Does My Mixed Skin Offend You?!
I often find myself in situation's where I'm forced to hear the following statements and questions:
"You are just too pretty to be a man! Are you mixed?"
As if in order to be an attractive man I couldn't just be one ethnicity in and of itself. Like being Mixed was the formula for a "pretty man".
"You're not Black! You're too light-skinned to be Black!"
Yes, because Black only comes in three stereotypical shades: Black, Brown, and good ol' cotton pickin' Midnight!
"Really? You're Mexican?! But you don't speak Spanish! You're not a real Mexican then!"
Well you see my mother happens to be a Mexican so yea... I kind of am! Spanish speaking or not!
"Oooo, you got that good hair huh?"
Because we're REALLY still describing the dead cells falling out of our scalps that isnt the media driven forbidden nappy hair as "good hair"? This is the year 2014 right? When men and women everywhere are proudly sporting their natural and "naptural's"? I thought so...
I have run into the gamut on phrases that have questioned, belittled, made fun of, or simply disrespected the fact that I am a Mixed boy proud to be mixed and has no need, as society continues to try to get me to, to sway toward one ethnicity over the other. However, everywhere I seem to go I'm being asked in no uncertain terms:
"Pick a race please!"
My answer to it all?
"I have chosen a race; the human race! My ethnicity? MIXED!"
My mother is a Mexican woman born of two Mexican parents. A mother she knew and a father she simply never even got to meet. She grew up with 9 other siblings all of which having their own father; some sharing the same father but none of them with my mother. To assist my grandmother raise 10 kids was my grandpa (my mother's step dad) who just so happened to be Black. Or for the PC people reading this blog: African-American! Although I'm sure there are hardly any Black Americans who've ever even set foot in or OUT of Africa, NOR are they interested in going any time soon! My father on the other hand was Black (from his father) and Creole (from his mother), both of which I claim but can't really explore because along with never really being in my life to begin with he died when I was 20 years old. There goes my ethnic trip down "Who The Hell Am I" lane.
I grew up a bright skinned (or as I like to say: skin the color of stretched caramel candy) with dark curly hair, big dark brown eyes and a singing voice that most would compare to a Donny Hathaway or Jackie Wilson. In short a Mexican looking boy with the Black voice! My entire family structure is one that runs the gamut on hues from lightest to darkest being that we're ALL Mixed in some special blend. So growing up we were always taught to love people NOT their skin color (and definitely not their hair)! However, that didn't stop the onslaught of rudeness, prejudice and even violent encounters with people; feeling like I didn't represent the portion of my ethnicity that mattered most to them. Not growing up learning how to speak Spanish caused me to be refused service simply because, in the Latin community, I wasn't considered a real Mexican. I would go and hang with my friends (who to me were just people) only to be approached and badgered for not being "Black enough" to have so many black friends,
"Why don't you go hang with your own kind? You ain't Black! Why you tryna be Black wit' yo little spick lookin' a**!"
Sad to say that even in the early millennium these were things that a Mixed boy from South Central LA had to deal with. It often angered me(and still does) that when it came to Black or Latin history and celebrities people were praised for being one race or the other but we totally skipped over the ones who were Mixed. As though being Mixed was in some way not good enough to be appreciated, respected, honored and put into the books as proud Mixed people. History majors like Frederick Douglas whose father was believed to be a white man simply goes on the books as another Black man. Maybe because it was simply "believed" about his father it wasn't good enough to put him on a pedestal as a great MIXED man he simply had to be a great Black one instead. Ok! I'll give you that one. But what about Booker T. Washington whose mother was a Mulatto woman and whose father was a White slave master? How come we only mention these things in passing as if his ethnic make up is a haphazard rather than a pivotal part of who he was and why he did what he did to make history? And PLEASE let's not forget our beloved (or hated depending on your party) President Barack Obama! The first MIXED President! Yep, that's right, don't forget he's a Mixed one just like me!
It's that "Drop of Oil" mentality that tells us if you have just a little bit of black in you (and you're a darker Mixed person) then you're BLACK; Point, blank, and period! NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!! You don't get to simply erase an entire half of who I am simply because you don't understand, don't agree, or simply choose to ignore my Mixed-ness! It is a part of ME! It's the equivalent to me asking you,
"I'm so sorry can you please leave 10% of you outside? It's not welcome in here. Thank you so much!"
Celebrities like Vanna White who for a dog's age people thought was some White woman flipping letters on Wheel Of Fortune. Did you know that her father is Puerto Rican? That's right! She's a good old fashioned Latin girl! Or that Prison Break star Wentworth Miller comes from a White mother and Black father? But because he's fair skinned with gray eyes we totally bypass that detail not thinking too long about what he is and just assuming that he's part of White America anyway.
It seems like there's always a struggle that goes untold, unnoticed and unchanged until someone (like me) starts to make a few waves and ask the question: HEY! Did you forget that you're discriminating against me too? Being Mixed has fallen into 3 basic categories NONE of which deserving of the demographics rightful diligence, right and privilege.
1: The "Passing" person- This is the person who is able to pass for one ethnicity while being forced to completely ignore or feel ashamed about the other ethnicity streaming through their blood lines. Ex: Dominicans who are of a more Ebony complexion and not considered Latin in any way, shape or form, Latins so fair they're looked at as White, or Ethiopians who because of their geographic make up are simply "Black" because they have no reason to be anything other than what they REALLY are: Ethiopian!
2: The Advocate- This is the person who goes hard to represent all cultures in their special and unique blend of Mixedness but is often looked at as too eccentric, confused, or simply annoyingly over the top with pride. Yes because being extra proud of who and what you are somehow became a bad thing...
And then there's 3 (my personal fave!): The Exotic One- This is the person that is usually sought after in a dating situation because their Mixedness lends to fulfill some childhood porn fantasy of being with someone outside of their race. Usually reserved for White men or women who are fascinated and enamored by sleeping with or dating a Black man or woman because of the rumored "Once you go Black you never go back!" syndrome. However, the difference here is that not only are we Mixed ones suppose to fulfill some cockimamy fantasy but we're often encouraged to stay in the "Middle" of the road when it comes to ethnic pride or portrayal. Basically just look hot! No one gives a s**t that you're Asian and Black! Give me a wonton and some collards every now and then and that's it! You're primary purpose is to just be HOT; Exotically and utterly HOT!
I have a plethora of friends that come from all different types of ethnic backgrounds and who, I'm sure, on some level, love me without repentance. Yet and still it doesn't always stop them from using my Mixedness, my lack of the Spanish language, or lack of melanin to formulate the brunt of some racially engineered joke or comment. My hair is NOT good hair! It's simply HAIR! It takes work to maintain, it takes effort to keep up and with the right products ANYONE can have luscious and beautiful hair. I am not any LESS Mexican because I don't speak Spanish, I am not any LESS Black because I'm not darker with a broader nose, nor am I any LESS Creole because you believe being Black and Creole to be a redundant statement! (Yes, that was an actual comment of an actual conversation that was ACTUALLY had. I know! Sad!) All Mixed babies aren't the CUTEST! And YES, telling me that "we're ALL Mixed somewhere down the line" is a statement best described as Racial Belittlement. It's a way for people to take away a Mixed person's pride about being Mixed because they don't want you to feel any more special than them! I guess it would be just too much to ask for them to just GET SOME F***EN PRIDE OF THEIR OWN! And maybe then they too might feel extra special about who and what they are. But don't try and diminish my Mixedness with some inclusionistic theory almost 10 times removed from your grandparents ethnic description.
Being Mixed, much like being any other ONE ethnicity, comes with it's ups and downs. It comes with it's share of praise and truck loads upon truck loads of prejudice and discriminatory actions. But all most of us ask for is that the SAME level of respect that Latin Americans and Black Americans and any other Ethnic American had to fight for (and still fight for) be bestowed on we Mixedlanders. That our Mixedness be looked at as a legitimate and real ethnic group. NOT just some box on an application to be politically correct. Which in most cases we're simply "Other" and STILL forced to choose what "race" we identify MORE with. I am only one Mixed person in a sea of ethnicities trying to be respected and legitimized and that's fine! It always only ever starts with one: One group, One time, One person with One common goal...To be respected for who the F**K I am!!!!