Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Black/White Mixed Race: Intimate Realities

I am thinking about mixed race as an intimate reality; as an identity that is inherited, rather than an identity that has been chosen as a route of socio-racial escape. This conversation comes in direct response to those that argue that the mixed race identity in 2009 is nothing more than a way to avoid or escape blackness. My traditionally flippant answer is that I am not escaping anything, just watch me get followed through a retail store. But the real answer would be that blackness is a part of my mixed race identity that is undeniable. My identity is one of inclusiveness; one that honors both of my biological parents, my adoptive family, my husband and children. A mixed race identity is the most accurate representation of my cultural and lived experiences. I share many experiences with those who chose a stringently monoracial identity both in my blackness and in my cultural whiteness. Moving from one cultural or socio-racial space to another is a different movement than the implication of "passing". One of my students said "I am black when I need to be black and white when I need to be white". His use of the word "need" instead of "want" illustrates the distinction I am trying to make in my assertion that mixed race identity is an inherent identity rather than divisive one.

Of course my argument pushes up against the theoretical and social spaces that suggest that a mixed race identity only problematizes ideas of racial dominance and purity for both sides of the black/white binary. Some of my students this semester made a very strong argument that adding a mixed race identity only strengthens the dangerous ideas of race as a whole. While both of these are arguments have their merits, I am still stuck because I know that race and mixed race are more real than those arguments suggest. I also know that if I were to chose a monoracial identity, it would not be challenged - as long as it was the right one. Thus, if a mono racial identity is allowable and "real", how can the reality of mixed race not be real? For me, there is a distinction to be made between "real" and "allowable". Just because mixed race has been deemed not allowable and/or politically destructive to the black community, with the mixed race identity located as an escape hatch for light skinned black; it doesn't diminish the reality, in the same way that monorace is real, of mixed race.

If you combine butterscotch and honey, you have something that is a) not undoable, these two items are now forever inextricably combined; and b) something that is necessarily no longer butterscotch nor honey. I am buttersoney. I like to ask the "one-drop rule" contingency this question: if you wake up in the morning and one of your parents is black and one of your parents is white, what are you? I have never really received a good answer from those who argue against a mixed race identity. I have been told it is a stupid, useless question. Just as I am warned to be mindful of the history of mixed race, pointing to the negative relationships that mixed race has with racial construction in the Americas; I am suggesting the same mindfulness be applied to the reality of mixed race in the social construction of intimate relationships in 2009 and across historical periods as well. I am not suggesting that intimacy and history are unrelated. I am suggesting that intimacy and history are not given the same intellectual value in conversations about race and mixed race.

Allowing and nurturing a mixed race identity for my children has allowed my blond blue eyed daughter to have me as a mother. "Why is your mother a different color than you?" and "Why is your mother black and your father white?" are important questions for her as they were for me when I was a little girl. The mixed race identity is also our intimate reality and thus; these are questions for other people not us. More soon...

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