Monday, June 09, 2008

Bi-racial....say it with me...

"BI" - like bicycle and "RACIAL" - like the racial tension in my house right now.

Wendy and I were venting a few days ago about how everyone says that Barack is black when he's actually bi-racial. When I first heard of Barack Obama, I will admit that I thought he was black (based solely on his looks), and Muslim (based solely on his name). When I learned that he was actually bi-racial, I became excited about his candidacy because I thought it would be healthy for my bi-racial children to grow up under a bi-racial president. Sort of crushes the theory about being "disadvantaged", right? [steering clear of an Affirmative Action monologue right now]

Now everyone is stripping him of his bi-racial-ness and the whole reason for voting for him is gone! ...well, at least in my mind ...what? ..there are other more pressing issues?

I hope my children grow up knowing who they are: first, they're divine creations, children of God and colorless in His sight. Then they are bi-racial, children of their imperfect parents, one who is black and one who is white. That black/white parent thing makes them bi-racial, multi-cultural, mixed, Oreo! Stop! ..and while we're on topic of what NOT to call them, they are not "mulattoes". "Mulatto" is the bi-racial equivalent of the "N word". So erase it from your vocabulary. Now. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Anyway, every now and then I remind my kids that they're half-white and then they grin and say "really?". They forget (like Obama? like the media? like the rest of the world?) ..or they just see themselves as others see them, like how I originally mistook Obama for a black man. If enough people see you as something, there's a chance that you might start seeing yourself that way too (look at all the egos in Hollywood).

In my reading on this topic, bi-racial children want to be able to recognize themselves as bi-racial. They don't want to be classified as one race, to do so is to deny half of their identity. Who wants to be forced to do that?

When I first became pregnant someone told me that my kids would be confused. I think that person was wrong. Every once and a while they need a reminder, but in general, they don't seem confused. They don't look in the mirror and scratch their heads. In fact, look that Amelle's illustration:

She's got it right, look at the "bodies" of our family members....Dirt is black, I'm a reddish orange (this was probably drawn after Florida - yes, it was...see how my roots are dark and then I have blonde streaks in my hair, I was in need of a touch up...) and the kids are a beautiful shade of delicious chocolate. The only thing "off" about this picture is Dirt's ears (in real life they're actually much larger).


MaineMomKC5 said...

Hee hee..I was waiting for this blog (where is the Sweet Tea blog, BTW?).

I actually thought you drew those pictures (and, perhaps, I still do).

The thing that really gets me is the whole "African American" line. Perhaps, in his case, it is somewhat fitting as his father is from Kenya and his mother was born here in the US. But, and this is a big butt, er I mean but, he was not (Obama being "he") born in Africa. So why can't we just drop that tag line once and for all people? My ancestors may have come from France (don't hate me please), but I do not call myself, "French American." I usually just say, "Hey there good lookin'."

This is a very divisive topic and one that will not go away any time soon.

T5M said...

Sweet tea is coming...I just loaded the pics about 5 minutes ago. This blog needed to come off my chest first - Dirt and I had words after I read your article(though in hushed whispers so the kids wouldn't hear us "debating" about race!)

Hee hee. My dad used to call my mom a "French Frog" - similar to French-American, right?

Dirt prefers "black".

~Seth & Nancy~ said...

i like the new header...the ears made me laugh :-)

Jermaine said...

Just to be clear. We weren't debating whether or not Barack should be called bi-racial or black. I have no problem with bi-racial, multi-cultural, etc. My point during our discussion is that 99.9% of people see Barack as a black man (right or wrong). It is obvious in how he is represented in the media (potential first black president, etc.) and how he is perceived by the general population. In a perfect world, he would be seen for what he is. In this imperfect world, he is seen as a black man.

I think there is a reason that bi-racial children tend to identify with their black heritage. One, they are treated like every other black person (West Virginia primary comes to mind). Two, the black community tends to embrace bi-racial children as one of their own. You never hear a black person say a bi-racial child will be confused or may be stigmatized by who they are. By the way, saying a bi-racial child would be stigmatized is 100% racist. It is referring to the color of their skin or the texture of their hair as a scar or a mark of shame. These attitudes are primarily expressed in the white community. I know the people reading this are not in that group, but it is a reality. Also keep in mind that most people in this country do not live in the "progressive" North East.

Hopefully, one day we will get past this type of thinking. Though it is the reality we are living with right now and one man being president will not automatically change everyone in this country. It is a step in the right direction though.

Anonymous said...

I think what's been missed by a lot of people is that Obama is only seen as a "black" man NOW. I think if he is to become the next president of the united states we will hear more about his "bi-racial -ness" as an effort for the (still clearly predjudice America) to come to terms with the fact that a man with tan skin is their next president. I think the fact that we're hearing black, african american, muslim are all efforts to wage a separation between people really seeing what Obama is about as a president and the color of his skin. He will not always be labeled a "black" man if he is elected. Whites will do research on his heritage to justify him being their president because he is half white, blacks will blame his being white half on the reason he makes mistakes during his presidency. At some point the world will take the time to do the research on his heritage and background but only when it becomes a case for acceptance. Just another way for white and blacks and all others to cope with someone non-white being in a position of power. That's the unfortnate truth of our country and the people who live in it. I've always wondered if there was a stigma towards bi-racial children, who I believe are some of the most beautiful human beings on earth. My mother, Aunt Sylvia & babydoll being practically bi-racial their father who was 75% white my mother refers to herself as being a black woman which is great, but she's also Native American, and English and whatever else she is and I always felt a little bit of disappointment with my mom and three younger aunt's because they are made up of so much culture but refused to ever do the resecrh or ask questions about it and just settled with being black because that's how the world sees them. They never even gave their children a chance to know what their heritage is. I had to do the research all on my own with minimal help from my mother. I refuse to do that with my baby. My baby will be half Russian and Native American, and English and whatever else I am made up of :-) My child will be so in tune with its culture that it will be difficult to label or settle with just being called a "black" man or woman. I think Obama symbolizes what this country is "SUPPOSED" to be based on. A country that is required not to see black or white but all people as being created equal. He's the product of a black man and a white woman, the two races that have fought and died for this country to be what it is, fair and equal. But its sad that a large percentage of people don't believe that and will never accept that.

MaineMomKC5 said...

Wow, great posts from Jermaine and Tiana!

We don't just color with one crayon - we use all different colors to make the picture beautiful.

T5M said...

Tiana, thank you for making a point for me. I predicted that Black folks would start saying things like:

"he was black until he became president, now all the sudden he's "half white".

...that was actually a point that Dirt and I disagreed on last night(Dirt said we wouldn't hear that). Thank you for proving me right!

btw, I have heard that Dirt's "grandfather" was half PR, not 75% white...

T5M said...

btw, I can't let this slip. White people are voting for Obama now (while he's still black). He's not going to become president without the white vote. He took Maine and NH, two of the whitest states in the US.

I am convinced that Racism is not as prevalent in America as the NAACP and Al Sharpton would like us to believe.

T5M said... more thing..and then I'll shut up. This is in response to my Dirt's comments (easier to type than to engage in another whisper debate):

I agree that bi-racials are generally "embraced" by the black community, however, you argue that it's the rejection of white community that forces them into the open and accepting arms of the black community. I would argue that there is equal if not greater pressure from the black community forcing them to "be black".

Ponder the outrage if Obama were to refer to himself as a "white man". Yet everyone silently sits back while Obama is constantly referred to as black.

Bring it home: what if it were Avery saying, "I'm white". How would you feel?

MaineMomKC5 said...

I guess I would ask why is it that the black community is more welcoming to a bi-racial child? Is it because the child would appear (outwardly), more "black" than "white?" What if the reverse were true - that a bi-racial child appeared to be more "white" outwardly? Would the black community still embrace that child who is still 50% black?

Outwardly, Obama would appear to be black. I feel it is his duty and responsibility for all to embrace who he is fully so this country can move in the right direction.

T5M said...

There are multitudes of white grandparents who adore their little bi-racial grandchildren. These are the same white people who may've grown up in the 50s with "racist thinking", but have changed their viewpoint over time.

Historically speaking, Dirt has a point, when this country was not as open-minded about interracial marriages (and the offspring they produce), bi-racial kids may've been ostracized by the white side of the family. However, as I see it, this is the exception, not the norm. Racism in general is the exception, not the norm (but don't tell the NAACP that - they'd have you believing that white people are still fighting to reinstate slavery. It's ridiculous. I hope if Obama does get elected, he can bring some progressive ideas to this type of antiquated, detrimental thinking. (Though I have my doubts, given the non-constructive racial rantings by his long time pastor).

Fingers crossed.

I need to write a new post today, this one is too heavy...

Anonymous said...

That was the general thought of all the sisters a while back, but I actually took it upon myself a few years ago to figure out the truth. Turns out my grnadmother was 25% Cherokee Indian which helped with My dad's father being 100% Cherokee and my dad's mother being 50% Sioux it helped a lot in me and Mickey getting our CDIB Cards, but that's another story. It also turns out that Jermaine and my grandfather Mr. Woody Adams happens to be a decendant of the second president of the United States Mr. John Quincy Adams. It's amazing what people can find out when you pay them lots of money to dig into your background. I don't have the direct line but it was enough to figure out if we dug a little deeper John Quincy would show up as being our great grandfather 20 times over. It's so funny that for so long my family has either been misinformed, uneducated and/or uncaring about our heritage, somebody had to figure it out and its amazing to me that someone in my family used to be the "ruler" of our country at some point. I wanted to be as accurate as possible when I tell my children their heritage and I refused to believe any family member who told me what they "thought" their heritage was and its horrible that no one knew for sure.

Wendy said...

Bring on the SWEET TEA!

T5M said...

I always thought Jermaine looked a lot like John Quincy Adams!! Now it all makes sense!