REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE
Illustrations & Photography:
Phase 4 Shades of Noir Team
Dan Holliday Delilah Holliday Jay Lee
Afua Hirsch Micah Hacim Ras Levy Leslie Barlow Jade Montserrat Daniel Brathwaite-Shirley Rhian Spencer Gerard Hanson Gabriela Chase Monique L. Etienne Portia Emily Baker INFO: W: shadesofnoir.org.uk E: email@example.com Tw: @shadesofnoir Fb: shadesofnoir OUR SUPPORTER:
Reclaiming Reimagining The Mixed Race Experience.
A Note From Ebun Sodipo
Expanding The Conversation
Further Resources Key terms, Further Reading, Digital Resources
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The category ‘mixed race’ defines those whose biological parents have differing racial identities, or are categorised as such. Because racial categories are somewhat different across the globe, there are numerous terms that people use to define their mixed race identity. In the West most of the discourse surrounding mixed race-ness focuses on those born to a White (those largely descended from Europeans) and Black (those largely descended from Africans), and when it doesn’t, the focus remains largely on those with one white parent. This pushes the experiences of children of other ‘admixtures’, for example BlackSouth Asian, or South Asian-Indigenous South American, to the margins of discourse. In this ToR, we will be focusing on mixed race people living in the UK of Black heritage, in short, Black mixed race people exclusively, as a starting point, to contribute content that explores their identities as mixed race people, particularly in relation to how others/society/ the state categorise them, and their relationship to their blackness. The aim is to complicate mainstream narratives of Blackness, to make known the different relationships Black people have to their Blackness, to move Blackness away from biological notions of race, to one centred around the experiences of a group of people under white supremacy. We want to expand what it means to be Black, confront the concept of ‘passing’, how colourism functions in the Black community, how non-black communities relate to Blackness and the experiences of growing up as a mixed race Black person in a non-black environment. We want to explore the deployment of mixed race-ness, whether in imaginings of the future, or as branding, advertisements, on social, and the effects of these on mixed race people.
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1. What do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community or other? Has how you identify changed with time or has it always been the same? 2. How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook? 3. What impact does your heritage have on your relationships with the wider ethnic communities you are part of? More specifically, how does your heritage impact your relationship or reception within the black community? 4. How easily/frequently are you read or someone identifying you as black and/ or from mixed heritage and/or racially ambiguous before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? 5. How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? 6. What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media? 7. Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary? 8. What are your thoughts on ‘A mixed race future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations?
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Shades of Noir has been pleased to invite Afua Hirsch to peer review this Terms of Reference. Afua Hirsch is the author of Brit(ish) - a book exploring Britishness and identity, published in Spring 2018 by Jonathan Cape. She is a writer, broadcaster and barrister, and TV presenter, who frequently writes, reports and comments on questions of race, social justice, Africa, and identity.
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A NOTE FROM AFUA HIRSCH. A few years before Barack Obama was elected as President, he began to gain traction as a charismatic young senator - a development noticed by journalists and commentators in the UK. White, British polemicists with no prior interest in race and identity began to read his book Dreams From My Father. I know this because, then a reporter at The Guardian newspaper, colleagues who had hitherto taken little interest in me began coming up to me and saying, “so do you… do you consider yourself mixed-race? What’s that like?” We have advanced sufficiently since than that narratives around mixed-race and identity are penetrating the mainstream, and those of us with a deeper interest in the discussion are beginning to problematise it. One of the most interesting developments, to me, is the question of how class, race and skin tone privilege intersects. “Should Light-Skinned People of Color Voluntarily Exclude Ourselves from People of Color Spaces?”, asked the US Everyday Feminism blog for example. While the conversation still leaves much to be desired in its grounding in historical narratives of oppression, I welcome the fact that the question is being asked. It’s a difficult one for me personally to answer. I identify as a black woman of mixed-heritage; my mother is from Ghana and my is father white British with Jewish heritage. My mother, as is often the case with those whose formative years were spent in African countries where black people form the majority, for many years did not self-identify as black. My father, who is white, self-identities as a minority as a result of his Jewish heritage, which is apparent from his name. Neither have been able to relate to my experience as a British born person struggling to find a sense of belonging in the range of identities available to a mixed-race person growing up here. The conversation about the privilege which comes with light skin must be grounded in a historical context. Until just a few decades ago “mixed race” haunted modern Western thought, its offspring viewed with an almost unique suspicion. Black people were inferior, but mixed race people were inherently corrupting, they were born depraved. For many of Europe’s most famous philosophers, the emergence of ‘mixed race’ children was an ominous symptom of the genetic deterioration of the nation, and the human race itself.’ In “crossed races”, wrote Nietzsche, “together with a disharmony of physical features, there must also go a disharmony of habits and value concepts.” A century earlier Immanuel Kant, whom I was encouraged to venerate as a philosophy undergraduate, was happy to divide the world into the “good” . Dacumos, Nico. 2017. Should Light-Skinned People of Color Voluntarily Exclude Ourselves from People of Color Spaces?. Everyday Feminism. http:// everydayfeminism.com/2017/08/light-skinned-poc-spaces/ . Parker, Song, 3 . Nietzsche, F (1881) Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, IV, 274 10 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
races (white) and the “bad” races (non-white) thought mixing would degrade the good. This is not about blackness, but about whiteness. Whiteness as a system based on myths of purity was highly threatened by the presence of white people willing to embrace black. This was a threat perceived in class prejudice as it was in race - white women guilty of this racial mixing were by the very nature of their willingness to engage sexually with blacks, morally bankrupt working class whites, necessarily the lowest of the low. As if this were not bad enough, once exposed to black men, these women became “immoral” and “over-sexed”, notions were inextricably linked to the colonial stereotypes of Africans as savage and sexually voracious. In a modern context, where mixed-race people are able to benefit from being regarded as the acceptable face of blackness, a perverse fascination and objectification still exists in relation to mixed-racedness. The question But if your dad is black and your mum is white, why do you look yellow? Why aren’t you…Grey?’ Asked of Tiff, the fetishisation of lighter skin observed by Michael, the alienation from one’s own parents felt by non binary people recognised by Micah, are all deeply-rooted legacies of the system that has long attempted to grade and categorise us based on the notion that racial mixing and perversion go hand in hand. The question of how to confront these challenges raises more issues than it solves. As a greater number of white people become parents to mixed-race children, how can these complexities be made accessible, without falling into the trap of catering to a white audience, or seeking white approval? How can we negate the intellectual laziness of ‘post-racial’ discourses, without alienating the new generations of mixedrace people raised to believe they are real? How can we honestly confront the privilege that comes from being lighter skinned, and from a more privileged background - as I am - without falling into the age-old trap that seeks to divide and rule? This Terms of Reference is a welcome contribution, disrupting those problematic narratives and advancing the debate. It’s the kind of conversation that was completely alien to me, growing up in the 1990’s, grappling with issues that then, I could not even name. The greatest lesson I have learned from my own journey into identity is that it can never be policed from the outside - no one can legitimately impose on me categories that I do not recognise in self-defining. But the more we complicate those categories, the more we build the knowledge that provides the context for defining ourselves, the stronger we - as black people, and as a community of people who so often struggle to find our community - will become.
. Ward, Julie K, and Lott, Sam L (2002) Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays, John Wiley & Sons, 159 . Furedi, 26 . Furedi, 26 REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 11
RECLAIMING REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. WORDS BY TIFF WEBSTER I wrote a piece in 2016 for Shades of Noir, titled: ‘Reclaiming Mixed Raceness’, a piece that would become part of an ongoing series on ‘Mixedraceness’; a reocurring topic of dicussion which I find arises periodically within discussions on Race and Blackness. As Colourism and White Supremacy are our current oppressive systems in place that need to be dismantled through all and any means necessary, I’ve recently found myself using one of my many tools of resistance; which to date has been functioning as one of my strongest tools, a skill I’ve acquired and have been consistently adapting and developing, a skill that I believe is my duty to use: My voice, my bilingual ability, my words and this platform and role that I’ve been assigned with Shades of Noir, it seemed my duty to address this topic. A duty I have been resistant to discuss, and to this day, still find difficulty in discussing. The title: ‘Reclaiming Mixed Raceness’ from 2016, no longer carries much weight for me or makes much sense in the context of what myself and Ebun Sodipo wish to explore within the ToR. I myself, don’t intend on reclaiming my mixed race identity within this ToR, I am a black woman of mixed heritage and this is where I currently stand and identify, as I don’t think or feel as though my mixedness is something that has been taken away from me. If anything, I
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find the assumptions on my identity and my heritage projected onto my body by others to be one of the primary sources of debate and where problematic views surface, yet this is to be expected, after all, we are all navigating this racist society.; which is why it is important that we address these nuances. ‘Reimagining The Mixed Race Experience’, has been a challenging ToR to lead on and collate information and contributions on. I would have to deal with this topic head on, face ingrained narratives that are yet to be dealt with but also process the resurfacing of trauma and/or narratives I have already worked through myself and have left in the past. Where I feel like they belong. Yet, being part of this ToR has served as an important healing and reflective process. ‘Reimagining The Mixed Race Experience’ is an exploration that poses the question of where do we go from here? Honing in on the mixed race experience within the black community, collating information, narratives, visuals from various positions within the black community. Where do we see biracial, multiracial, mixed heritage or the racially ambiguous identities as we adjust and readjust the language we choose to create to define ourselves? How are we ‘Reimagining The Mixed Race Experience’?
A NOTE FROM EBUN SODIPO Ever since my second year of university I have been preoccupied by two questions: why am I Black and how did I become Black? While the questions had come up before when I was younger it wasn’t until university that I had the time and resources to focus on it, and it wasn’t until being in university that I encountered, or began to recognise, the incredibly subtle dimensions of anti-blackness. My parents, Nigerian migrants, didn’t teach me much about being Black. They taught me about being Nigerian, about being Yoruba but not about having to work twice as hard as my lighter, whiter counterparts, or about the struggles of Black people globally. They brought me up to think more about my nationality and ethnicity than my racial identity, or rather how I would be racially classified by the world. It meant I was largely ill equipped to deal with the anti-blackness that I encountered upon travelling to the UK. The existence of my Blackness was something I had to learn largely on my own, which means the ways I think about it are different from the ways I think about my Nigerianess and Yoruba-ness.
For this ToR I wanted to pose these two questions, though expanded, to people whose Blackness is not readily accepted and heavily contested, their narratives largely underrepresented (in the case of non-white Black mixed race people). Another aim is to show the ways that Blackness is chosen as a political identity, or to show that Blackness can be a chosen identity as opposed to one already naturally given. To show it as a relationship with an aspect of oneself/society that is constantly in the process of being built. I also want to celebrate the immense richness and wealth of Blackness; the numerous combinations and possibilities of Blackness, the numerous colours of Blackness, the incredibly varied Black histories and cultures. The scale of the differences of Black people is something that fills me with awe and pride: I am a sibling to a numerous bunch of people, who, brushing up against white supremacy, have numerous modes of resistance depending on their particular histories. For me, difference should always be celebrated.
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• Total Mixed Race Population in the UK according to 2011 Census: 1,250,229 ( “2011 Census: Ethnic group, local authorities in the United Kingdom”.) Office for National Statistics. 11 October 2013. • Mixed-race people are the fastest growing ethnic minority group (defined according to the National Statistics classification) in the UK and, with all mixed categories counted as one sole group, are predicted to be the largest minority group by 2020 ( Pinnock, Karlene (12 August 2009). “Mixed race ‘fastest growing minority’”. BBC 1Xtra. Retrieved 4 October 2009.) • It has been estimated that, by 2020, 1.24 million people in the UK will be of mixed race. (Smith, Laura (23 January 2007). “Mixed messages”. The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2009.) (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/23/post975) • The 2011 census revealed a country that is decreasingly white and British: England’s ethnic-minority population grew from 9% of the total in 2001 to 14%. But the biggest single increase was in the number of people claiming a mixed-ethnic background. This almost doubled, to around 1.2m. Among children under the age of five, 6% had a mixed background—more than belonged to any other minority group (see chart). Mixed-race children are now about as common in Britain as in America. • ‘The mixed-race population is up nearly 50% to almost a million for the first time – up from 672,000 in 2001 to 986,600 in 2009. A third are mixed AfricanCaribbean and white, followed by Asian/white. The ONS said this was not a result of increasing birthrates but because “the population is mixing up more”. Haringey, north London, has the highest proportion, at 4.4%.’. (https://www. theguardian.com/society/2011/may/18/non-white-british-population-ons)
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The 2011 Census for England and Wales suggested that compared with 2001, the proportion of the population describing themselves as “White and Black Caribbean” rose from 0.5% to 0.8%, “White and Asian” from 0.4% to 0.6%, “White and Black African” from 0.2% to 0.3% and “Other Mixed” 0.3% to 0.5%. Image Source: cdn.static-economist. com/sites/default/files/images/printedition/20140208_BRC281.png
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Ethnicity and National Identity in England and Wales 2011: Office for National Statistics
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Target by Dan Holliday
EXPANDING THE CONVERSATION
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MY CHILDREN DON’T LOOK LIKE ME. Over the years I have developed a number of friendships with people that have chosen to adopt or have stepchildren join their families. This includes parents that don’t share the same racial make up as the children that have joined their families. When we talk of mixed raced identities, this narrative is not generally part of the discussion. This series offers some insight as to the narratives of these parents. We have made contact with two mothers and two fathers from different families responding to questions about parenting diverse families. This is only the start, as on talking to these parents they had so much to offer individually.
Dad – Black male
(Nigerian – Black British) adopted 2 white (English) siblings with his white (Italian and British) female wife How do you feel about your parenting now that your children are grown up? My children are white and I am a black father. I say I am a black father as I do think this has made a difference to their lives as well as mine. This might be mainly due to the outside world and their views and expectations of both them and me. I think
the fact that we ‘chose’ them and they ‘chose us’ is something that really cemented a trust between us very quickly. The fact that their lives before us were really challenging in a different way (which I won’t go into) meant that even though they were so young, they were hyper aware of their environment and the people in it and had already started to build resilience. I think as a parent I tried to listen a lot and instill a morality of acceptance and self-belief beyond the expectations and sometimes behaviours of others. This is not easy but I have two children in their 20s now, that I am so proud of and believe first and foremost that they are good people. That is the best feeling ever. What were the most challenging elements of parenting? When they were small, everyone would stare at us, especially when it was just they and I. This was hard but it got easier to deal with in time, maybe we just got used to it? There was one incident when we were in the park after the children had been with us a few weeks, maybe a month and a woman went over to my children playing and asked who they were with. This woman didn’t believe that we were together, so she called the police. Explaining why these types of things happen to young children is hard as this was not the last incident of this nature. I can’t lie, sometimes
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I thought maybe we should have considered race but then I just have to look at my wonderful children and know I am meant to be their dad. We always talked about difference, I mean, we couldn’t not. It has been a part of our lives, and definitely part of mine since I was born. Saying that there were times when I felt like I, well my dark skin, my choices have affected my family and sometimes my friends too is hard but true. The thing that hurts is that I love my blackness but situations can make you start to really think about its impact. This thinking can get my kids and me down, they hate seeing me down; I know this hurts them too. How did the school system receive your visible differences? It has to be when they first came to live with us and my eldest came from school saying that I can’t be a father because I was black and she was white. Some children at the new school had said that black people couldn’t adopt white children so she must have been kidnapped. I had to explain what kidnapped meant and why people may say such hurtful things. This type of negativity has followed us from the outside world but all I have continued to say ‘we know the truth, I love you very much and as my children I expect you to not carry the negativity of others in your heart’. Do you think there was/is a difference in how you parent children of a different race from the parents? Yes and no, there are standard parenting that supports children to love, trust and be honest. However, there are cultural elements as a diverse family that needs to be constant. We all love history and politics, the history of all people enables us as a family to embrace difference, affirm understanding too, as well as talk through difference of opinions. So things such as stop and search, my children have some understanding of what that is as this happened to their dad often in the early days. It was history that I used to explain situations and reasons for prejudice. My parenting as a black man means that my experience of the world and the people in it must play a part. My 20 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
siblings, their children, my parents are huge parts of my children’s lives and mine. I mean this is their family too so visits to Nigeria, having insider information of Nigerian family life is part of their life. Now they are older we talk a lot about power and privilege, whiteness and their place in the world as white people with black family. I mean things like they date people they connect to and that have included black people. I guess me as their dad and dating could be an interview piece on its own? What one piece of advice would you give to parents choosing to adopt children of a different racial background? Be open to learning new things. In fact go out your way to learn new things. In my experience talking about difference helps to position all people and that way it normalises difference. Sharing diverse history and not shying away from the horrors but always asking the children for their ideas or solutions and thoughts before sharing yours. This I have found really supports a reflective approach to the world and really opens up space to talk about prejudice and prepare your children. This is something I wish I did more of: travel. Each place we went to we were challenged for one reason or another. The biggest piece of advice is if like me you are a hoping to be a father of colour then be prepared for the challenges on your heart and soul by others, this is really painful. Seeing in people’s eyes, hate, disgust let alone actions. Saying that my children are MY children and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kim - My children don’t look like me…
Mum – Black female (Caribbean - Black British) with mixed race children, is a stepmother to white children (white English) How do you feel about your parenting now that your children are grown up? Now that my children have grown up I feel that I have done a brilliant job at parenting. I have always believed that children need structure and discipline and although I doubted myself whilst they were
younger it has proven to show me that using this method works as my children have gone into the adult world knowing what is required of them.
Terry- My children don’t look like me…
Mum - White female (Irish - White British) adopted a Mexican Indian male.
What were the most challenging elements of parenting?
How do you feel about your parenting now that your child is grown up?
The most challenging part of parenting to me is getting the balance right. You have to be tough but also fair. Another challenge for me was to not feel guilty about the decisions I made as sometimes I would second guess myself as to whether I was doing the right thing.
I think I was and am ‘a good enough‘ parent. There was an obvious difference between myself, white Irish heritage and my son, who is Mexican Indian and adopted at a young age. However, It was different as I had lived in Mexico for 9 years and was married to a Mexican so when I returned to England when he was two, as the marriage did not work out, I brought back fond memories and I spoke Spanish. I would sing to him in Spanish and teach him some words sometimes. I also became involved with the Latin American community and he had Latin American friends from Argentina and Colombia. My house was and is full of Mexican art and artifacts. We also kept in contact with family in Mexico, which was a very good thing. Mexico was always part of our lives and a very positive force. We would watch the world cup, with Mexican flags flying.
Do you think their were/is a difference in how you parent children of a different race to the parents? I think there is definitely a difference to how I parent children of a different race (although this wasn’t the case when I first got with my partner). Being black my culture and upbringing was different and although I used nearly the same method I grew up with I learnt that the white culture was not the same when it came to bringing up children. In my opinion I believe white parents are more lenient with their children and they would rather be their children’s friend instead of their parent. Over the years I have learnt not to discipline my step children the way I discipline my own as it causes too much stress and tension between myself and my partner. Instead I now suggest solutions to my partner and hope he takes it on board. What one piece of advice would you give to parents choosing to adopt children of a different racial background? My advice would be to take into consideration that your racial background will not be the same as theirs and neither are your cultures. Something will have to be done differently. If the children move in with you, find a way to come together with your partner and work out a way to discipline all children with the same rules for everyone and if the step child does something that seriously upsets you talk to your partner about it don’t bottle it up as it will always find a way to come out and when it does it will seem worse than it really is.
My biggest regret was that I did not continue to speak in Spanish to him as he was growing up. I don’t know why I didn’t but perhaps I wanted to distance myself from my ex husband but it was a selfish thing to do… What were the most challenging elements of parenting? On my return to England I lived in London in Hackney with my sister where there was a rich diversity of cultures and we seemed to be just part of the fabric of the community. But of course, there was clearly a visible difference between us, and people would often stare, particularly when we were outside of London. At times it was hard to ignore it and people were curious but I think they were also wondering what our relationship was and it was so unusual. Now I think it was also xenophobic, verging on racism. I know my son noticed it too and it would get REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 21
him down sometimes. I did not talk very much about that with him and that is another regret I have. I could have just discussed it with him to understand better how it made him feel. Also to find out how I could support him better. Looking back now with a better understanding of my own white privilege, when I was bringing him up I wanted to think that our mother/ son relationship was like everyone else’s. Clearly it wasn’t. Race was part of the picture. I chose to ignore it. I see that now… Anyway, people weren’t sure where he was from - He did tell me sometimes he was referred to as a ‘paki’, which would upset him. We did discuss that and said it came from ignorance and he would laugh and would say they are just stupid and don’t know I am Mexican. Often they did not even know where Mexico was. How was the school system at receiving your visible difference between your child or children? I don’t think the school system made any comments about our visible difference. I think it was just accepted. I know he had a hard time at secondary school and he was in the minority at a mainly white school and when I look back on that, it must have been difficult. He did not share much about that, but I felt he was always on the sidelines and when he looks back on the experience he says it was quite negative. Again there could have been opportunities for me to explore that more with him but then he was a teenager and starting to be quite separate. Do you think there were or is a difference in how you parent children of a different race to the parents? Definitely! It is very important to value their home culture and ensure they have contact with the country they were born in. That’s was discussed by social workers a great deal at the time. What was not discussed was the issue of racism. The visible difference would bring a 22 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
different perspective and as a white person and his mother, I should have been more prepared and willing to discuss this with him in a safe space as he was growing up. It is interesting that when he went to college he was going out with Black girls and his long term girlfriend of 13 years and mother of his child is from the Democratic Republic of Congo with dark skin. So I now live within an extended mixed race family. He has recently reconnected with Mexico and some part of his extended family there and has plans to go and live there with his family for a time in the near future. I am very pleased this is happening and would like to support him as much as I can. He loves Mexico and feels at home there. He looks like so many of the people there and no one stares at him. He belongs. He is determined to learn the language and has started taking Spanish classes. This is really good. What key advice would you give to parents choosing to have children of a different racial background join their family? • Keep in contact with the home country your child comes from as much as possible. This may mean visits or finding his/her home community in England. Have images and artifacts from the country around the home. Value the culture and discuss things that are happening there and the history about the place. (This is standard post adoption advice for people adopting outside of Britain). • Be aware that there is a visible difference between you and your child and have discussions around racism and how to respond and when they come up but also allow spaces for him/her to talk about the differences and how they make him/her feel. • Seek support from post adoption services but also from the community your child comes from. Find out more about white privilege and become more self aware about what that brings you in your day-to-day life.
• Having brought up two adopted children, this route is not for the faint hearted. Sometimes love is not enough. For me bringing up my son has been a wonderful blessed experience and we are very close. He has enriched my life and made me more aware of difference and how someone from a different racial background is discriminated against unfairly by society and how that needs to be challenged everyday.
Jake - My children don’t look like me… Dad – White male (English - White British) joined a family of 2 mixed race (UK & Caribbean – Black British) children to a Caribbean mother in 2002. How do you feel about your parenting now that your children are grown up? As a step dad I think I found it really hard to parent the teenage children initially, especially as I didn’t have any children prior. The children have a dad who is active in their lives, so working out my role was tricky but we got there. I think parenting is the hardest job in the world but the best as well. I would say I am the children’s nerdy stepdad who offers guidance from my experience as a man, yes a white man who loved their mum first and now loves them too. Loving them after their mum is the bit that takes time and work. Trust and respect can’t just happen, and trust is everything to children. What were the most challenging elements of parenting? I think a different kind of understanding needs to happen as a white parent to black or mixed race children. I think the key challenges for me was understanding racism and then accepting that it is everyday occurrence for them. This is something that I had to get my head round and get with this reality very quickly. Before this relationship I had never been in a mixed relationship, I never really saw or saw the impact of racism until I joined this family. This I think was the biggest challenge for me as a parent. I want to protect my family, it’s almost a primal feeling
of rage that I experienced when we get stared at or someone says something to hurt my family. The helplessness I felt and sometimes feel when the children talk about how people behaved with them. Things like I hadn’t noticed how much white people touch black or mixed race people’s hair as an example, this includes my family and friends which I had to address because it’s like as a person you choose your battles and for some people this is not the battle. I wanted, maybe needed to do something and so I had that conversation with the people around us. Do you think their were/is a difference in how you parent children of a different race to the parents? I think there has to be. In my short, maybe small experience of being a white stepfather to mixed race children there is a different experience for people of colour and if you do not embrace, acknowledge and recognise this as a white parent you can never really support you or your children’s growth. What I would say now is that without this experience I don’t think I would be thinking this way. Now that I have this experience if I was to have white children, then anti-racism, antiprejudice and social justice would be at the heart of what I would instill in them. This is embarrassing to me; that this was not in my psyche before. What one piece of advice would you give to parents choosing to adopt children of a different racial background? Don’t shy away from talking about prejudice, and don’t ever dismiss the experience of children of colour. Learn about history, and don’t be afraid to share the differences in life experience because of the history.
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24 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. MELILLUS by Dan Holliday
I AM MIXED; A COOLIE IS WHAT I’VE BEEN CALLED. NB* Coolie Words can mean different things in different places. Oxford dictionary definition ‘Coolie’ is a derogatory term used to describe unskilled labourers. However in some parts of the Caribbean ‘Coolie’ describes a person who has mixed ancestry usually of African and Indian descent. I am mixed; a coolie is what I’ve been called. During my childhood other girls used to call me ‘Woolworth mega mix’ and tell me that I was not really Black. The funniest thing is I remember these days with fond memories. I was a popular child throughout my school life. Even these words that were meant as slurs; I remember that they didn’t faze me. The tone of the ‘black’ girls in particular was one that was meant to hurt me and reduce my boldness. But on the other hand I was invited to lots of parties, I had many people asking to spend time with me and had compliments on my confidence, care free attitude and aesthetics often. The irony is that my pride of self, and the empowerment I received for just being me from my family, which is almost in opposition to the reasons for my mixedness. My mixedness comes from colonised islands. My mixedness is a sign of my histories where black people were brutalised
and subjugated as objects by both Europe and South Asian nations. This mixedness is from my ancestors having no choice, including of their own bodies. One of my grandmothers, in her last months of life shared that her grandmother was the great grandchild of a slave. That is not far away; my Grandmother was the fourth generation ‘free of slavery’ this makes me the sixth generation...It wasn’t until then that it really hit me, where my Jamaican grandmother’s red hair, green eyes, fair skin and the surname Campbell may have come from. ‘Originally officially excluded from the English slave trade, Scots such as Colonel John Campbell left the failed Scottish colonial experiment in Darien, Panama and arrived in Jamaica between 1697 and 1700. He had a large family in Jamaica and died there in 1740, initiating the spread of the name Campbell all over the island. Today there are many more Campbells in Jamaica per acre than in Scotland.’ Some have said, that my mixedraceness is visible in my physical features: skin tone, hair, and nose. I have never seen it as a negative and definitely never thought this doesn’t make me black. Even though . http://www.douglashistory.co.uk/history/ Histories/slavery/caribbean_slavery.htm
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 25
I acknowledge my mixedness, I define myself as a black women. Some, through my life on this earth have challenged me on my position and I have been called ‘half breed, halfcast, afro-paki’ by mainly black people, but more so ‘golliwog, black bitch and the n word’ by white people (including recently). When I look in the mirror I see a black women and I always have. I do recognise that almost definitely, my experience of life may have been different if I had different features. My family are of all shades on both sides and the vast majority identify as black, my grandparents defined themselves as black, my parents too, so why would I see myself as anything else? I think this is the complexity of mixedness: who you are/how you see yourself and how others may see you. My parents took an approach that reduced the effect of anti mixedness and supported me in the journey to self-love as a black women through understanding, valuing and exposing me to difference of all levels. Some of my parents’ actions included: 1. I was sent to a black supplementary school. At weekends I would attend a school where I met black teachers, learned about black history and spent time with children and adults beyond my family – In my weekday school there were no teachers of colour, very few black children and we learnt a particular perspective on history 2. My parents made sure that I knew and that I was clear that blackness comes in all shades, textures, perspectives and positions. They encouraged discussion and debate about everything including race, prejudice and social justice. 3. I was taken to places that seem whitewashed. This included the ballet, galleries and the theatre. I would always be told that we deserve to be there, that it was important to go to these places even if I feel awkward and uncomfortable this was our choice. We have choice, even when others try and make us feel like we don’t. 26 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
4. My mother in particular has always had LGBTQ friends and associates from all over the world that would visit with us and spend time with our family. 5. We talked about the physical elements that people made a big deal about such as my hair. My parents always told me that I had the choice to share my inner beauty with whom I wanted to. In fact at the age of 8, my mum cut off all my hair that so many loved to touch to a level 3. This taught me a lot, my hair was no longer the focus of me to others. Her words ‘it’s only hair, it will grow back’ stay in my mind. 6. For the world cup I was encouraged to support all the countries that I related to or wanted to. 7. My mother in particular encouraged faith exploration, in fact she took me to many different places of worship with her friends, and she did seem to have friends from all over the world, with many different faiths and perspectives. I know that one of my most profound privileges is that I have brave, thoughtful and strong minded parents; that instilled in me equality as an expectation, judgment of others as a superficial position, difference as the norm, as well as respect and trust is something to be earned. This has really helped me to navigate life, respond to self-doubt, manage racism, any challenge of my blackness or and anti mixedness, to be open to gaining knowledge and hold my own in spaces that feel uncomfortable in the first instance. Don’t get me wrong both racism and anti mixedness hurts, and can feel like an open wound but I have been armed and have practiced coping mechanisms that help me to move on and make choices that work for me.
INTERVIEW WITH ILLAYDA BAKARE WORDS BY EBUN SODIPO
The following is an excerpt of an interview/ conversation between myself and Ilayda Bakere, a young Black mixed race woman of Turkish and Nigerian descent. She is an artist and mathematician. Here, I’ve asked her some of the key questions of this ToR and a few others. We chat about children, film and tv, travel and culture. E: How do you identify? In terms of ethnicity. I: I’d say… on home turf, I’d say I’m a Londoner, as that speaks louder than saying British. But if I were ever to go abroad, I’d say
I’m British, which doesn’t sound like much but I went travelling with a friend, from Kent, English, white girl kinda thing and she’d always say English and I would say British and we had an interesting chat about it. E: A good, interesting chat, or like an annoying interesting chat? I: I mean… it was more like, by English all that comes to mind for me is really like the English flag, like St George’s and that doesn’t… I don’t know, it’s just skinheads who fly it to make a statement about them being English. Whereas a British flag, not
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 27
“I’m a Black girl, but at the same time, I know that I have it easier than some dark skinned Black girls ...”
that anyone would wanna fly it in particular, and, you know, if you’re an ethnic minority or whatever, but that just kinda means you live in Britain. You can have Sikhs, or Scots, or that and the other and that’s still British. I feel like the British flag is a bit more, erm… yah I’d say I’m British. But also Turkish, and also Nigerian. E: And in terms of race, how do you identify? I: I’d say I’m mixed race. It’s easier, I come from two cultures. Instead of saying dual heritage or biracial. I grew up when mixed race was, you know that was cool. And, it’s still fine with me. Like I can see why you’d wanna say like dual heritage or this, that and the other, but I just say I’m mixed race. E: Do you identify as Black? I: I feel like more and more recently, I have, erm… not really necessarily since going to uni and anything like that. But it’s always been a thing that you’re… like I’m perceived in Turkey for example, as Black. Like if you’re slightly darker than white, you’re black. And, it’s like, okay cool. And then here, just by my dad being Nigerian, I’m Black and I’m Turkish. You, know, just like I’m Nigerian and I’m Turkish. So yah, I’m a Black girl, but at the same time, I know that I have it easier than some dark skinned Black girls, and that’s why I would be, erm… not like slow to say that I’m a Black girl, cause yah, I’m a Black girl, I’m also a Turkish girl. But I just think we need to acknowledge, especially 28 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
as a light skinned Black girl, that I have more privileges than dark skinned Black girls. Which is totally abhorrent but true. E: So is it that when you identify as Black, does it depend on the space or… I: I’d probably just call myself a person of colour. There’s all these women of colour movements and articles. And I identify with a lot of them. And I’m a person of colour, look at me, that nice caramel! Everyone in my house, including my mum, who is obviously Turkish and obviously a white woman, is like, ‘Yah, people of colour!’. She’ll go on marches for people of colour. She’s one of those allies, I suppose, that everyone should strive to be. Either woke, or an ally. We’ll come home and discuss race, and issues like Grenfell Tower and all the things that that has brought up. And we always reach the conclusion that Black people have been shat on from a great height for a long time. They, my mum and dad, go and watch documentaries, and be like ‘did you know the Scots funded the KKK’. And I’m like ‘okay, here we go’. And she goes, ‘Oh yah, you’d never guess’. When I was 8 they made me and my sister watch Roots. And I’m not gonna lie, it was a wake up call, but like by the time we got to the slave trade in Year 8, or whatever it was, I was ready. Come at me, you cannot phase me. Once you see Kunta Kinte being whipped for not wanting to be called Toby, it’s - it’s the only time I cried in that film. I was like, ‘you broke me’.
E: Did you see the remake? I: I didn’t know there was another one. Who’s in it? What is it, like a TV series? E: Yah. They’ve condensed like the whole of Roots into six episodes. Anyways… So, like both your parents have told you about being Black. I: Oh yah. Especially because it’s normally the mum who does the girls’ hair. I mean, that’s just a patriarchal thing as well. It’s not a race thing, that’s just a woman thing. My mum was always determined that we’d have natural hair and natural hair takes a certain amount of looking after. So we had canerows like the whole of primary school. She tried to get me to do it for secondary school and I was like ‘oh my god, no I don’t want it anymore.’ And I’d wear it in a little bun or whatever. But she learnt to canerow off her Irish friend, who was married to a Jamaican. They both had mixed race kids and were like ‘how we gonna do this?’ And the Irish woman learnt off a Ghanaian woman. They learnt was the point. They learnt how to manage it; they learnt about oils, about creams. And she, my mum, was like ‘you don’t have hair that’s like mine so I’m gonna learn about it and teach you about it when you’re older.’ And so she did. And I’m so grateful for that, because I feel like a lot of Brown girls that grow up and then, at like after secondary school, they go to uni, kinda get woke. You learn, you read, you whatever. And they’re like ‘ra, gonna do the big chop. I’ve had enough of relaxed hair, or whatever.’ And it’s like ‘right, now I’m gonna go on a journey to be who I am, and embrace
this body that I’ve been given, this hair that I’ve been given’. And I never had to do that. I see my friend doing it, and I’m like ‘you go, team natural all the way.’ But I’m so grateful to my mum that I never had to do that. E: So how does being Black and mixed race affect your relationships with the Turkish side of your family? Or does it? And the same thing with the Nigerian side of your family. I: So the thing with the Nigerian side of my family is that they all, especially when I was growing up, lived in Brixton. So if we ever wanted to see the Nigerian side of the family, they’re, what, twenty minutes away. If we ever wanted to see the Turkish side of the family, they’d all be in Turkey, speaking Turkish. We’d go once a year, I’ve been to Turkey like twenty times now, in a row, and it’s great. This is the first year I’m breaking that tradition. And it hurts me! But Turkey’s winning twenty - nil. I haven’t been to Nigeria. I wanna go. Me and my dad have a great relationship and we laugh loads. And he says ‘you’d really get on well with Nigerian people. You’d make them laugh too’. And I’m like ‘yah, of course I would, I’m funny’. But I took an interest in the Nigerian side of the family like 16, 17? We’ve always listened to Fela Kuti and stuff just at home and the same with Turkish rock, which is great. And I’m like… ‘what is this, what does this mean, what does wahala mean, I always hear it’. And he’s like ‘oh it’s trouble’. And he’s listening to all these Nigerian artists.
“My mum was always determined that we’d have natural hair and natural hair takes a certain amount of looking after.”
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 29
“I always felt more Turkish growing up. Like, I spoke Turkish, I still speak it. When we’re in Turkey people think we are foreign ...”
E: With your dad? I: Yah. And we’re the cousins with the natural hair. Our aunts would always come and start touching it. And they’d be like ‘oh you should try some weave, get some extensions, it’d really look good. I can recommend my hairdresser’. We’re like ‘yes, Aunty Shola’. We’d see them every now and then, Grandma would come round for dinner. But then, I always felt more Turkish growing up. Like, I spoke Turkish, I still speak it. When we’re in Turkey people think we are foreign, and so speak to us in English and then all of a sudden, we hit them with some Turkish and they’re like ‘oh my god, I never expected it!’ We just mess around with it, it’s so funny. When we were small and were getting the bus to the beach or whatever, our mum would put us on random people’s laps and she was like ‘can you just hold them for me. It’s a crowded bus, I don’t want them to stand up’. They’d be like, ‘wow they’re so beautiful. Their brown skin!’ And there’d be the touching of the hair… but we were like toddlers. When we grew up and started to be like ‘for god’s sake’. Mum would be like ‘no, Ilayda, tell them. If you don’t want them to touch your hair, then they shouldn’t touch it’. So it wasn’t like she came to save us from these random people, it was like if you don’t like it, you gotta let them know. Sometimes people would come up to us and be like ‘who is this woman with you? A tour guide?’ And I’m like, ‘this is my mother, I came out of her’. My favourite phrase is ‘think you’ve taken after your dad, haven’t you?’ And it’s like ‘nope’. My winter colour is more like my mum. It’s funny. 30 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
E: Okay, so we also wanted to look at the media as well and the representations of mixed race people in the media. And how, on one hand, obviously you have light skinned Black women playing Black characters on TV but then the focus on mixed race people is always like, white and Black mixed race people. And it really obscures other mixed race people. I: I’m not necessarily the wildest mix you could come up with. In terms of the white/ black contrasting. I told you about the mixed race girl in that Ed Sheeran video. And she’s east Asian and African mix, or African-American. And she looks really interesting, she’s so pretty in a way that you don’t see. And it’s unfair that you don’t see them, because people like that exist. And you’re made to feel like you’re an other, like you don’t fit into one of these boxes that we’ve put on these forms, white and Black African or you know. Yah, representation in the media is a pile of shit. Like I remember in the Fresh Prince, the mum, Vivienne, the actor just gets replaced. And we were like ‘who is this woman? Like another aunt, in the most African sense of the word, like is she just another aunty?’ And they started calling her Viv and we were like ‘that’s not her, that’s a younger, lighter skinned version of her. What happened to her?’ And then in media, it’s like how mixed race babies are… I don’t want to say the aim or the goal, but there’s a lot of like ‘such a cute mixed race baby, this, that and the other’. ‘Mixed with those green eyes’ and it like that goal.
E: Yah, you have a lot of people who are like ‘yah, I want a mixed race kid’. I: Or you could maybe… erm… have a partner who you really like and work from there. Like your gonna love the child regardless, I hope. I dunno. E: Yah, there’s a lot of desire for mixed race kids. I: That’s weird. E: Sometimes you get those articles that are like ‘oh, the UK will look like this in 2046’ and you’ll have an image of a light skinned, long blonde hair mixed race woman. I: With freckles and green eyes. Like, alright. E: Yah, this is what the world is gonna look like, okay. I: Wow, beautiful. I guess I’m now something at the back of the Argos store. E: It’s really strange. Well, it kinda strange. It’s just white people being like, ‘oh yah, we can totally not be racist but that means you guys disappear and there’ll be people who look more like us. Or like, ‘we’ll live on through these people’. I: It makes no sense. I said to my mum once, ‘cause there was this girl that we knew who got pregnant. White girl, and the guy she got pregnant with was a black guy and she had a really cute, obviously, mixed race baby. I said to my mum, ‘oh
she’s got this mixed race baby, and he’s so cute. I want a mixed race baby too but I’m not gonna have one because I’d have to get with a mixed race person to have a mixed race baby’. My mum was looking at me like ‘what is wrong with you? Where did this come from? Who have you been talking to? Why is that a goal?’ She was just like ‘you can just have a baby with the person you love and you’re gonna love it regardless.’ I dunno. I’d just been hanging around with all these white girls who were just loving the fact that he was mixed race. And I was like ‘I don’t get it if you like him because he’s mixed race, or because he’s this girl’s baby, or because he’s just a really cute baby boy’. And there’s never really a distinction between cute and brown. So you think cute and brown goes today but then he grows up and then he’s gonna be the one on the streets, like 6ft something being a threat to old white ladies. You can’t have it both ways. Yet they do. I’m waiting for karma to do its thing but it’s been a couple of hundred years and it hasn’t really kicked in yet. The fact that they generally tend to age badly isn’t good enough. It’s not okay. E: Let me get in my last question before we go. So, I’m wondering, because you’ve said that the way that white people, the media talks about mixed race children, having mixed race kids, but then I’m thinking of the Black presence in the UK. Did you see the documentary with David Olusoga. He went round the UK, looking at the places where Black people were before the 16th century. He spoke about the abolitionist Granville Sharp and his like, secretary or something.
“I just think culture can give you so much and it depends on what parts you want to take on”
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 31
“I’m lucky that I was presented with both sides of the culture growing up, so I haven’t had to do the personal discovery thing.”
He went to the secretary’s house with his seventh generation grandson. He had no idea that he had a black great grandfather. It made me wonder how you keep the Blackness going. I’m interested in what you think happens when you have mixed race people around, but they lose track, or somehow it’s not related to them that they have Black ancestry. I: Not being in touch with it can be… it’s just like culture is so enriching if you choose it to be. I know this girl, she’s mixed race. She has beautiful ringlet hair, and that’s kind of the only thing that she has to show that part of her. And she just lives with all these white people and she grew up to think she was white. She thought of herself as white until she came to street dance and we were like ‘nah, you’ve got another side’. I think her dad was Ghanaian, and there was this whole, who makes better jollof. Obviously Nigerians. But anyways, now it’s kinda of a whole other conversation that she could have with other people. But she wasn’t taught about it before, which I think is unfair, really. Because, I mean, I haven’t been to Nigeria but I listen to Nigerian music, eat Nigerian food. Pounded yam, Semolina, you name it, we do it. But I’m not about to mess with okra though, I’m not about that.
32 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
E: What? I: No thank you, it’s not my thing. E: I love okra… okay. I: I just think culture can give you so much and it depends on what parts you want to take on. But I just think everyone should be given the opportunity to tap into that. It’s rude to not tell someone, like, ‘by the way, there’s this whole other avenue about you that you could pursue if you want to’. It doesn’t mean everyone is gonna do it, but everyone should be told though. I was watching a video the other day, it was about people mispronouncing your name. There was this girl and she said that her name was all she had to say her dad was Eritrean cause she grew up with only white people, but they still had to pronounce my name right. And that was all she had and when she grew up, she decided to go to Eritrea, did some research into her dad’s family. I dunno, it was a cool thing to add to her, another layer to who she was. So in that sense, it’s really important. And I’m lucky that I was presented with both sides of the culture growing up, so I haven’t had to do the personal discovery thing. But I know a lot of people are not that lucky, which is a shame. Hopefully we raise a bunch of lucky people.
NOTHING COULD MAKE YOU LESS BLACK. WORDS BY EBUN SODIPO
BBDC (Black Boys Don’t Cry) - iggyldn
Nothing could make you less black. Or more black. There are no quantities to blackness. Your blackness makes you black That’s all there is. Your experience of blackness is blackness It is all you ever need.
You looking back on your life Knowing you are black Knowing your ancestors were black Knowing you have a genetic ancestral link to those subjugated for being black For having a black body From having this particular ancestry Experiencing your life with this knowledge This is blackness That’s all there is to it.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 33
It is important to remember that we are affected by our bodies; that our bodies in part determine how we (are allowed to) move through this world; and that we are forced to relate our bodies to other bodies that are most physically similar. This force is not simply a ‘natural’ one, but is almost always socially constructed and socially coerced. Representations of the bodies that can be, or are meant to be, read as black leaves impressions on those with this body, or similar bodies. Blackness is in part about this particular relation, between black people’s perception of their own bodies, including those that aren’t quickly read as black, and their knowledge of the ‘black body’ present only and always in the white imaginary. Our bodies become incredibly salient when we come to blackness. Some of us have similar bodies to the ‘black body’: that one with the Negro nose, 4c hair, full lips that Kylie Jenner would mutilate herself for, and skin darker than Pantone 59-4 C. We are affected particularly for this. Our blackness can never be denied, or removed from, us. Our blackness speaks for itself. Even when we are not conscious of it, we are affected by this bodily similarity. I think those of us who become conscious of our bodies and its blackness can never separate ourselves from blackness. It becomes inconceivable. We will always be read as black and there is no escaping from it. There is nowhere we can turn, no other we can become, no aspect of ourselves we could ever imagine to take refuge in. It must be said then, that those with bodies similar to the black body, in possession of ‘Bantu features’, who deny their blackness are casting an illusion upon themselves, a different illusion that I have cast upon myself I guess. Either that, or they are in a context where blackness is not read off their bodies; in a context where a narrower set of features that are legible as black than elsewhere in the world, than a place like London. (the racial categories that are in use in these contexts are arranged so as to pinpoint a person’s proximity 34 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
to African-ness/Blackness via their ancestry, and/ or are separated by skin tone which is used to determine proximity to Blackness/African-ness. Racial categories are not neutral or natural. They exist on a hierarchy. It is important I think, to know why individuals choose to identify with the boxes supplied by this categorisational logic; the extent to which agency is involved in this choosing and what kind of agency; and why they dis-identify. As I’ve tried to make clear above, the possession of a body that is similar to the ‘black body’ that comes from the white imaginary, as well as the knowledge of one’s African ancestry (and not in the sense that humanity is descended from Africa) inevitably result in the formation of blackness. For those with undeniably black bodies, identification with a racial category you are always told you are would seem inevitable. Our bodies are marked out by racial categorisation for our easy subjugation Dis-identification from blackness, with regards to those who are read as black, with bodies similar to the ‘black body’, and in Western contexts, I find is usually down to anti-blackness. Especially in contexts where ‘black’ describes a broad range of physical features and having only a few of these features results in that body being read as black. As opposed to situations where one can only be black if their skin is darker than a deep ochre. Identifying your body as a black body means identifying it as a body constantly under attack. And the first means of counteracting this is to love it. You must love all that makes this body black. You must learn to re-love your body, your black body. And you must learn to love your blackness. You must learn to love your body despite the anti-blackness of this world (this journey is harder for the darkest people). You carve out reality to create space for you to love your blackness. It is healing. It is protective. You learn to love your colour, your black features. The features that are so salient and visible for you
because you live in a world, a system of symbols, that targets those with these particular features. This is inseparable from blackness. No matter the proximity to the black body, these experiences of visceral anti-blackness (determined by physical bodily features) I describe above must be salient in black people’s conceptions of their blackness. And not only because it takes one away from Afro-centric conceptions of blackness (subSaharan africans are not the only people with bodies that can be read as black). Black people with bodies far in proximity to the ‘black body’ should always remember, when having that inner conversation that constitutes blackness, that
These things I share with all who identify as black. I do not share the inescapability of blackness with all black people, only some. Blackness is all-consuming. But I’ve learnt that this drowning and suffocating within blackness is the inception of a beautiful transformation. But blackness is liberatory. Blackness is radical.
We bear the brunt of anti-blackness. Our blackness is always visible, even in spite of our efforts to deny it. The concept of anti-blackness would be severely diminished if we were to throw these experiences aside as simple ‘essentialist notions of race and blackness’. It affects us so viscerally and constantly, it makes us hate ourselves even before we know we are black. We are forced to operate upon this essentialist ground because our bodies bind us to it. My body is a black body but also a body. The identification of non-black people, i.e. those with bodies far in similarity to the black body, with blackness usually leaves me feeling uncomfortable. It is, generally, not a political alignment, but an appropriative gesture. This is some of the reasons why I am defensive and apprehensive when I hear about or meet these people. They can, if so willing, discard their identification as black and find affirmation, straight away, as not-black. It will never be possible for me to do so under the current racial paradigm. Nor would I want to, precisely because of the political implications of identifying as black; the joy and freedom that comes with it; and the love I had to (re-) build for myself through this identification.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 35
‘Melilili’ by Delilah HollidayTHE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. 36 // REIMAGINING
JAMAICA OUT OF MANY WE ARE ONE. WORDS BY MELODIE HOLLIDAY I was born in England but my parents are from Jamaica. I feel odd when I think about Jamaica because I think about my ancestors being kidnapped there to pick sugarcane. It feels somehow artificial because I think my ancestors did not choose to go there. They were placed there due to slavery. Having an allegiance to a place in which it is possible that my family did not choose to migrate to seems relatively odd to me. I cannot celebrate where I come from without acknowledging that there is a huge “elephant in the room”. I see my ancestry as displaced. “Where am I from?” I cannot answer that question rationally without first thinking about the kidnap and brutality that happened to thousands of people who were then plonked on this island to make England great. Some would say “get over it” or look wearily at me and say, “you have such a chip on your shoulder”. But the question ‘where are you from’ continues to be uttered and somehow saying a small town in Britain is never quite satisfactory for the person posing the question. I have never been to Jamaica. Shock horror!
In some parts of Jamaica, the legacy of the land means that for some the fight for survival continues to be a struggle. We are all too familiar with the glossy brochures selling bright blue seas. However, for many folk in Jamaica it is far from the tourist attraction that is frequently presented to us. Buried deep into its infrastructure lies a forgotten story of European domination, slavery and brutality. Which has left many of its inhabitants impoverished and struggling to survive. England to them is a land steeped in imagined riches and anyone from there is considered as relatively rich by association. I am bracing myself before I go and see the real side of Jamaica that tourists don’t get to see. Beyond the hotel walls lies a land steeped in culture, a middle class black population that protects itself behind gated walls. Scholars, educators, academics, creatives, philosophers who are all beneficiaries of an outstanding but strict educational system. Additionally, there are also people who have been ravaged by Jamaica’s slave plantation heritage. It is a fact that the descendants of black slaves tend to be the poorest classes in Jamaica while white and mixed race descendants tend to be better off.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 37
Despite this Jamaica prides itself on its willingness to accept people from a diverse range of backgrounds. So when you next ask someone where they are from bear this in mind. My complex relationship with Jamaica continues when I remember my Chinese great grandfather on my mum’s side and my Indian grandmother on my dad’s side. I met my grandmother at my Father’s funeral for the first time, I was 15 and had been told all my life that I looked like her. She was a tall, beautiful Indian woman and meeting her for the first time really made me connect to my roots and the complex history of Jamaica’s past. Now when people want to categorise me I feel that it is important to tell people that my ancestors were displaced so therefore it is very hard to give a completely accurate description of where I am “really” from due to past injustices. In October, I will start my PHD exploring alternative /punk culture from a black perspective. I really want to travel to Jamaica to explore where I get this punky rebellious side of me from. I know the answer lies somewhere in my fearless Jamaican ancestry which I am keen to document. As a creative academic working at Shades of Noir as an
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editor and education developer, I am very lucky that my work involves making sense of my complicated past. My work is a great healing space in which I have the privilege of creating meaningful change. As a black women of mixed raced origin in a mixed relationship with mixed heritage children. I am extremely fortunate to be working in an environment that encourages the creation of safe spaces for marginalised groups to articulate experiences regarding oppressive structures and thus, liberation through the development of new discourses and practices within society and education.
BORN LUCKY. WORDS BY MELODIE HOLLIDAY
I am lucky fore I have been despised In equal measures by both black and white The mixed girls blows to my head still ringing As she tried to beat the shade out of me That her two white friends found so alarming
I am surrounded, “Is your Dad white?” I am sensing this is bad, very bad “No”, I replied wanting to survive this But we are the same here We are all brown
Mama, I’m confused what did I do wrong?
Mama, you did not prepare me for this
I can find nothing as hard as I try Think, think stupid! you must have Done something to deserve this I am too black for the whites And too white for the blacks
I knew this was coming But not that The hatred, the contempt, the history But I was mistaken I thought there was a place of peace Instead, I find hostility and suspicion Where do I belong?
Or at least that is what they are saying I didn’t know them and I did not utter a word Oh, how my body ached from the kicks and punches I cry into the night My ego bruised from wondering why?
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 39
BLACK BRITISH YOUTH AND THEIR FOCUS ON SKIN. WORDS BY MICHAEL UKAEGBU
Recently a video has been swirling around the internet, questioning whether Black British youth have an obsession with lighter skin and curly hair. It is a vox pop style compilation of videos of young people describing the type of guy or girl that they’re into. Practically all participants said the same thing: “light skin”, some even went as far as to say no “dark skins” as their preferences. You can find the video on Black British Banter’s facebook page.
skin people put on a pedestal? Some people may take offence to these questions, it’s not to say that people of lighter skin shouldn’t be praised, but it’s more why are they praised more than others, we’re all people at the end of the day. Take away our skin and our flesh and we’re all just hollow bones, so what really is it? As a young black man who has grown up in black British culture I feel like I have a couple of answers to these questions.
The obvious response to this video is that this fetishisation of lighter skin is disgusting and unnatural, and it really makes you think why? What is this obsession? Why are lighter
At a young age, we’re all pretty much doing the same thing: going to school, maybe going out with friends and then probably coming straight home. We spend most of
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our time looking towards our role models, whom at that age are most likely musicians and actors who look like us. The Kanye West’s’, the Jamie St Patrick’s, the Drakes, you kind of get the idea right? Being young and not really able to do much, we aspire to be able to live like them; to emulate their lives in anyway we can. Hip Hop is arguably the biggest genre of music currently, dominating the radio waves, meaning that this is most of what the youth listen to and the artists that they look up to. In most Hip Hop music videos today, be it American or British, the only women usually represented are mainly light skin, Latina or white with curvaceous figures. Not to say that this is every video but it’s definitely the majority. At that young age we take in everything we see, and since those are the only women we see in the lives and videos of these role models, we associate those types of women with success and luxury; and i’m guessing we then place them on that pedestal. If we want to see a change in the mindset of the youth, I think we first have to see a change in the mindset of these same role models.
skin debate is just irrelevant, small minded and any grown person still having it needs to take a look at themselves more, rather than whose skin type is more attractive. Even though I’ve blamed a lot of this problem on age, it’s still unacceptable that the young people still have this mindset. I imagine being darker skinned growing up especially as a little girl must be very hard and ideas like this cause many insecurities, which is heartbreaking. For the youth to change I think we have to take a hard look at the people they look up to, and make them aware of the power of what they choose to show the younger generations has.
Also, being that young, you want to fit into the crowd. You copy their clothes, the type of music everyone listens to and the type of girls or guys everyone likes. I feel like some of those young people have conditioned themselves to think lighter skin is better because that’s what everyone else is saying so they’ve just drilled it so far into their own heads that they just agree also. I feel that as you age, and get out into the world more and start thinking for yourself, and growing as a person you kind of realise that that whole light skin vs dark REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 41
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WHITE MOTHER, BLACK MOTHER. WORDS BY TIFF WEBSTER ..‘But if your dad is black and your mum is white, why do you look yellow? Why aren’t you…Grey?’ - 1998, UK I must have been about 4 or 5. I remember this question quite vividly and it puzzled me for a while. I remember thinking: ‘Yeah - she has a point’, I thought I was an alien at one point, a small yellow alien. Eventually, I thought about it less and less, as I would see other mixed race children of my complexion running around. There weren’t many of us though. I realised I wasn’t the only one, so I guess it didn’t really bother me at the time. That question has always stuck with me. Born in London, I identify as a black womxn of mixed heritage. Visibly of a lighter complexion. My father is black, first generation British, born of Caribbean descent (St Kitts and Nevis to be exact) and my Mother is white European, of Spanish descent born and raised in the Northwest Region of Spain, Galicia. An autonomous community with their own language (Gallego) and own heritage, culture and extensive history. My heritage, ranging from european Spanish and Portuguese to African caribbean descent with their ancestors originating from West Africa.
I grew up in this region of Spain from the age of 10 -16. During my stay of 6 years, I made some of my closest and dearest friends, that to this day still remain close to me. During my youth I have dealt with heavy microaggressions, manifesting into low selfesteem and self-confidence, I would even go as far as to admit that there were signs of self-hate, anti-blackness around the ages of 13-15. I remember resenting my black visible features, ie: the shape and size of my nose, I would religiously attempt to lighten my skin with lemon juice and flat iron my hair daily. Stripping my hair of all of its natural oils and nutrients for years on end, until brittle and irreparable. I didn’t know what a ‘protective style’ was, or how to ‘deep condition’. I was never taught these things nor knew of them until a later stage in my life and thanks to Youtube, of course. I hated the fact that I looked different to my friends and that no boy would ever approach me like they would approach my friends, it was deeper than just ‘not feeling pretty enough’. After writing the first Intro Piece on ‘Reclaiming Mixedraceness’ I found that I couldn’t or didn’t wish to communicate with my Mother (who currently lives in Spain) for almost a month. I was thinking about how much of a role she played in my upbringing in Spain and when I was going through all of these issues and how she was unable or
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 43
unaware to support me through them at the time. I kept thinking that I went through perhaps a lot of unnecessary self-hate that could’ve been prevented. I would avoid speaking to her or communicating with her for ages, with excuses of feeling ill or having deadlines to complete work. I would find myself delaying communication with her as I felt that I had to deal with many issues that resurfaced after writing that Intro piece and a follow up on the relationship I had growing up with my hair. I found that I was dealing with a lot of resentment, anger and pain, that I felt like it could’ve been avoided to a certain extent if I had the support and guidance around me at the time I was dealing with self-hate and the age that I was. I found myself angry at her for not doing more, but unsure in what way I expected her to act or react. My mother is my mother and I can’t change the past nor the decisions made. I found myself working through these feelings and eventually communicating with her again but could no longer continue writing on the ‘mixed race series’. Additionally, I had recently been thinking about this caption that I saw posted on Instagram, highlighting the ‘fact’ that (not all) but most mixed race individuals whose mothers were white seemed to not really identify with their blackness and even perpetuate anti-blackness, in comparison to mixed race individuals from black mothers whom had a ‘deeper maternal’ connection to their blackness because of the maternal connection to their mother and the mother’s role in passing down culture and traditions to their children. I found many commenting and agreeing with this, again, not in generalised terms but they found this to be true in many cases. I also engaged in the discussion, adding that it really depends on the environment and the mother’s efforts in engaging with their mixed childs heritage and teaching them or providing them with resources to embrace, love and learn about their blackness, have a relationship with their blackness even if their black fathers are absent. Yet these conversations seemed to keep recurring, I found myself attending an event at Goldsmiths University around the topic of adoption of mixed heritage children, the same 44 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
discussion arose regarding black mothers and their mixed race children and that they were less likely to experience an ‘identity crisis’. I had to leave the room at that point. Overwhelmed with emotion, I questioned at that point if because my own mother was white and I struggled in my teenage years with my blackness and with my identity and the fact I never had that ‘deep maternal’ connection that they speak of, was I never going to ‘understand’ or fully be connected to my own blackness? Through that period and reflecting upon those series of events, I find that it’s important to speak and write about these topics. For me it seems as though it had served as a release and an opportunity to fully deal with and explore trauma and/or feelings I had subconsciously been holding onto for a while. Upon reflection, I still stand by my response to the Instagram post on the topic of Black Mothers, White Mothers. It does all depend on the relationship you have with your mother and their input and the environment you find yourself in, they are all factors that contribute to how you grow and learn to identify as an individual. It’s also helpful to be open and discuss these topics with our mother’s whenever possible, something I myself have yet to start doing. It’s never too late to start.
‘ERES NEGRA, PERO NO ACTÚAS COMO UNA NEGRA’. WORDS BY TIFF WEBSTER
VeíaVeo mi reflejo en las caras de les que vendían venden en las calles de La Coruña también me veíanven A mi, La mulata, La Negra ‘‘mirala como va, la morenita esa’’ ‘‘Morenita’’ me llamaban, por no llamarme Negra. de La Mulata nunca se habló nunca se la llamo pero de a La Negra, Si <cabello de paja y cara de garbanzo> E juapa para ser Negra.. The fetishisation of my SKIN La Mirada Siempre persigue a lo exotico Prostituta? . No, Consumida.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 45
UNLEARNING DADDY LESSONS.
‘‘I always knew you were gay, ever since you were four or five. I guess I wasn’t happy with it but over time I came to terms with it – I guess it’s just like me being attracted to black women”. Stunned into silence, I looked into my father’s blue eyes, pale skin and flaxen hair and realised my disconnect from him stemmed not just from our physical disparity, but a complete absence of shared experiences.
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It’s a strange feeling knowing that my existence came about through fetishisation as well as love. It’s a strange feeling knowing that my existence came about through fetishisation as well as love. It’s equally strange to me that my father has used this fetishisation as a means to find common ground with me, as a means to repair our relationship. This is something I take now to be a tacit acknowledgement that he sees being attracted to black women as being unusual and deviant in the wake of how he has spoken
about LGBTQ people in the past, despite how accepting he is trying to be now. Recently, while texting two different men saved in my phone as daddy, I realised I had gone two months without speaking to my father. I think this sums up my relationship with my dad pretty well: we may not be particularly close at this point but it’s clear he has shaped my sexual relationships more than any other male figure. I spent far too much time fucking older men solely as proxy for his approval, spent far too much time dating white men who wet their lips while describing me using words synonymous with exotic, spent too long objectifying myself on the basis of my race and sexuality because I thought that was all I could do. These things take time to unlearn, but remembering that children do not bear responsibility for the sins of their fathers helps me acknowledge that my disgust with my dad’s attitude is valid.
me”. I no longer believe that this comes from a desire for his respect: instead I have learned from experience that this kind of argument with white men is generally futile, that any point you make is seldom applied within the wider context of inequality. It is applied only to an individual’s hurt. Maybe this is the true lesson I have learned from my father, one that I can only assume he never mastered from his reaction to my sexuality: the power of silence. Originally published on Blackout UK. Republished with permision of the author.
I guess I’m dealing with my dad’s attitudes towards race and sexuality through acknowledging they are dialectical: they are not my opinions and feelings, but nevertheless have shaped me in that I have had to fight against a lot of self-loathing stemming from being made to feel like an aberration, or a tool for my dad to prove he’s down. Writing this has been another step coming to terms with these attitudes, but every step raises more questions. Now I’m left wondering why I am comfortable discussing these things with anyone but my dad, to the point that I can write paragraphs detailing intimacies and resentments to share with the world but I cannot say to him: “this hurts REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 47
JosĂŠ MarĂa Morelos is a national hero recognised for his insurgent struggle in the independence of Mexico. The official history has systematically erased its Afro origin, coming to present its image like that of a white-mestizo, being that its origin, phenotype and fight prove the opposite. In my portrait I rebound the paliacate in its head characteristic of black people, a more African phenotype symbolizing the part of their struggle as abolitionist as well.
Given the ignorance of the origin and time of existence of the Olmec people, the anthropologists and historians named it culture mother speaking alone of the ancestral presence of black people in Mexico.
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy.
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The mulatto of Cordoba is a legend that speaks of the black woman empowered in the knowledge of the properties of healing of the herbs and an outstanding beauty, demonised by the Inquisition and condemned to the bonfire. But his power made her slink away like water in her hands from a colonial dungeon.
Little is known that the internationally known revolutionary Emiliano Zapata has Afro ancestry, born in a place of black communities of sugarcane plantations, it is said that his grandmother was black and grew up surrounded by a community in constant revolt before the oppressor. The quote is attributed to him: land and freedom, worthy of any black revolutionary.
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 49
The dance of the Devils is practically the link identity that unites Afro communities in the Costa Chica of Mexico. Strongly Sincretizada with the local spirituality and the religion of the oppressors, the dance maintains the pulsation of Africa in the Zapateado, the same pulsation that repeats again and again: we refuse to forget our origin.
Yanga, itâ€™s certainly the biggest Maroon symbol in Mexico. This man born in Africa and a victim of slavery, fought for more than three decades against the armies of the Spanish Crown defending his right to be free he and his people; It is recognised for establishing the first free people place of America, originally called San Lorenzo de los Negros and now Yanga.
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy
Acrylic on canvas, artisan wood frame and vinyl detail. Author Ras Levy.
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Steni and Matthew
I create life-size oil paintings that use the figure to explore issues of multiculturalism, identity, representation and race. My work is created in response to my own conflicting feelings of belonging as a woman of mixed-race, which are compounded by the limited representation of diverse narratives by and of people of colour in art history and popular culture. In early 2017 I explored the importance of visual representation of diverse family narratives in the solo exhibition
Loving; desiring to draw attention to the Loving v. Virginia supreme court caseâ€™s 50th anniversary, and highlighting Minnesotan families as the painting subjects. It is important to increase the visual representation of multiracial realities in our cultural institutions. I use my artwork as a vehicle to talk about race with complexity and nuance, and from a place of vulnerability and personal experience.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 51
With this work, my desire was to facilitate conversations with Minnesotans that would bring to the forefront typically marginalized stories and experiences. The invisibility of multiracial realities has sent an unhealthy and inaccurate message to people and families with these lived experiences, and has impacted the way American people perceive family normalcy and belonging. With a reported 1 in 10 Minnesotan marriages being interracial (and growing), I see the urgency in shining light on diverse experiences of mixed people and families, as well as putting forward stories that can both unite us and deepen our analysis of the state of racial issues in this world.
Stephen, Jeffrey and Twins
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Leslie Barlow is a practicing artist living and working in Minneapolis, MN. Primarily an oil painter, Barlow’s current work employs the figure and narrative elements to explore issues of multiculturalism, “otherness”, representation, and identity. She investigates complex topics and social tensions through the use of the personal; often creating works depicting family, friends, people in her community, and personal experiences, to reflect the subtle and not-so-subtle integrations of these ideas into individual lives and identities. Barlow received her BFA in 2011 from the University of Wisconsin- Stout and her MFA in 2016 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Kelsey, Sergio, Aaron and Zene
Aryca, Win, LulaThan and AvenThan
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 53
CLAY. WORDS AND WORK BY JADE MONTSERRAT
Clay came about from work developing from a project called The Rainbow Tribe. The Rainbow Tribe is a set, a scene, located in a space interrupted by borders. The Rainbow Tribe consciously interrogates enclosures without risk of damage. Writing The Rainbow Tribe offers a re-imagining of a real life fiction projected on and from the career and life of Josephine Baker. But the protagonist, masking gender neutrality, requires plurality and rejects characterisation. A methodology formed / in<>formation by examining wide uses of the rainbow.
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The landscape Clay is shot in skirts the home I have lived in all my life. Prior to filming I made sketches detailing an idea called Mud Pies. These loose sketches described the landscape and a digging taking place in it â€“ balls of mud feature prominently in these sketches. When we came to film we made a list of the sites I was eager to visit. I had imagined digging with my hands, as I had done as a child, to find clay to model with, forgetting that I mostly came across the clay at the duck ponds, carved out of this earth to create false temporary homes. I had walked Andrew and Caitlin Webb Ellis to a site where Iâ€™d
intended to create a version of the performance Go Spin You Jade. Go Spin You Jade, incidentally, is an old slogan, quoted in the Southern States during the American Civil War against Women abolitionists in the North. When we arrived at the site this giant playground for mud-pie making was there, ready for the action I proceeded to make. The hole in the ground will have been made to divert water pipes as a narrow tunnel stretched from this area to the right of the frame towards the stream where I later washed myself. Clay, as understood by Alan in his wonderful article, is about humans gouging the earth, humans being gouged from the earth, about rebuilding and the vulnerability we face in attempting to do this in isolation. ******* “Reproduction and death condition the immortal renewal of life: they condition the instant which is always new. That is why we can have a tragic view of the enchantment of life, but that is also why tragedy is the symbol of enchantment. The entire Romantic Movement may have heralded this, but that late masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, heralds it most humanely.” Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil “Perhaps this year the two of us can go off to Scarborough?’ suggested Monica “Or maybe somewhere else, just for the day.” “Really? You’d come with me to Scarborough?” Caryl Phillips, The Lost Child “Nay-ay! Ya muh goa back whear yah coom fraugh” Wuthering Heights
St. Mary’s car park graveyard: the site of Anne Bronte’s grave and the symbolic locus of ideas endeavouring to trace personal and collective histories. Burial: digging deep into the ground; cover; cyclical; embodied by the womb. “’I wish I could hold you’, she continued bitterly, ‘till we were both dead!” PEAT BOG, made with filmmakers Webb-Ellis, is an attempt to combine an understanding of a nurturing landscape with the terrain recalled in Wuthering Heights. The vignette details performance. The performance is an act of remembrance generated by the landscape and inherently, passively by personal histories. Heathcliff, representative of the dispossessed, and I are aliens dropped into this ancient landscape. Appearances suggest we were not meant to be here. Alienation is magnified by a landscape scarred by borders, raised inscriptions of territorial ownership. The body can become heavy, sluggish, destablised, this is reinforced by isolation. The territory is bleak, remote, unforgiving, unhearing, without union or unity with other bodies. The separations between Heathcliff and Catherine are all the more awesome through the breathtaking union between their souls. Cementing their union is the landscape. Heathcliff and I fall under a net of unbelonging although fully of this landscape. This is in part to do with belonging as humanity, as a universal citizen of the world. REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 55
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I have spent all my life in Highdales, 2 miles off the beaten track from a village called Hackness, 9 miles West of Scarborough town: in a house with generated electricity, it’s own spring, gas lights, not a neighbour in sight. I came to live here through my mother’s marriage to a local solicitor and country farmer whose family had bought the land without knowing the properties on it even existed. The land was used by him and his brother, an international arms-dealer as a playground and the land is still used as a shoot. Following divorce my mother retained the house and maintains it as her home. It is an island amidst territory.
Peat bogs have been forming for 10,000 years. Life-support. Walking, running, jumping until we’re on the verge of collapse.
The landscape, well trod and listened to, is ancient and demands a giving way to instinct and surrender to its pulse. Connections made issue as do through observational drawing demanding not recording what I think I know but what can be seen. Evidence stems from archives: oral; art historical; secular and non-secular traditions and events; land ownership.
Beginning continues and unchartered territory will see collaboration with Webb-Ellis applying these initial steps to developing this project in Wales: locating Wales as Britain’s first colony. Filming on the Pembrokeshire coast, where my grandmother’s family herald, the idea is to accentuate the elemental through communion, memory and historical references, excavating buried narratives: a coracle workshop will be initiated with the aim of creating a float of pyres. This will be the second iteration of four, of this project now entitled Chronicle and will trace histories and weave narratives from as yet unknown sites of ancestral belonging: Scarborough, Wales, Ireland and Montserrat.
Site notes: The deepest peat-bog deposits worked on in the vicinity were Peat Bog Moor on the Hackness Estate near the Falcon Inn off the Scarborough to Whitby Road. Here all the tenants of the estate had right of turbary. At the present day the bog, situated in the midst of trees planted by the Forestry Commission, is not as deep as it was and is confined to one acre. The performance details choreographed trammeling of this landscape. A drone follows. Stamping out with the threat of force from above. Peat bogs, the UK’s rain forests: the material of preservation, warmth and growth, the past layered in its mass and beginnings visible on its surface. Sovereignty of the soil. Survival. Peat bogs are endangered, the irony being that they are pillaged for gardeners. The conflict between the force of nature and the control of nature. 96% of peat lands have been destroyed in this century. Conservation. Preservation. Education and the reformulation of ideas.
“...their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Martin Luther King Jnr
The questions are geo and bio – political, of universality. The challenge is to pass the caring on. Articulating a different kind of usefulness might be. What is the true purpose of our illimitable nature? New and revised systems. The communion I speak of are performances enacted through surrender to the unknown or unfathomable. This allows for rituals to take place, for celebration, for grief, lamentation, desperation and belonging with the dead. “…the state of emergency is always a state of emergence.” Homi K. Bhabha, Foreword to the `1986 edition of Black Skin White Masks. REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 57
I’ve become demon. The more I’ve transitioned, the more parallels I have seen between the reactions towards monsters within films and the reactions towards myself. An affinity has grown between us. I am blackzilla. The exotic creature from an unknown place bringing it’s demonic powers. The Powers of repulsion and destruction. So, I must be destroyed. Erased. Hidden from sight. They want to kill me simultaneously coupled with they want to fuck me. I am a Medusa. As if my tranny existence rids men of their masculinity and offends the sensibilities of women. I am somewhere in between fantasy and frustration. I am recoiled from. Spat on as I am beckoned to enter into the car that’s been tailing me. My film ‘Moisturizing’ is an animation I have created with the intention of capturing my fall into the demonic. Where I bask in *fire* while trying to find safety in a place that doesn’t supply one. A need to become something that allows me to more easily transition. I identify as a Black Trans Demon. My pronouns are they. I am definitely not a human.
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REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 59
D.N.A (Discourse on Natal Ancestry).
WORDS BY MONIQUE L. ETIENNE
For Christmas my mum got our DNA tests done. Sometimes people find the answers are unsurprising, other times they provide revelations. For me, it was a little of both. Although I had a good idea of my background, seeing my genealogy - a mix of West African, British/Irish and some Southern European on my dadâ€™s side, Eastern European and Ashkenazi Jew on my mums- I began to imagine the stories that had gone into this present incarnation of ancestry and the stories, both beautiful, ugly, joyful and sad, that had been told.
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My Caribbean family has suffered the trauma of slavery, my grandparents moved to one of the most racist areas of London, Dagenham, to raise a family and work hard in a country that loathed and marginalised them. My motherâ€™s father, a Hungarian Jew born in poverty, escaped the war. His sister died in the Holocaust. My maternal grandmother was also born in poverty, was one of fourteen children, ten of whom survived. Over the years, I have grown to see so many similarities in both sides of my family. I have learned a lot about love, and sacrifice, and the many faces of trauma.
These are the things that provide the person that you are. Reclaiming your relationship with both these sides is a process, and a beautiful, interesting, and at times very difficult one. My Blackness represents many things to me, and it is never Eurocentric. By this I mean I do not place it in contrast to a white, neutral identity. It is not Other. It is in and of itself complete as a history and a struggle, that still continues to this day, that exists within me and my DNA. This is despite the fact that the European blood present in my father’s side means that I am marginally more caucasian. I still feel 50/50. The stories I imagine because of where this blood came from can move me to tears but still this is a part of my past, present and future. And there could be still another story asking to be told. My Nan’s father was from Montserrat, and many of Cromwell’s Irish exiles were sent to the Emerald Isle, and had marriages with Africans. These unions must also be celebrated as defiance in the face of oppression and segregation. Mum’s heritage is not the heritage of colonizers, but there is a different struggle and a different trauma. And yet, in some ways they are the same. I think often of the experiences of my maternal grandparent’s and wonder how it must of been growing up in Hungary during and just after the War, when the country fell in the grip of heavy Communism. The Jews, like them or not, are one of the most persecuted people in Western history, having for 2000 years been exiled and persecuted in Europe and the Middle East: “Early Christian thought held Jews collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. This religious teaching became embedded in both Catholic and Protestant theology during the first millennium, with terrible consequences for Jews.” (Antisemitism:The Longest Hatred, no date in Ushmm.org) In more recent times, the lasting trauma experienced by Jews who survived the camps is scientifically recognised in illnesses, particularly of mental health, that may affect the children of survivors. (Yehuda.R, 2016) My mum had an autoimmune illness, Crohns,
that is only present in people of Ashkenazi descent. (The Mount Sinai Hospital, 2012) The colour of your skin obviously influences many things in life. My best friend is also mixed race. She has soft ringlets as opposed to my kinky ‘fro, and African features, whereas my features are more European. She went to Private School as well as State school, while I went only to State school. She has experienced direct racism, while I have not. Our skin colour is fairly the same shade of brown, she may be a little lighter. I understand that my lighter skin affords me some privileges, and I try to deny myself them. Within my life, I move in circles where equity and ethics are the currency. I like to think it is not the colour of my skin that gave me my achievements. Being mixed race, you are aware from an early age of the disparities of your race and culture. Visual cues, of course, make the cultural differences apparent. Some anxiety can exist there, but as I grew up I realised that many of those differences were preserved by external influences, and not actually how I felt about my life and my family. Society tells you that there will be a major difference, some deep crevice between worlds in the way families of different backgrounds function. On the surface that seems to be true, and everyone experiences different levels of pain, discomfort and anxiety. But deep down, we are really all the same. For some the burden is greater, and the sorrow deeper, but Humankind is masterful in creating fresh suffering for itself. Being mixed race is something you always wonder about when you are. I like to think of my race as a big ? because it is a question of identity and what it, the idea of race even means in the first place. The idea of race is Colonial, as it was they who empirically defined a race being inferior or superior by the colour of the skin. And the idea of borders is all Human. We mustn’t forget how much fear can move us, and a word control us. Still, race is race now- it exists as a vestige of those times and thus as a reminder. The fact that the very act of racially identifying yourself is still political shows how far we have come. REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 61
62 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED Jiggy, Newby, Square - Gerard Hanson RACE EXPERIENCE.
Colin & Vinny - Gerard Hanson
In one paragraph explain the artwork you have submitted?
How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook?
My Art Practice uses photography, print and painting to explore the image of people and place, exposing the visual legacies of Colonialism. Ultimately the intention is to explore and expose ideas of displacement, assimilation and exclusion, wrapped up in a duality of existence and identity. The work investigates and represents current generations who move back and forth from Jamaica. How do you currently identify as?
In and out depending the person or people How easily/frequently are you read as black? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? Rarely recognised as black, perhaps middle eastern! Association and scepticism is the main obstacle in life, feeling ‘out of place’ both ‘here and there’.
Black Jamaican Father and family REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 63
TIFF WEBSTER. BA SCULPTURE, CAMBERWELL (2017)
How do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community or other? Has how you identify changed with time or has it always been the same? I currently identify as an black womxn from mixed heritage. I identify as such because I grew up in two different countries and cultures within Europe, yet don’t identify fully with either nationalities (British and/or Spanish), even though I have a Spanish passport and since birth, my nationality has been Spanish on paper, 64 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
I’ve grown up most of my life here in the UK, in North West London to be exact, (as this specific geographical area of London has also shaped my experience). Most of my life I have been made aware of my ‘otherness’ and my blackness in predominantly white spaces from the age of ten, when I left the UK to live in Galicia for six years. Living in Spain, from my experience, I found that there was no room for racial ambiguity or mixed heritage identities. You were either black, moro, gitano, chino or white. In many countries of Europe if you have certain
distinct features and are of a certain skin tone, you are automatically categorized and classed as black. My only experience of being called a ‘lightie’, ‘mixedrace’ and/or other was during my navigation through London from the age of sixteen and the nuances of these experiences all lead to how I define and identify myself to date. What is the influence or impact of your heritage? And how has that shaped your identity and your outlook? It has shaped my entire outlook and being. I truly believe if I were a few shades darker and/ or had 4c hair, or if I had different features, my experience of growing up in Northern Spain would have been a lot different. Any slight changes that would lead me to be perceived more ‘european’ or more ‘African’ from that lens, can shape an entire upbringing. Being of mixed heritage and of a lighter skin tone here in the UK has played an intricate part in putting my identity into perspective and learning more in depth about my own privileges and how to exercise them in benefit of the black community and in other occasions when to check myself and step back. In Spain, I never had to do any of these things, this was never my experience or narrative. In Spain, I was ‘La Negra’, just the black girl. Nothing more, nothing less. Visiting St Kitts & Nevis for the first time this year with my family I also was made hyperaware of my complexion and how I was perceived, even amongst family members. Almost instantly, I would be identified as a tourist and as ‘English Gal’, but I would keep telling myself it was my clothing and/or how I dressed, perhaps it was all of these things at once, but the hyperawareness of my skin and what it meant in the Caribbean stayed with me throughout my stay in St Kitts & Nevis.
What impact does your heritage have on your relationships with the wider ethnic communities you are part of? More specifically, how does your heritage impact your relationship or reception within the black community? Whilst I think about this question, I find that this, perhaps, is asking and/or hinting towards there being a ‘problem’ or ‘difficulties’ and/or ‘trauma’ that automatically goes hand-in hand with being of mixed-heritage. Feelings of resistance arise when I think of this, but ultimately within our current reality and structure of White Supremacy where colorism is our collective violent reality, understandably, being of mixed heritage in Europe will inherently lead to a variety of experiences that may stay with the individual forever. My heritage does impact the relationships I have and have had with family members and friends, more so with my Spanish side more than my Caribbean side. I have experienced more ingrained traumatic experiences that I’m still working through today even at my firm stance of identifying as a black womxn of mixed heritage. Within the black community, I personally haven’t felt like I was ‘unaccepted’ or that I was never ‘black enough’; which is the common underlying narrative that is circulated about mixed heritage individuals from the black community. How easily/frequently are you read or someone identifying you as black and/or from mixed heritage and/or racially ambiguous before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? I am often read as of mixed heritage, mostly automatically being assumed as white english with black. Very rarely would I just be asked without assuming that I was mixed black heritage. I’m not sure how it has affected my movements,other than REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 65
growing accustomed to being asked and questioned when I meet new people, most often I find it’s a conversation starter for many. The approach is what I have had trouble navigating, as many approaches are invasive, at times the language automatically objectifies me, ie. : ‘What are you?’, ‘You look so exotic, where are you from?’. During my teenage years In Spain the only boys/men that would approach me were boys/men who had a ‘thing’(fetish) for black women or for ‘morenas’ in particular. In the UK I didn’t find that this changed much, coming from both within the black community and outside. I became and still am hyperaware of the festishisation of my body. What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media? I think ‘the mixed race aesthetic’ has become a trend on our social media platforms. Especially platforms such as Instagram, with the hashtags and the circulation of mixed race children imagery by individuals as a desire to just attain as an accessory, categorising the mixed race ‘aesthetic’ as the ‘cutest’ or most ‘beautiful’ children; within the same vein these ideas are associated to all genders of mixed heritage that seem to be festishised and exoticised on these platforms. The media of course, will seize this as an opportunity to market the aesthetic and profit from the ‘trend’, by only using racially ambiguous models, children, individuals for their products, and also as a form of ‘diversifying’ their image, their films, series, their companies, etc. The natural hair community also seems to be solely centered by racially ambiguous type 3 hair types, which has also caused copious debates.
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Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary? Yes, but I’m also conflicted. I believe language is extremely important, it goes hand in hand with how and why we place signifiers and how we identify, without language how to we validate the existence of an individual or their identities? Without a language that is constantly updated to be able to keep up with the times and the term the many mixes, the displacements, the heritage how are we to even engage in conversations about Race or even about mixed race identities? At the same time, I feel it is paramount that we don’t get too lost in the sauce and still remember that mixed race identities from black heritage in my view are black and should be able to claim validity in their blackness and their heritage without thinking they are not seen as ‘black enough’. What are your thoughts on ‘A Mixed Race Future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations? I feel as though conversation on mixed race identities tirelessly center and perpetuate whiteness. Centering the circulated myth that all mixed race identities that are from a white parent have an inferiority complex and are experiencing an ‘identity crisis’. Which is probably one of the reasons as to why I was so reluctant and resistant to lead on this ToR to begin with. I’m resistant to this narrative and I feel like I have no place within it. I’ve also had quite a firm stance on my racial identity and my gender. My sexuality is more fluid and is something I am still exploring, but in terms of my racial identity
and my gender I’ve never questioned them to date. I identify with the vessel I’ve been assigned at birth and currently inhabit. Whilst interracial dating and the arguments that ‘we are all mixed and no one is pure’ occur and circulate, the facts are that the mixed race population is on the rise globally, nonetheless this doesn’t erase the fact that Racism still exists, that White supremacy is still very much structurally in place, and it doesn’t matter how many mixed race babies are born as a way to ‘transcend racism’ and promote unity and acceptance. I sometimes feel as though this is only serving as a buffer to surface over the reality of oppression. If we choose to shift our focus on believing that racism no longer exists because two people from different ethnicities come together and create a child, we are treading a very dangerous path. Nor do I engage in ‘Post-Racial’ discussion nor do I promote it. We don’t live in a post-racial world currently, we don’t live ‘outside’ of race. We are currently living in a state of urgency for all PoC, all QTIPOC, all disabled bodied and Indigenous bodies; we don’t have time to say that ‘we’ve transcended race’ whilst our agency is being stripped from us, our bodies being brutalised, our identities erased, our voices being silenced and our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, siblings, lovers and community killed in front of us. I can only speak of now, I feel like we are living the future in our present and presently I believe these conversations of PostRacialism are unhelpful. I’m not here for it.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 67
RHIAN SPENCER. BA SCULPTURE, CAMBERWELL (2016)
How do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community? I currently identity as black British, however when people asked me the question “what are you” I’ll explain that I... Firstly, it was through family, my Mum always told me that both my parents are black so I am black. It wasn’t until I was in secondary school and was with other people of colour that my identity was questioned, I was questioned about my identity because of how I look. My hair used to be called ‘coolie hair’ by others and people always used to say things to me like: ‘You have nice hair for a black boy’. Then, when I went back and had the conversation with my Mum she would reassure me that I was black and spoke of our heritage. How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook? My Mum is Jamaican with Indian mixed, so I guess she’s classed as ‘coolie’ and my Dad is mixed race, he’s half Kenyan and half Goan, so they are both pretty similar, both black and mixed Indian. I feel that all people’s heritage will have an influence and an impact on their outlook in life in some way. I don’t really think about how it has affected me, it hasn’t affected me negatively, but other people, predominantly black people have always drawn attention to the texture of my hair, and always ask me what I am. I guess growing up, that made me feel special, as I was always told I have 68 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
‘nice’ hair, however, as I’ve got older and I have been educated, I realise that the reason many black people feel that my hair is nice is because of being taught to believe that their hair isn’t. This has tainted how I feel when someone comments that I have nice hair now. How easily/frequently are you read as black, i.e. someone identifying you as black before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? I feel black, I am black, I don’t consider my cultural mix to not be black. I think that most people consider a person to be mixed race, if you are mixed with white. I am a clearly a black person, but you can see that I have an Asian mix, and I am asked other than to make me feel special when I was younger, and sometimes I feel it’s intrusive, as it can be t one of the first questions I am asked when I meet someone. My mum reminded me that growing up Asian communities would ask about my race; I don’t remember this, but feel that it must have had an impact on how I feel about myself. To constantly have people discuss your looks as if they are unusual or special, have made me feel more self-aware at times.
Do you think that there is a difference in how a mixed person is treated based on gender or shade of skin in creative education? I can only speak from personal experience, and I would say, no, I don’t feel that I was treated differently due to the shade of my skin but there wasn’t many other black/ mixed race men during my time at art school but that’s another issue in itself. What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media? It’s predominantly people that are mixed with white and obviously and that’s why I think those that are of dual heritage that aren’t mixed with white would class themselves as ‘black mixed’ instead of ‘mixed race’, because of what’s portrayed in the media. I feel like the media is saying that you can only be ‘mixed race’ if you are mixed with white. I’m not a mixed race person mixed with white so I don’t identify with what’s circulated in the media or that term. Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary?
the perception that light skin black people, or mixed race people are more attractive within society as a whole. I believe that this ideology is permanently cemented in some people’s subconscious, and no amount of conversation or debate will change that. I think positive images of dark skinned black people being portrayed to black people from a young age is having a positive impact through social media, and will only continue to grow, which will have a positive impact on future generations. In the last 5 years black people seem to be taking control of their own image through social media, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that there has been a recent influx of films and tv programmes with black actors in leading roles. What are your thoughts on ‘A mixed race future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations? I’m aware that it’s been stated that everyone will be mixed race in the next 500 years or so or along those lines, so I guess people will be having these conversations, now more than ever I’m seeing more people of dual heritage. In terms of living in a world where race doesn’t exist, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
I feel as if the light skin/dark skin/mixed race debate, and the privileges that light skinned, or mixed race black people have over dark skin people have been discussed for decades. It doesn’t appear to have changed REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 69
GABRIELA CHASE. BA INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, GOLDSMITHS
How do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community or other? Has how you identify changed with time or has it always been the same? None of the above. History nor society has assigned myself the correct/or related identity exactly to my own. It is a sign of the failure of knowledge construction and of the mentality of the same source. How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook? *Shaped my distance, would be more appropriate for me I feel. I identify as Black-mixed race and that does more for society than it will ever do for myself. How easily/frequently are you read as black, i.e. someone identifying you as black before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of?
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I got cautioned under the terrorist act when I was 13 waiting for my white friends for too long, so say the police. I am the acceptable darkness for non-black people and the constant reminder of our grief to (some) black people. Being mixed race is contextual. It means you have no autonomy or place in history. My Blackness is ambiguous as they just don’t want to believe that Black can also look like me too. What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media? All imagery of mixed race people in the media has never been controlled by mixed race people so what can we say about that? Again, having no control over your definition being dis-allowed to live authentically as people, of any racial background, feel they have more claim to you than you do for yourself. I think images used by white people are usually their fake bids of racial exclusivity and within the Black community, particularly Black men, its been used to damage the esteem of black women. So in turn, we are sometimes hated, with good cause, but ultimately, we again don’t (9/10) manoeuvre that violence to straddle who is worthy and who isn’t. We are just the great excuse and tool to sound the stupid claims to hierarchy in skin tone Though I would like to stress mixed raced identity is not solely being light-skinned.
Stacey Tyrell-Siobahn, 15yrs.
Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary? Necessary yes. But more so, the same perpetrators of hate language towards Black women need that re-education rather than mixed race people to be
differently described. Our issue as mixed race people is only but a symptom. I use Black women as the basis as how we treat women in any society is how we measure the morality of the country/society itself. What are your thoughts on ‘A mixed race future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations? I don’t have any. It’s a failed venture.
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MONIQUE L. ETIENNE. FDA, AFRO-CARIBBEAN DANCE
What do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community or other? Has how you identify changed with time or has it always been the same? I say both Mixed and Black. My sense of self is fixed, but how individual identity is experienced is usually in the context of the social group you happen to be in. Therefore it’s fluid, like gender. They are just the terms we happen to be using at this time. What we must do to challenge the notion of race itself without erasing the suffering that has gone into making it a means of control. How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook? Very much. You are aware at a young age of the concept of race much more quickly because of the people you see around you, and it made me question my identity a lot when I was younger, to the point where I’d get very stressed. I always felt I had to know every side to the story of my family, past and present, to understand myselfand I think I was right. I understand them and myself a lot better now.
Stephen, Jeffrey and Twins
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How easily/frequently are you read as black, i.e. someone identifying you as black before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? I would say initially I’m read as black. I have quite dark skin and an Afro but also European features and I think depending what somebody wants me to be they can project that- like for anyone. What is interesting is watching people’s opinions of you change depending on what aspect they choose to focus on- my skin colour, my nationality, that I grew up on an estate etc. How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? You relate. We have in terms of our social identities been Othered, so there is a natural understanding in that regard. But I wouldn’t say the way in which other ethnic groups perceive Blackness is homogeneous for that group. For me it’s much more about my connections with individuals.
What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media?
people feel this when they’ve experienced racial violence and rejection and feel like they can’t speak up because they are told they have more privilege- a privilege which is superficially bound to the other people’s preconceived ideas about ourselves.
Mixed race or light skinned? I think there’s something often insidious about it- I don’t like to use the word fetish but there is an element of that, but what’s strange about it, is that is often seen as some kind of privilege. That’s very superficial.
What are your thoughts on ‘A mixed race future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations? Race is the ultimate Colonial concept. Without it, the Colonisers wouldn’t have had the forcible tool to have been so abominable in the first place- they needed some excuse in the eyes of whatever unholy deity they believed would permit it. But if we’re going purely on terms of colour, if the world doesn’t explode, one day we’ll all be mixed.
Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary? Conversation is productive when it is reductive. It’s about breaking down boundaries and labels in our own communities, and strengthening ourselves enough to support ourselves spiritually Stacey Tyrell-Siobahn, 15yrs. separately from some enforced Neutral Identity (White) It’s about recognising when we are conforming to other people’s notions of ourselves and our suffering, and understanding that people are individuals, and their experiences are unique and sometimes not what you think they might be. I think a lot of mixed race and light skinned
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 73
PORTIA EMILY BAKER. BA FINE ART, CAMBERWELL (2016)
In one paragraph explain the artwork you have submitted? The drawings are 77 portraits of my whole family and is based on my dual heritage and the impact of how the mass immigration from the Caribbean, has shaped my family and created me. The drawings create my impossible family reunion,which is rather unconventional as i know my entire family from both my parental sides would never sit for a family portrait or gathering together. aesthetically my 77 family members put together do not look like a traditional family, perhaps more so because of my dual heritage. it is important for the viewer to see all subjects individually and as a collective, so connections and differences are able to be established between subjects. I believe this piece would suit the exhibition because for me it was a literal exploration of my dual heritage. How do you currently identify as? (Mixed and/or black) Why do you currently identify as this? Was it through family members, or the wider community or other? Has how you identify changed with time or has it always been the same? Mixed race because I am of dual heritage. My Jeffrey and Twins mum is white and my dadStephen, is black. With time I have been made hyper aware that being
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mixed race in no way negates my blackness. This is displayed in many ways, such as the plight to find hair products amongst the hundreds for white people, which growing up I thought was normal. Also introduced to me by statistics at university, which said as a BAME student I was less likely to obtain a degree and even achieve the same as my white counterparts. Which, then led me to research and find that this has been happening to me my whole life, just because one of my parents is black. Reinstating for me again that BEING MIXED RACE DOESNâ€™T NEGATE MY BLACKNESS. How much of an influence or impact has being from your heritage shaped your identity and your outlook? It would be impossible for my heritage to not influence who I am today and how I look at the world. It has had a huge impact, but also, has allowed me to understand the bias of different cultures and communities, and understand that sometimes hate and racism often comes from generations or pure ignorance and stupidity.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 75
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How easily/frequently are you read as black, i.e. someone identifying you as black before you tell them? And how do you think this has affected your movement through life? How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? I think anyone who is not aesthetically white, is automatically read as Black, or perhaps brown. I think until school age, race is not a problem; however, through statistics and personal experience it is not until school age that I was aware that adults could treat you differently depending on your race. More black students sit the lower set papers in school, are sent to pupil referral units and are labeled as having special educational needs. I believe I am probably seen as Black to most people who are not black. How has this reading as black, or not, affected your relationship with the other ethnic communities, aside from the Black community, you are part of? I am seen as a mixed race woman, although when I speak about race I am quick to include myself as a black person, the two don’t negate each other, although I would never refer to myself as a white person as I know I have never been viewed in this way. I am not confused about my racial identity, growing up I was brought up living with both my parents and having the chance to mix with both sides of my family I do not feel I am more one race or the other. It is the construct of race that I don’t always fit in as I am part of two racial identities that may cause discomfort and confusion for the wider community but this is not my problem and I don’t allow stupid comments such as ‘what are you’ to affect the way I live my best life.
What do you think of the use and circulation of images of mixed race people in the media? I think the use and circulation of images of mixed race people is problematic at best. Obviously, in the media there is widespread circulation of images of mixed race Eurocentric looking people with straighter hair and more European features, as what a mixed race person looks like varies so much, it is problematic to keep exhibiting the same kind of women over and over. Do you think there needs to be more conversations on language, terminologies and privileges within the black community in relation to mixed race identities or do you think these conversations are reductive and/or unnecessary? Yes, because for myself, even answering these questions is quite difficult, as at times some of my answers may conflict or I may want to say more but don’t know how to word it in a way that doesn’t cause offence. I think, at times, these conversations could be reductive as if you’re not mixed race it may be hard to understand that some of our privileges in society may also be disadvantages in our communities. What are your thoughts on ‘A mixed race future’ and ‘Post-racial’ conversations? In regards to ‘a mixed race future’, I am sure eventually the population will have far more mixed race people, but I don’t believe they are the future. I think the white population will slowly decline and there will be a lot more black and brown people in the world. Post-racial conversations to me are a bit of a joke, perhaps when we move past racism and have equality for all then we can talk about post-racial anything.
REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE. // 77
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KEY TERMS. Afro-Asian
Of or relating to the nations of Africa and Asia or their peoples. See: Blasian
A gender neutral alternative term for someone from Black and Latin American descent.
The term Afro European often refers to people who come from regions that are geographically south of Sahara, or former colonies. The concept of "Afro-Europeans" is used on the model of African Americans by associations and movements militating in favor of equal opportunities for black and mixed-race people from overseas territories and Europe.
Racial slur used towards individuals of mix of African American and Arab ethnicities.
Having parents of two different races.
An individual of mixed Black and Pakistani descent.
A term used in certain countries, based in social systems of racial classification and/or ethnicity to name people of African, Australian Aboriginal and/or Melanesian ancestry that predates colonisation.
An individual who is of Asian and African/black descent. See: Afro-Asian.
Brown Paper Bag
â€˜The Brown Paper Bag Testâ€™ was a type of racial discrimination in the United States. A brown paper bag was used as a way to determine whether or not an individual could have certain privileges; only individuals with a skin color that is the same color or lighter than a brown paper bag were allowed. The test was used in the 20th century within many social institutions such as African-American sororities, fraternities, and churches. In addition, brown paper bags were used in multi-racial social events. The term is also used in reference to larger issues of class and social stratification within the African-American population. The Brown Paper Bag Test arose from the practice of discrimination based on skin color.
A term coined by Alice Walker in 1982. Describes the ideology and practice that dark skinned people are lesser than light skinned people. This ideology is indigenous to many cultures outside of the West but is one of the main foundations of racism and white supremacy.
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A term now regarded as derogatory and/or a racial slur in the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, North America, Southeast Asia and Europe – in reference to people from Asia
Scattered population whose origin lies within a different geographic locale. Diaspora can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland.
The act of being displaced and/or the condition of having been displaced.
Dougla (or Dugla):
Is a word used by people especially in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana. It is used to describe people who are from African and Indian/ South Asian descent. Historically in the context of slave societies of the Americas, a quadroon or quarteron was a mixed-race person with one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry (or in the context of Australia, one quarter aboriginal ancestry). Similar classifications were octoroon for one eighth black and hexadecaroon for one sixteenth black.
A group of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared historical, social, cultural experiences, ancestry which distinguish them from other groups.
Refers to somebody who is Half Japanese. The word Hafu comes from the English word “half”.
Half-caste is a derogatory term for a category of people of mixed race or ethnicity. It is derived from the term caste, which comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese and Spanish casta, meaning race. It can sometimes be used in an offensive manner but not universally.
High yellow, occasionally simply yellow, is a term used to describe persons classified as black according to the one-drop rule, despite having primarily white European ancestry. It is a color reference to the olive skin of some mixed-race people. The term was in common use in the United States at the end of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century, but is now considered obsolete and sometimes offensive.
Internalised Racism Internalised racism is loosely defined as the internalisation by people of racist attitudes towards members of their own ethnic group, including themselves. Lightie
Term originated in the United Kingdom to describe a mixed race or light skinned person. Popular use of this term can be found and was circulated within UK Grime music.
Light Skin Privilege
Within the context of the Black Community, this defines as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to black people of lighter skin tone and complexion.
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To relegate to the fringes, out of the mainstream; make seem unimportant:to place in a position of marginal importance, influence, or power.
A French term referring to children of ethnically mixed unions.
A term widely used in the antebellum United States for mixed-race individuals, according to Jack D. Forbes, used for people of European and Native American ancestry, as well as European and African, or tri-racial.
Gender neutral term used in most of Latin America, is a person of Indigenous and European ancestry.
Denoting or relating to a person whose parents belong to different racial or ethnic groups:
Mulata/o - Mulatto/a A term used to refer to persons born of one white parent and one black parent or to persons born of a mulatto parent or parents. In English, the term is today generally confined to historical contexts. English speakers of mixed white and black ancestry seldom choose to identify themselves as "mulatto." Multiethnic
Of, relating to, or including several ethnic groups.
Relating to people of many/multiple races.
The one-drop rule is a social and legal principle of racial classification that was historically prominent in the United States asserting that any person with even one ancestor of sub-Saharan-African ancestry ("one drop" of black blood) is considered black. This concept evolved over the course of the 19th century and became codified into law in the 20th century. It was associated with the principle of "invisible blackness" and is an example of hypodescent, the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union between different socioeconomic or ethnic groups to the group with the lower status. The social and legal concept of the "one-drop rule" does not exist outside of the United States. The "one-drop rule" rule is frequently compared and contrasted with the racial concepts of Latin America.
When a person or a group of people are subjected to unjust, and usually violent treatment by those in position of power.
Is a word used in the Spanish colonies in the Americas to refer to the tri racial descendants of Europeans, Native Americans, and West Africans. They are defined as neither exclusively mestizx (Native American-European descent), nor mulatto(African-European descent), nor zambo (African-Native American descent). It is highly associated with the history of slavery and colonialism.
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A social system in which cis-men hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific exclusion of women and non gender conforming people, at least to a large degree.
Person/People of colour, has been used and taken up at different points in history in different places to describe non-white, European people.
Hatred towards someone based on their identity. Example: An oppressed person of colour can be prejudiced against privileged races but cannot be racist.
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a individuals in particular groups by institutions.
Having one "half-caste" parent; especially, having three Caucasian and one non-Caucasian grandparents
A socially constructed system of classification of the human population into distinct, unequal, discontinuous groups, based, from the 17th century onwards, on physical features and ancestry. Though the concept existed long before this time, in many different forms, it was used by European scholars, scientist, merchants and nobility to legitimise and justify their genocide and dispossession of the peoples of America and enslavement of Sub-Saharan Africans.
Racially Ambiguous Unable to pinpoint one's racial background just by looking at them. Being racially unidentifiable. Redbone
Redbone is a term historically used in much of the southern United States to denote a multiracial individual or culture. In Louisiana, it also refers to a specific, geographically and ethnically distinct group. Redbone is a person with red undertones in their skin.
Refers to equality in opportunity and visibility. For example, representative media is media that is reflective of the variety of races, cultures, genders or religions that its entire readership belongs to.
Tragic Mulata Trope The tragic mulatto is a stereotypical fictional character that appeared in American literature during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the 1840s. The "tragic mulatto" is an archetypical mixed-race person, who is assumed to be sad, or even suicidal, because they fail to completely fit in the "white world" or the "black world". Â As such, the "tragic mulatto" is depicted as the victim of the society in Â a society divided by race, where there is no place for one who is neither completely "black" nor "white". This trope was also used by abolitionists in order to create a mixed-race, but white-appearing, slave that would serve as a tool to express sentimentality to white readers in an effort to paint slaves as "more human".
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White supremacy is an ideology centered upon the promotion of the belief, that white people are superior. It is argued by critical race theorist that all white people have a level of white supremacy values because of the media, education and politics have embedded whiteness as superior in society.
A light skinned or bi-racial African american, usually mixed with black and white. A person who is a yellow bone has yellow undertones in their skin
Zambo and cafuzo
Racial terms used in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry (the analogous English term, sambo, is considered a slur). Historically, the racial cross between African slaves and Amerindians was referred to as a zambaggoa, then zambo, then sambo. In the United States, the word sambo is thought to refer to the racial cross between a black slave and a white person.
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FURTHER READING. Books Agard, John, Half-Caste and Other Poems (London: Hodder Literature, 2005) Agard, John, Travel Light Travel Dark (Northumberland, United Kingdom: Bloodaxe Books, 2013) Aitken, Robbie and Eve Rosenhaft, Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) Ali, Suki, Chamion Cabellero, and Miri Song, eds., International Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Mixedness and Mixing (London, New York: Routledge, 2012) Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin, Mixed Feelings: The Complex Lives of Mixed-Race Britons (London: The Women’s Press, 2001) Altena, Marga, A True History Full of Romance: Mixed Marriages and Ethnic Identity in Dutch Art, News Media, and Popular Culture (18831955) (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012) Anzaldua, Gloria (1981) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color , co-edited with Cherríe Moraga, 4th ed. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015) Anzaldua, Gloria (1987) Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza , 4th ed.(San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2012) Azoulay, Katya Gibel, Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It’s Not the Color of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997) Bauer, Elaine, The Creolisation of London Kinship: Mixed African-Caribbean and White British Extended Families, 1950-2003 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010) Belchem, John, Before the Windrush: Race Relations in 20th-Century Liverpool (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014) Benson, Susan, Ambiguous Ethnicity: Interracial Families in London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982) Bettez, Silvia Cristina, But Don’t Call Me White: Mixed Race Women Exposing Nuances of Privilege and Oppression Politics (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2011) 84 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
Comas, Juan, Racial Myths (Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1951) Curry, Ginette, ‘Toubab La!’ Literary Representations of Mixed-Race Characters in the African Diaspora (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007) Haritaworn, Jinthana, The Biopolitics of Mixing: Thai Multiracialities and Haunted Ascendancies (London: Ashgate Publishing, 2012) Ifekwunigwe, Jayne O., Mixed Race’ Studies: A Reader, Rutledge, 2015 Kerr, Elisa Aubrey, The Paper Bag, (Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press, 2006) Michael, Theodor, Eve Rosenhaft (trans.), Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017) Parker, David and Miri Song, ed., Rethinking ‘Mixed Race’ (London: Pluto Press, 2001) Rocha, Zarine L. and Farida Fozdar (eds.), Mixed Race in Asia: Past, Present and Future (New York, London: Routledge, 2017) Salih, Sarah, Representing Mixed Race in Jamaica and England from the Abolition Era to the Present (London, New York: Routledge, 2010) Smith, Zadie, White Teeth (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2006) Smith, Zadie, On Beauty (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2005) Zack, Naomi, Race and Mixed Race (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003) Ward, Julie K, and Lott, Tommy L, Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays, John Wiley & Sons (2002) Zack, Naomi, Race and Mixed Race (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003) For Further Referencing delve into the Extensive Bibliography of Further Reading From: The Mixed Race Studies: http://www.mixedracestudies.org/?page_id=27208
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Articles, Essays & Journals: 2016. [online]. Light Skin Privilege: It’s Real and It’s Complicated. Mixed Race Feminist Blog. Available at: https://mixedracefeministblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/ light-skinned-privilege-its-real-and-its-complicated/ [Accessed 10 Jul 2017] Belen, Maria. 2014. What Latinx Means: Mestizx Privilege. [online] Available at: https://womenothers.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/whatlatinx-means-mestizx-privilege/. [Accessed 12 Jul 2017] Bowler, D (2017), Mixed Race Realities Collide In Cinematic Self Portraits. [Online]. Mail & Gaurdian. Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2017-07-14-00-mixed-race-realities-collidein-cinematic-self-portrait [Accessed 16 Jul 2017] Bradt, Steve. 2010. ‘One-drop rule’ persists”, Harvard Gazette, 09.12.10, http:// news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/12/one-drop-rule-persists/ Christian, Mark, The Fletcher Report 1930: A Historical Case Study of Contested Black Mixed Heritage Britishness, Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 21 No. 2/3 June/September 2008 Dabiri, Emma. 2007. Mixed Race People in Advertising. [Online]. Intermix. Available at: http://www.intermix.org.uk/academic/Emma%20Dabiri.asp [Accessed 18 Jul 2017] Dabiri, Emma. 2013. Why I See Myself As A Daughter of the Diaspora Rather Than MixedRace. [online] Black Girl Dancing At Laughnasa. Available at: http://thediasporadiva.tumblr. com/post/45223779733/why-i-see-myself-as-a-daughter-of-the-diaspora [Accessed 18 Jul 2017] Furedi, Frank, “How Sociology Imagined ‘Mixed Race’”, in Parker, D, Jones, Michal. 2015. Colorism in the Black Community: Perspectives on Light Skinned Privilege. Jones, Michal. 2015. Colorism in the Black Community: Perspectives on Light Skinned Privilege. [Online]. Everyday Feminism Available at: http:// everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/light-skinned-privilege/ [Accessed 8 Jul 2017] Kano, Sobi. 2009. What is Afro-Europe? Who are the Afro-Europeans or black Europeans? [online]. Available at: http://afroeurope.blogspot. co.uk/2009/09/what-is-afroeurope-who-are.html. [Accessed 18 Jul 2017] Nittle, Kareem Nadra. 2016. How Is The Tragic Mulatto” Literary Trope 86 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
Defined. [Online] Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-tragicmulatto-literary-trope-defined-2834619 [Accessed 18 Jul 2017] Pinnock, K. 2009. Mixed race ‘fastest growing minority’ [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/10000910/mixed-racefastest-growing-minority [Accessed 7 Jul 2017] Project Bronx. 2015. Can You Be Black and Latinx? Here’s What Afro-Latinx Means And Why It Matters. [Online]. Available at: http://everydayfeminism. com/2015/08/what-afro-latinx-means/. [Accessed 8 Jul 2017] Reichard, Raquel. 2016. 11 Examples of Light Skin Privilege in Latinx Communities. [online]. Everyday Feminism. Available at: http://everydayfeminism. com/2016/03/light-skin-privilege-latinxs/ [Accessed 8 Jul 2017] Smith, Laura. 2014. Mixed race in the UK: am I the future face of this country?, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11205165/Mixedrace-in-the-UK-am-I-the-future-face-of-this-country.html [Accessed 8 Jul 2017] The Economist. 2014. Into the melting pot [online]. Available at: https://www.economist.com/news/britain/21595908-rapid-rise-mixed-racebritain-changing-neighbourhoodsand-perplexing [Accessed 5 July 2017]
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DIGITAL RESOURCES. Websites: Mixed Race Studies. www.mixedracestudies.org A non-commercial website created by Steven F. Riley that provides a gateway to interdisciplinary (sociology, psychology, history, law, anthropology, etc.) English language scholarship about the relevant issues surrounding the topic of multiracialism. This site has been called by a preeminent scholar, “the most comprehensive and objective clearinghouse for scholarly publications related to critical mixed-race theory.” Critical Mixed Race Studies. www.criticalmixedracestudies.wordpress.com The transracial, transdisciplinary, and transnational critical analysis of the institutionalization of social, cultural, and political orders based on dominant conceptions of race. CMRS emphasizes the mutability of race and the porosity of racial boundaries to critique processes of racialization and social stratification based on race. CMRS addresses local and global systemic injustice rooted in systems of racialization. Mixed Dreamers. www.mixedreamers.blogspot.co.uk Blog created in 2009 ‘towards a radical multiracial/ethnic movement’
Podcasts: The Mixed Experience (TM). An audio and video podcast hosted by New York Times best-selling writer Heidi Durrow who was an original host and producer of Mixed Chicks Chat, the award-winning weekly podcast that ran from 2007 to 2012. Through interviews, essays, reviews, and ruminations, Durrow talks about the varying aspects of The Mixed Experience in the arts, culture, academia, and history. www.themixedexperience.com
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We Live Here. WLH explores the issues of race, class and power that led to the emotional eruption in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson. www.welivehere.show/posts/2015/8/23/what-it-means-to-be-multi-racial Other. Mixed Race in America By The Washington Post: This five-part miniseries explores what happens when your parents come from two different countries, cultures, or races. Host Alex Laughlin shares her own stories and interviews multiracial people about what their racial identities mean to them. Five episodes, five themes and a whole bunch of stories to make you think about what it means to be an American. www.itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/other-mixed-race-in-america/id1229625388?mt=2 Who Got The Juice? A monthly podcast live streamed on Birmingham’s Newstyle Radio with the aim of creating change for people of colour. Hosted by Rakeem Omar, Sara Abbott & Aliyah Hasinah! @RakeemOmar, @AliyahHasinah & @Sdl_abbott Each episode we are on the search for finding out who are doing bits in communities of colour, featuring some of the best music from upcoming artists too.Tune in every last Saturday of the month and find out who’s got the juice! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org www.soundcloud.com/gotthejuicebrum Episode: Being Mixed Race: Am I Woke Enough? This month round we are exploring the debate of whether there is any struggle with regards to race and “staying woke.” In particular we are focusing on the mixed race/dual heritage identity. www.soundcloud.com/gotthejuicebrum/4-being-mixed-race-am-i-woke-enough
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YouTube Channels: www.grapevineshow.com. Picking Fresh Views. From Fresh Minds. Not your parent’s television show, The Grapevine is a fresh and innovative take on the panel style discussion. The show places the topics of today in the hands and minds of young game changers, artists, cultural innovators, and professionals to dissect what the impact is for this generation. Biracial Blackness | Episode 38 pt. 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoZSjDktTh4 Youtube.com/jouelzy. Jouelzy is a top African American woman vlogger advocating for the #SmartBrownGirl. Weekly videos with witty commentary on current cultural topics the impact women of color throughout the African diaspora. #SmartBrownGirl Youtube.com/Blvck Nostalgia. Jesse Williams 2016 BET Awards Speech: Mixed People Don’t Count?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yIKSlpacNA Youtube.com/shamelessmaya Youtube.com/ The Mixed Tag. The Mixed Tag is a social media tag circulated online from individuals of mixed heritage that describes their experiences.
Twitter Users to Follow: @ColorismIssue @BeingBiracialSW @mixdgrlproblems @CMRSmixedrace @zarathustra_lives @MarshallTash @TheDiasporaDiva @Tweetsbybilal @heididurrow 90 // REIMAGINING THE MIXED RACE EXPERIENCE.
Key Organisations: People in Harmony www.pih.org.uk Mix-d www.mix-d.org Intermix www.intermix.org.uk Mosaic www.mosaicbrighton.org.uk Planet Rainbow Project www.facebook.com/rainbowplanetproject Inheritance Project www.inheritance-project.com
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We salute you!
Reimagining the Mixed Race Experience ÂŠ Shades Of Noir 2017
The category ‘mixed race’ defines those whose biological parents have differing racial identities, or are categorised as such. Because racia...
Published on Sep 7, 2017
The category ‘mixed race’ defines those whose biological parents have differing racial identities, or are categorised as such. Because racia...