Monday, May 20, 2013
That Mixed Race Membership Moment
The mixed race membership moment is more than a realization. There is intention and some participants likened the moment to a racial coming out. I, and many of my participants, articulate this moment as more of an arrival. There is careful consideration of one’s race, social position, and intimate realities that move an identity out of the normative mono-racial category that has been assigned and into this non-binary mixed race identity. Recently myself and another mixie, a term that I mixed race individuals have started using affectionately amongst themselves - a term that certainly suggests membership status, were talking to a third colleague who identified as African American. We were discussing our partners and the coincidental way that we had all ended up with intimate others from similar backgrounds. At some point in the conversation I asked the third colleague if he identified as African American or mixed race. He looked perplexed. I then asked him if he was mixed race. He did this thing with his face that I will forever associate with the mixed race moment and said, “well damn, I guess I am”. After some examination our colleague realized that his Trinidadian grandmother was mixed, it had never been a secret in his family but he really had never connected his or his family’s socio-racial identity with his white ancestors. His father, he explained, had rejected whiteness during the civil rights era, and my colleague had never thought to question his own or his father’s mixed race possibility. A piece of this moment was all three of us realizing that we were the same phenotype and that our children had all ended up blond and blue eyed. For myself and my mixie colleague, we have always had access to a mixed race identity through our white mothers. Our co-worker had been denied that access by his black father. This had produced a situation where we all had children and families that looked the same and had similar genealogical structures, yet identified differently. I understood my colleague’s identity as having been dissonant or looking for a home since his children were born. At the end of the conversation, our colleague thanked us for what he said was “membership into a space that makes sense for my family and my children. I had no idea how to make them black.” He followed that up with “I have no idea how to have this conversation with my father he is a BLACK man and nothing is going to change that”.