third set of borders that keeps me from claiming either full blackness or whiteness). I don't think that I am doing any of these treacherous things. I am not passing. I have no desire or ability to divorce myself from my blackness. I still experience my life as a person of color. I am not trying to claim duality. Instead, I am trying to claim wholeness. I was raised differently than a person with two black parents, or even a person with one black and one white parent. My intimate relationships were and are with the white parents, siblings, spouse, children and extended family that have raised and sustained me. I know I do not experience the world the same as every other black, white, latino, asian, native american, boy and/or girl. I am necessarily something different. When I am looking for other people who are like me, I find that similarity in my mixed race children not my monoracial mother or spouse. The conversations I have had this week have shown me that this is not a delusional observation but a lived experience that I do share with other people. I share these lived experiences with other people who identify as mixed race.

I have been looking for this community and culture my whole life. I have known for a very long time that such a thing exists; I didn't know where to find it. This week, it found me. Thank god for the internet. I have found several new sisters and brothers because of this blog and through my research. Each time I hear someone's story for the first time, I sigh, I think this IS the culture and community that people keep telling me doesn't exist. How can so many different people from so many different racial backgrounds and from so many different geographical locations have the SAME STORY? Clearly, life happens in a particular ways for particular groups of people Overall we recognize those experiences as ethnicities, races, creeds, class groups, and genders. Why then do we disallow the possibility of a mixed race experience as being different than monoracial experiences. To me it is as plain as the nose on our faces - all different noses - all different colors, etc. If we look different than our monoracial counterparts (since this seems to be the primary practice of recognizing difference) then why is it such a stretch to imagine that we ARE different.

This space for mixed race identity, culture or community is not by any means a call to close ranks and deny our relationships with other races, cultures and communities. But I do think that in the search for solidarity, one might consider the mixed race identity as different and therefore important enough not to be dismissed in the corner of a conference room.

More soon...

1 comment:

  1. Yes. There is a community of people who are willing to talk about the Mixed experience. I'm so glad you're adding your voice to the Mix! The internet has given us an easy way to find each other! hooray! heidi