Writing about Mixed Race

For one of my final papers in school, I studied several academic books and articles to write about the mixed race experience. here is my conclusion to the essay I wrote:


As a mixed person, I have felt a lot of factors influence the development of my own identity. My surrounding community as a child was primarily black, in a Southern Baptist church; my white mother spent a lot of time and energy to try to integrate herself into that community for the sake of her mixed children. I was more light-skinned than my other siblings, and as a child often received comments from adults that it made me the most beautiful, which led to teasing and bullying for not only black kids in the community, but sometimes between my siblings. I always wanted to be darker, to fit in. As a teen interviewed in Gaskin’s book said, “If you’re dark, or can get dark, you don’t really have to deal with that- that physicality of not being able to look like who you are” (Gaskins 41). I have periodically used a hair relaxer to straighten my tangled and poofy curls to fit in with my friends, and to be able to wear my hair down. I do not feel personally exempt from the representation of the tragic mulatto, and often sought out literature about mixed race characters for guidance. It continues to be a slippery slope, but I do feel more aware of racial injustices, and thus more compelled to speak out against them.

Having a secure, integrated identity entails a long process that can be challenged by being a mixed race person.  But there is enough evidence, through the study of recent ethnographic material and literature, that mixed race identity is moving beyond the representation of the tragic mulatto and the exotic temptress. It is not so much the case that is being multiracial is the best of both worlds or hip, as the 1990s ads would have people to believe, and that black scholars in the same decade fought against. New multiracial organizations, books and media continue to come out in our evolving society.  Is multiracial or mixed to become a new racial category? Or does it perpetuate the U.S.’s own kind of caste system to affirm a category? What is the alternative for a person of mixed race? Spencer’s book concludes that because of the unique experience of being mixed in the U.S., multiracial do not feel current efforts are enough. He writes: “The problem is that mixed race people do not feel like full American citizens because of the discrimination they have historically faced as a result of the persistent old fashioned ideas about miscegenation. Perhaps this is why [they] are pushing for a multiracial identity rather than for the right to call themselves American” (143). It is central, despite the solution to this problem, to break down the traditional stereotypes of mixed race people, and to as a society, support the full development of an integrated identity.

When Mixed Folks aren’t Speaking for Themselves…

…You get muddled articles like these two. John McWhorter of The Root wrote this article, “Why Are We Angry At Biracial People,” which attempts to support people who don’t exclusively classify as Black; however I finished the article not feeling triumphed, but alienated.  His conclusion just doesn’t get it right:

“There will be actual black people. There will also be those who are only part black, and there will be more of them by the decade. It’s high time that America, black and white, stopped telling them that there’s some kind of higher wisdom in adopting the racial-classification strategies of Strom Thurmond. Go on, “biracial” people. I call it “black to reality.”

But then, there’s a response like this one: Bene Viera’s article in Clutch magazine titled “Stop Bringing the Biracial Issue to the Doorsteps of Blacks.” (The title is enough to make you cringe, right?) She heavily critiques McWhorter’s article. I was happy to see that she made clear that mixed race identity is more complex than portrayed in the other article, however, I still feel that she treats, (as she calls it) “the biracial issue” with insensitivity. Don’t even read the comments – its not worth the energy.