|Dancing in her Nigerian dress at 18 months.|
Even though I’ve been told numerous times that, according to the world, Biracial (mixed with some parts Black) is Black and there’s nothing that will change that, I still wonder. I wonder just how the world will see Annika, and others like her, when she’s an adult and we’ve gone through another racial metamorphosis.
A new study called: Passing As Black: Racial Identity Work Among Biracial Americans, was released last week in the Journal of Social Psychology Quarterly. The study takes a look at Biracial Americans who have “passed” as Black in various situations. The study showed that most of the participants didn’t fully identify as Black, and in many cases, used their Biracial nature to their advantage, depending on the situation.
Not surprisingly, many Black pundits say that there can be no such thing as a Biracial person passing for Black, since Biracial and Black are one and the same in this country. They argue that in this country if you have brown skin, based in African ancestry, that you are Black, no matter what skin color your parents have.
But I wonder if, in the future, there will be more choice about how the world sees skin color. I mean, why on earth should she be able to identify as one and not the other? Her ethnicity is exactly and perfectly split down the middle. She is an almost perfect representation of the word Biracial. Toyin is 100 percent Nigerian, no mixed line on his side. I am extremely WASP-ish, with a pretty high percentage of British heritage. If she can choose one, then technically, she should be able to choose the other.
I snicker to imagine Annika sitting at a cocktail party and telling a room full of people, “Oh, I know I look Black but I’m really White.” Not because I want her to deny half of her racial identity, but because it’s funny to imagine that happening today and people being shocked and speechless.
It just would. not. happen.
Flip the switch and picture a person you thought was White, perhaps you thought their ethnic background was Italian, Greek, or Hispanic, but then they tell you, “No. I know that I look White, but I am Black.” It happens nowadays and people aren’t shocked or speechless, just a little surprised. Maybe a little curious.
The point is, we are still trying to categorize people. It’s old. It’s tired. And no matter which side is doing it, it’s racist.
It already happens that many people with multi-racial backgrounds choose which side to identify with, depending on the situation. So, it seems logical that in the future, people will begin to see that they don’t have to choose one or the other.
Because when you think about it, it is kind of ironic in this time period that a person must identify with only one part of their culture/background based on the color of their skin.
The reason Biracial and Black are essentially the same thing in the United States is because we are still operating under the one-drop rule, a racist archetype steeped in Jim Crow laws when segregation was still legal and socially acceptable.
Seems to me, we need to stop operating under the laws of slavery and segregation if our society is going to recover from that hurtful time period.
Back during the days when segregation still existed, people didn’t have any choice as to how the world saw them. More importantly, they didn’t have choices about most parts of their lives. They were limited socially, and limited in their work and education. The one-drop rule defined people whether they liked it or not.
That is not the case these days.
These days more and more people are choosing to define themselves based on their inner workings and demanding that folks see them the way they see themselves and not based on some decrepit rule that has no place in our society anymore.
A good example of tired paradigms that are being put to rest is in the area of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is no longer assumed. Cross dressing is becoming more common. People are even choosing to change their sex organs.
I’m not suggesting that I hope one day there will be a surgical option for Black people to become White, (or vice versa). My hope is that we will stop putting people in categories. (I really don’t think that mutilating one’s body is the answer to any existential crisis.)
Instead, let’s think about making things more open to interpretation. Let’s consider that people don’t need to be categorized by race.
The reason that Black is Black is Black is Black is because that’s how the outside world sees all people with dark skin. As many Black commentators argue, nobody ever says that Halle Berry is the first Biracial woman to win an Oscar. And rarely do you hear of President Obama being referred to as Biracial. He’s the first Black president. He even identifies outwardly as Black.
But this study on people with Biracial backgrounds has numerous pieces of anecdotal evidence showing that many/most Biracial people do not wholly accept being identified as Black, in many cases because they didn’t feel unconditional acceptance from their Black friends, even if it was juvenile cattiness. It still shaped their perceptions.
My guess would be that they don’t identify that way simply because it isn’t accurate.
I will encourage Annika to identify herself based on how she sees herself, rather than how the world sees her. And I will be happy to support her identity, no matter how she chooses to see herself. I don’t mind if she chooses to identify as Black and not Biracial. I just want it to be her choice.
For more on this: How Multi-Ethnic People Define Themselves