I periodically vow to myself that I’m not going to blog about race….and then Vogue declares that derrières are de rigueur because Iggy Azalea and J-Lo have decided to parade them but only give a cursory heads up to Bey and Rhi, or some twit decides that a human zoo with half nekkid black people is a sensible idea, or another black kid gets shot. You know, the usual. To top it off, some well meaning black or mixed race (because apparently these have become entirely separate races) will say something to me like – “If everyone was mixed race, racism wouldn’t exist!”. Or “mixed race people are the future”.
Let’s have a Kit Kat and take a break from the nonsense, shall we?
Firstly, statements like this usually come from a lack of understanding of what ‘race’ actually is. As the kumbaya crowd like to squeal at every available opportunity technically, – “we’re all mixed race, we’re all a rainbow of colours, there’s only one race, the human race!!! (They also love other assorted distracting comments that come from a loving place, but are completely irrelevant to the situation at hand).I refuse to feed into this silly, and frankly offensive trope about people being more intelligent, beautiful, and interesting if they are mixed. Funny how no one seems to apply that to African Americans or African Caribbeans although on average we have at least 10% non-African blood. Technically we should be super smart and gorgeous right?
Race isn’t purely biological, it’s a social construct. Someone that might be considered white in India, may not be considered white in England. When I visited Chad, I wasn’t really seen as African, and I didn’t look like a Chadian. When I explained slavery to them and the whole concept of being ‘African-Caribbean’ it was probably the first time I understood a little bit of what it would be like to be seen as ‘mixed race’ – I wasn’t quite African enough to be considered one of them, and I definitely wasn’t white, so they called me ‘the black-white girl’. At the beginning of slavery in America, people with a white father were classified as white – then the system changed, and it was decided that anyone with any black blood in them was to be classified as black.
Basically, race isn’t as simple and clear cut as looking at someone’s parents and grandparents and splitting them up into halves, quarters and thirds like a pie chart. Culture, self-identification, life experiences, language barriers – all these things are thrown into the pot when we define someone’s race.
But being black is more of a political and social identity in a climate of racism as opposed to a statement about your specific ethnic mix. Malcolm X had a white grandparent, Obama’s mother is white. We all know this and acknowledge this, but we understand that both these men would have experienced life (with some nuances distinct to their shade of ‘black’)as black men. In our current society, a society dominated by white supremacy and with a historical legacy of that, one thing is fairly certain. If you don’t look white, you don’t have white privilege. A white parent will not protect you from the police. They will not make you immune to the stereotypes and social disadvantages that come from being black. Which is why although for some, the distinction between black and mixed race is important for self identification as acknowledging the totality of their heritage, from a political standpoint it’s not hugely important.
The other thing that is certain, is that the closer you look to white, within the black community (and to a limited extent with non-blacks), you will have a form of privilege that darker skinned black people don’t have.
So my point is this.
Assuming that if everyone was mixed race, racism would cease to exist makes some huge, blatantly false assumptions about the nature of white supremacy. Unless we stop stratifying people using whiteness as a standard, no matter how much mixing occurs, the negative pathology of it will still give rise to some form of racism. For example, someone who is ‘mixed race’ but who has very tightly coiled, kinky hair, is seen as having less beautiful hair than someone who has wavy, silky hair. Or, a ‘mixed race’ person with typically black features such as a widespread nose, or very big lips, will generally not be seen as universally attractive as someone who has more typically European features. In countries such as Brazil, here the vast majority of the population is mixed race, and all that happens is that within the variety of mixed race people there is a social hierarchy which places those who are lighter and closer to white at the top of the social ladder. It’s the same in the Caribbean.
Until black people see themselves as equal with white people, until we see our culture and history as of equal value, until we do not measure facial features and hair texture against whiteness, until we stop thinking that something has more credibility if the white community stamps it as such, we can never ever give the mixed race children that we parent the resources to be able see themselves outside of the lens of whiteness. If every single black person had a baby with every single white person and their kids then had babies with every single asian, but it occurred in a context where whiteness was the standard, then the offspring of those relationships would still judge themselves and others according to that standard. It’s the reason why when some mixed race children are born, people worry about whether they’re going to be unfortunate enough to get that nappy hair or not. It’s why people make under the radar comments about kids that are mixed with black and asian getting their smarts from the asian side.
Entering a romantic relationship with someone of a different race and making a baby with them is not a commentary on whether or not the parties involved have some level of racism, or in the non-white partners case, internal racism.
There are a myriad of ways we can end racism, (I’ve written a post about it), but just having babies without black people de-constructing their own internalised racism, and without white people asking themselves hard questions and having awkward conversations about the way race plays out in society, is a lazy solution and does a disservice to the the children who deserve a better legacy than the one we’re currently handing to them.
What do you guys think?