The Tragic Mulatto Must Die

One of the old stereotypes about people who are biracial is the "tragic mulatto," a person who doesn't fit in because he or she isn't White but isn't really Black. Millions of people who claim to be mixed are living well-balanced lives. Isn't it time for us to declare the tragic mulatto dead?

And yet, the stereotype was recently perpetuated by someone I've called a friend. Ignoring all that she knows about me, this woman told a stranger that the reason why he didn't know me in college is because I'm half black and half white, so I didn't know which way to go.

In my book, being accused of being confused about who I am is just slightly better than being called a sellout and much worse than being mistaken for a race/ethnicity that I'm not. What made the accusation shockingly hateful is that she knows better AND is almost the same complexion as I. And did I mention that the man she said this too is also light skinned?

So, imagine, three very light-skinned Black people standing around and one of them basically points her finger at another and says, "You're different, you don't belong, you have to prove yourself to us." It's ridiculous. Would she challenge our President, who is boldly biracial and happens to be darker than she is, with a similarly cruel statement? What about Frederick Douglas?

I won't honor her comment by detailing how Black I was in college or am now. I will say that it's hard enough when non-Blacks make racist statements to or around me - they think it's ok because I'm light. It's not. But it really cut me to the quick to have a friend and fellow light-skinned African-American put me into that tired old, tragic mulatto box. It was tragically thoughtless in the eyes of this not-tragic (and never mulatto) chick.

Traits of a Mixed Person: Linguistic Ninja

I was recently asked what the traits of a mixed person are. I think what the guy meant was, is there a stereotypical mixed look, style or way of carrying oneself. I couldn't think of anything that's standard issue "Mixed." Our hair runs the gamut, skin color covers the rainbow, and any part of us may reflect one parent's lineage or the other.

Except, I think that many mixed people have the makings of linguistic ninjas. Depending on who raised you and your socio-economic background, many mixed people have learned how to reflect the people around them in the way they talk. An op-ed piece on Barack Obama in the International Herald Tribune on September 10 reflected my thoughts on this.

The gist of the article is this: Barack Obama is flexible in his speaking style. Sometimes he sounds more typically African American while other times he is more racially neutral. The article also points out that Obama says he quickly picked up on the language and customs when in Indonesia, knows a bit of Spanish  and a little Hawaiian Creole. Yes, the man is well educated and has proven intelligence, but this kind of linguistic agility and speed may be rooted in something else - having to blend in with different ways of speaking from a very early age.

And he's not alone. A mixed friend of mine, Lisa, speaks English, a bit of Black slang, French and enough Spanish to travel alone in Spain. Another mixed friend, Jeff, is the same - except his fourth language is music instead of French. Personally, I would say I speak American English blended with Black slang and British terms (from living abroad). But when I travel, I either pick up the local accent - my Scottish accent used to make my ex-husband so delightfully frustrated - or the language (if it's a Romance language). For this I thank being comfortable as a kid in Minnesota with my White family and Colorado with my Black family and feeling at home ever since, as I travel the world.

Interracial dating

One of the by-products of being mixed, for me, is that I don't have a good sense of what topics are off limits. For example, the question and possible answers below might not be comfortable (but they might be, I'm honestly unsure). But I've been wondering, so I thought I'd ask...

Why have most of the Black men I know dated non-Black women but almost none of the White men I know have dated non-White women?

Possible answers:
A: It's easier for Whites to find other White people with similar values, so there's no need to diversify. In essence, where one lives and works provides White people with enough options, they don't have to go on dating sites and say they are open to dating anyone.
B: It's less acceptable to date outside the race for White men. There's no historical precedent, no one died for their right to do it and maybe they feel like they have a duty to continue the White race. Dating Latinas or Black women is taking romance to strange new places and messes up the biological imperative.
C: The myths about Black men (big @#$%s) make them more appealing to other races than the myths about White guys (no rhythm) so they get more opportunities to mingle.
D: There's more status to be gained for a Black man when he dates a White or Asian woman than there is for a White man if he dates a non-White woman.
E: Black women are scary, Asian women tend to stick to their own and Latinas are sexy but not marriage material.
F: Other? 

Just some thoughts as I wrap up my Tuesday. xo

High School Outsider

I remember feeling like an outsider when I was in elementary, junior and senior high school. There just weren't other mixed girls like me - raised Jewish, tons of freckles, a nose that was black from the front and white from the side. I made the most of it - had my own style that was complimented and pursued and won the heart of the captain of the football team of the local all-boy prep school.
At the same time, I never wondered if other people felt like outsiders. Of course, as an adult, I know that most teens feel different but today I got a sharp reminder from a former classmate who had scoliosis. Here's her blog, about getting the back brace that she wore for most of high school. Having a pity party for yourself, read this: