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Swirl Nation Blog is the lovechild of four female friends who share the common bond of living multiracial and multiethnic lives. Join us as we feature mixed families and individuals from around the country, and discuss a variety of topics from parenting and relationships to fashion and beauty and everything in between. xoxo Jen, Kourtney, Amal and Jenn

 

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INTERRACIAL ROYAL FAMILY


STRANGER THINGS: INTERRACIAL ROYAL FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

I finally finished all seasons of Downton Abbey.  I am both happy and sad it ended, but I’m already on to my next binge-worthy obsession: Stranger Things.  What I loved about Downton is the juxtaposition between the service class and the aristocracy and how that changed over the course of time.  There was one story line over two episodes that dealt with interracial love, and I love the creators of Downton for taking that chance.  Other than that, we hardly saw any person of color in the whole series.  This made me think: have things changed since the late 1800s regarding the aristocracy and race?  Although there is evidence of biracial, illegitimate children of royals – the Prince of Monaco’s biracial son with a flight attendant comes to mind – you do not hear much about biracial royal families in the modern age.  Only one royal family, that I know of, has broken this barrier: The Royal Family of Liechtenstein. 

 

The family is very private, but this is what I could find out about the family.  Prince Nikolaus Maria of Liechtenstein is the second son of Prince Hans-Adam II and Princess Marie.  He married Angela Gisela Brown, now Princess Angela of Liechtenstein, a fashion designer of Afro-Panamanian descent in January 2000. The marriage obtained prior consent and had full support of the groom’s family.  Being that there are very few royal families left in Europe, some people were not fans of bringing a non-royal into the elite class; however, other Royals welcomed the change. They have a son together, Prince Alfons Constantin Maria of Liechtenstein, born on May 18, 2001 and he is in line to the throne.

 

Prince Alfons was such an adorable little boy.  He should be 15 years old now, but I couldn’t find any recent photos of him.  This is the most current photo, a compilation of the Royal Families of Liechtenstein:


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SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda – Fountain Valley, CA


SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda via Swirl Nation Blog

One of my go to places to eat when I’m home in Cali is Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley. This is probably my favorite place to eat when I come home (besides In N Out). Kappo Honda serves up delicious Japanese comfort food, something I have yet to find in NYC.

We started with two different skewers: Beef tongue and Chicken Skin. 

Beef tongue can be so tender, just like pot roast. This was a bit chewier, but the flavor was wonderful.

I mean how can you go wrong with crispy chicken skin?

 
Mixed Tsukemono

Mixed Tsukemono

We also ordered:

Mixed Tsukemono, I love me some Japanese pickled veggies.

 

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

Melt in your mouth like butter. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion serves this up and both are equally good, (one is just more expensive than the other… Guess which one?)

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

  • Sesame Chicken, Crispy fried chicken goodness.
  • Nasu Miso – Stewed Eggplant in Miso with ground beef. This is my favorite way to eat eggplant. It’s so savory.
  • Yaki Onigiri with Ume (salty plum). I love rice balls, especially grilled rice balls. Comfort food.
  • Braised Pork Belly with Spinach and Mustard. This pork belly is fall apart tender. The broth is light and the spinach really brings a nice balance to the whole dish.
  • Chawan Mushi. It’s a savory hot egg custard. Very light in flavor and the texture is like soft tofu.
  • Cold Soba – buckwheat noodles. Perfect for a hot summer day

SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda via Swirl Nation Blog

Look at the side eye my grandmama gave me for eating pork. She should talk, she will eat bacon.

 

I know a lot of the food might seem a bit crazy for those that have never had it. Try it. I bet you’ll love it.

For more info please visit their website.


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Multiculturalism vs Multiracialism: A distinction in Personal Identity

“What joins me to other Blacks…is not a set of shared physical characteristics, for there is none that all Blacks share. Rather, it is the shared experience of being visually or cognitively identified as Black by a White racist society, and the punitive and damaging effects of that identification.” - Adrian Piper (“Passing for White, Passing for Black”)

 

Multiculturalism vs Multiracialism: A distinction in Personal Identity via Swirl Nation Blog

There are people from Latin American countries with darker skin than me. Meanwhile, there are African-Americans who have lighter skin than I do. The American Creole, for example. However, all (the Latino, the Creole, and myself) are Black racially. But each of us has very different cultural experiences. And that is what sets us apart.  The fact that we are Black is based solely on our skin color and (possibly) physical attributes. However, each of us functions and moves through society in different ways. Each of us comes from different backgrounds made up of different foods, languages, dances, and even attire. The food of the American Creole is nothing like the food of African Americans (or “Soul Food”). Soul Food is nothing like the food of Afro-Latinos in places such as Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, or even Brazil. Each of these places has varying experiences based on these things. So this is how race and culture differ.

 

Merriam Webster defines culture and race as follows:

Culture: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society or group
 Race:  a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits

 

So why do I say I am multi-cultural or multi-ethnic (ethnicity is determined by shared cultural traditions and beliefs) as opposed to multiracial? Well first let's look at race. My direct connection to Puerto Rico, to my Latino side of the family, is my grandmother (referred to as “abuela” henceforth), who is very dark-skinned. Of course there are people in my family, on that side, who are White (racially, based on skin color). However, my abuela is not. But she is fully Puerto Rican, born and raised on the island, and currently living there. She is Black. My father is lighter skinned than my abuela, due to the background of his father. However, he identifies as Black. My mother is full blood African-American culturally and ethnically (Black, racially). Both of her parents are from the United States. Both are from Texas. So one could conclude that racially I am Black. However, culturally, there is a lot more going on.

 

Now as a child I referred to myself as mixed, bi-racial, multi-ethnic. I saw my abuela as Latino. However as I got older, I learned more about the separation of races, based on color, throughout all nations around the world. Some might simply call this “colorism". But it goes deeper. Because even in some of these countries, these people who are separated, have different experiences.

 

Let’s look at Brazil for example and the famed "City of God”(Cidade de Deus), one of the most famous slums in the world. The experience of the people living in this area is completely different from the Brazilians who live in nicer areas. In a similar way that the African-American experience is completely different from the experience of White Americans, even though both are American.

 

We are separated and we say that we are different races. But what is that based on? What is the thing that makes us different? What is the thing that makes African-Americans different from White Americans? Skin color. That's it. There is no other difference. At this point African-Americans are just Americans. We’ve been so far removed from Africa, that we are not “African-American". It’s not the same as being Chinese-American with parents who are from China or grandparents who are from China.

 

It’s not the same, because I can go back 3 and 4 generations and my family still came from America. I’d have to go back many more generations to find the roots of my ancestors because that history has been virtually erased. So when you tell me that there is a difference between African-Americans and White Americans and you say that these are different races, what you’re telling me is that the skin color, and certain physical markers are the things that make them different; and that is racial solely.

 

However, culturally, yes, there are differences between African-Americans and White Americans in some areas. And those differences are the result of society and the way in which our society has been set up. There are certain things that were born out of the ghettos of America because of the separation and bastardization of some of the American citizens who for the longest were not even considered citizens. That’s a different topic. But the truth is, that sort of thing happens in every country. That happens throughout the world - this separation, where other cultural markers begin to take root. Where certain types of food and certain music (Jazz, Afro-rhythms, rap), begin to take root and come out of. That in my opinion is what matters the most and that is what separates us. It’s the culture more than the race.

 

Race is a social construct in my opinion, simply based on superficial qualities.

 

"Most genetic differences are between individuals, not groups. Almost never does one group (racial or ethnic) have a trait that is missing in the rest of humanity. Our physical differences—skin color, facial features, hair texture— actually represent ancestral adaptations to different environments." - Luca Cavalli-Sfroza, geneticist

 

As I have continued to learn more and more about race relations, my history, and about myself, I decided that multi-racial didn’t make sense to me, because in each country that my family represents and that my mixture represents, they are considered Black. By the social standards of each country and by the color standards of each country, my family is considered Black. And that didn’t make sense to me, as I got older, because, since childhood I always knew that my abuela was very different from my mom and her family. Puerto Rico was very different from America. I knew and I understood that from the beginning. To me my father looked nothing like my mother. I thought that he was White, when I was a child. Because I didn’t understand anything beyond the social constructs of Black and White. So given that I’ve known my abuela has been considered Black, even though she fully identifies as Puerto Rican, it highlighted to me that her social classification only has to do with skin tone.

 

So, I decided to identify with culture. And I value that and hold that to higher esteem.

 

Therefore, I am multi-cultural.


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To: The Silent Ones, From: Your Mixed Friend


To: The Silent Ones, From: Your Mixed Friend via Swirl Nation Blog

This may make you uncomfortable. This may rattle your nerves. Maybe it will mean the end of a friendship or even backlash that I’m okay with dealing with because this wedge between us has to be ironed out. You know the one I’m talking about, that uncomfortable door we’ve never really walked through because it could permanently shut down the prospect of being a part of each other’s lives anymore. I understand that’s scary for you, and at one point it’s even been scary for me. However; in light of the senseless violence, murders, and rampant racism unearthing itself like weeds across the world, my TV, and social media, you’d have to pardon me if pleasantries are out the window.

 

Black Lives Matter. I’ve said it, you’ve seen it, I advocate for it to the utmost degree and I’m writing this because I don’t understand how we can be friends, and you don’t advocate for it either. When I say advocate let me be clear that doesn’t mean posting rants, memes or tweets about your sentiments, though those are valid if that’s how you choose to express yourself. It’s being able to sit here and know without a shadow of a doubt that you believe that. That my life matters to you. The lives of my family, friends, associates, strangers, that these people matter to you. You value these people and recognize the injustices that are being forced upon us by select number of law enforcement regurgitating an old cycle of racism. You recognize that we are in a system that is failing us time and time again and people are frustrated.

 

I’m mixed, so maybe that makes this more complex for you, but I’ll try and break it down. Some of you I’ve known my whole life, others came into the fray at different times. Some of you are close to me and others are more cordial acquaintance’s. I’m aware that to you I may not be perceived as black-as far as you are used to identifying it. I don’t have dark skin, I speak like Carlton Banks, my hair though inherent of my culture is a blend of my biracial origins. I may not seem Black to you, but I am. Whether that’s a 100% or 50%, my ancestral roots and blood courses with the same prejudice, hate, and history as the people you see on TV. Their issues are my issues. Their injustices are my injustices. Their lives mirror my own to some degree or the next. You may not have ever truly saw me as black person, but I am.

 

I could just as easily be the victim of a hate crime, racial slurs, racism, and even unlawful death by a police officer. It may seem improbable or unlikely to you, but it is a sad reality that myself being a dual minority and person with brown skin has come to accept. If my life matters to you, then you should be able to recognize that I am also black- so my black life matters. All lives matter, but right now I am asking you to think of my black life and that it is under the same danger, threat, and discrimination as the strangers you see on TV. I want you to recognize that because you choose to stay silent you remain a part of an ever growing problem of people choosing to turn a blind eye to the continual injustice people of color are facing as we speak.

 

Do I respect your views, political beliefs, moral upbringings and opinions? Yes, I do. I encourage you to voice them and make them known to the upmost extent. Maybe if you did I wouldn’t be penning a letter wondering what they are. In particular, what they are when it comes to black life, brown life, minority life, my life. I understand some of come from conservative families where interracial marriage doesn’t exist and you live life within the comforts of a bubble. I know it, you know it, and I used to pretend that was okay, but it’s not anymore. You can only hide behind familial upbringing for so long when in public you portray a more liberal view of the world. It’s scary, I’m sure, but know that’s it’s scary for me too right now, and I don’t want to wonder what side of the line you tote. You don’t have to protest with me in the streets, but I should know you support the cause to the fullest extent. Don’t think because you don’t have “real black” friends you're exempt from making a stance at a time when social action is needed to create real change.

 
To: The Silent Ones, From: Your Mixed Friend via Swirl Nation Blog

I respect it if we can’t be friends anymore, I understand. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not okay with the lack of value you place on my life and the lives of my people. I want better for me, my people, humans, and the world. Being “Mixed,” doesn’t detract or deter me from having to make my own choices about how I choose to advocate for my people and being silent doesn’t protect you from that either. You may think nobody cares or notices, but if nobody is asking you these questions at a time when these conversations are vital to the development of more understanding, empathy, and sympathy from lives who you may consider far different than your own- I’m happy to do so.

 

Sincerely,

Bi-Racial, Black, Mexican. Me.


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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET MAYA WILLIAMS


FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET MAYA WILLIAMS via Swirl Nation Blog

Maya Williams, age 20

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

Mother’s Side: West African (African American) descent, German descent, Scotts-Irish descent, and Cherokee descent. [My grandmother has West African and Cherokee descent and my grandfather has German and Scotts-Irish descent]

Father’s Side: African American descent, Scotts-Irish descent, and Chickahominy descent. [My grandmother has African American, Scotts-Irish, and Chickahominy descent and my grandfather had African American descent]

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

North Carolina

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

On the surface, no. If you look harder, it’s there, just not a lot of diversity.

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I grew up in Ft. Washington, Maryland, which is twenty minutes away from D.C. and an hour away from Baltimore. At the age of nine, I moved to Manassas, Virginia. At the age of eleven, I moved back to Ft. Washington. At the age of twelve, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. At the age of fifteen, I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of seventeen, I moved to Greenville, North Carolina to attend East Carolina University. I am in my senior year in my undergrad now.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

My father and my uncle were best friends, and my uncle was dating my aunt at the time. He and my father picked my mother up from college, and that is how my parents first met.

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

My mother identifies as mixed race, and my father does not. There was obviously no trouble with in-laws getting along. However, there was the form of tension as far as how they identify goes. They divorced when I was five, not for that reason, more tensions that had nothing to do with that.

 

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?

My mom’s side has been more supportive than my dad’s side. My dad’s side has been coming along since seeing my work online about how I identify. However, my mom’s side has still been the more supportive side.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

My mom's side of the family has a lot of mixed traditions as far as hanging out with one another goes. Also, my mom grew up overseas, so there are some things that she remembers from living in Brazil that she includes in family traditions, especially when birthdays come around, and she would sing the regular happy birthday song, the Stevie Wonder version, and Happy Birthday in Portuguese. My dad's side of the family has a lot of traditions as far as prayer and unity goes, especially drawing from traditional African American Baptist culture. 

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

I enjoy relating to a significant amount of people in my family, even though it was difficult to at first, growing up. I enjoy being able to relate to a variety of groups of people as far as my background goes: mixed race people, black people, white people.

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?Oh, absolutely. Especially with being raised primarily by a mixed race mother, it makes sense that race was a topic in our house, and that all of us, my three siblings included, identify as mixed race most of the time.

 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET MAYA WILLIAMS via Swirl Nation Blog

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

The greatest thing about multiracial fluidity, is that I can be comfortable with however I want to identify day to day. Most days, I identify as mixed race, multiracial, sometimes biracial, or as black and multiracial. There are a few days when I identify as black. I don’t identify as white often, that’s happened a couple of times. That might change, we’ll see. I acknowledge that I have Native American heritage, but I don’t identify as Native American.

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

Not really. In my life I have dated white men and mixed race men, but I didn’t forcefully “choose” to date them, if that makes sense.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

It means that I am a whole person with many fully whole parts. It means that I don’t have to place myself in a binary or in one particular box. It means speaking up whenever I feel “othered” and when people in my life feel that way too. It means embracing every part of my family with open arms. It means loving myself.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

More so now than when I was younger.

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

“Race doesn’t matter to me because I’m colorblind.”

“God is spirit, therefore, God is colorblind.”

“Stop talking about race, no one cares.”

“That’s not where our focus is right now.”

“Oh, God’s not calling me to that right now.”

“You only identify as black when it’s convenient for you.”

“Stop pretending to be black.”

“Stop pretending to be mixed.”

“I don’t see you as [fill in the blank].”

“Maybe people would listen to you if you weren’t so angry.”

“Do you hate your white side with everything going on right now?”

“We’re all mixed, right?”

“This isn’t a race issue, it’s a people issue.”

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

That we don’t have rep sweat when it comes to our entertainment. That we don’t continue to marginalize people because of their race. That systematic oppression ceases.

 
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET MAYA WILLIAMS via Swirl Nation Blog

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?

I am studying Social Work and English at East Carolina University. I am a coach for the Interfaith Youth Core, a non-profit that focuses on interfaith cooperation in higher education. I am an editorial fellow for The Tempest (follow us on Twitter and Instagram @WeAreTheTempest), a diverse online forum for millennial women. I have contributed my work to forums such as AltFem Magazine, Black Girl Nerds, Mixed Race Daily, and The Black Sheep Articles. I have been featured in the 100% Mixed Show’s #Mixstory, the Mixed Remixed Festival, and my university’s #ECUWithoutMe campaign to talk about my racial identity. I have been published at my university in Expressions Magazine for two issues, Rebel57, and the research magazine The Lookout. I am applying for graduate school. I have interned with the Creative Aging Network, Hillside Missions, and The Black Sheep Articles. You can follow me @emmdubb16 on Twitter and Instagram, and you can follow my blog flighty101.wordpress.com. Thank you for the opportunity! Thank you for sharing our stories! 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET MAYA WILLIAMS via Swirl Nation Blog

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WHEN IT’S YOUR KID ASKING THE EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS: TEACHING DIVERSITY IN ALL ITS FORMS

THE OTHER DAY, I WATCHED MY DAUGHTER WALK OVER TO ANOTHER MUM AND ASK HER WHY SHE WAS A DIFFERENT SKIN COLOUR TO HER DAUGHTER.


WHEN IT’S YOUR KID ASKING THE EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS via Swirl Nation Blog

Perhaps that isn’t such a big deal to other parents but to me, I am often on the receiving end of such questions and resent it every time. So how could my own daughter of mixed race parents be so unforgiving?

I live in this smug world where I assumed that because I talk to my daughter about diversity and about mixed families, because she lives this reality everyday, because of who she is and her understanding that families come in all different shapes, colours and sizes, she would know, instinctively that mothers and daughters can have different skin colour and still be family.

While all of this is true, what I failed to realise is that her understanding is limited. She knows what makes up a mixed family, sure. But I don’t go out of my way to discuss other forms of diversity. Families with two dads, two mums, one mum or adoptive families. To her, a child of mixed parentage has lighter brown skin, not black like her Dad’s. Her logic was correct. Because her understanding was limited.

To see my little girl ask the embarrassing race question. “Is she your daughter?”, to the mum who’d recently adopted interracially made me shrink into my seat.

It made me realise that even we, as mixed race parents, have work to do in educating our children about diversity. It’s not because we live in a brown/black world that our kids will instinctively understand and respect difference in all its forms. We can’t be surprised when our children grow up and are asking questions about gay marriage if we’ve failed to show them that this is another form of ‘normal’. Or if our kid shies away from their autistic schoolmate because they don’t understand disability.

Standing for tolerance and openness for one group and ignoring or preaching against another destroys the very principle we’re trying to teach. Interracial adoption is not too far a stretch for us but what about different religions, transgender, disability or same sex marriage?

How many of us can say we have actively searched for books featuring different faiths, disability or trans folk? I can admit I haven’t. I focused on what is ‘relevant’ for my child. But if I follow my own advice, discussions about adoption and children with two dads should be had at home, cuddled up to a good book so that surprise and critique don’t feature when we’re out.

Like anything, it takes more effort because it’s not our immediate reality. But just as much as I encourage my white friends to talk to their kids about race and difference, so should I practice what I preach and talk to my kids about diversity in all its forms.


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HAPA SHAMING

Slut shaming but Hapa shaming…” -Carol Angeli


Image is from the Hapa Project

Image is from the Hapa Project

If you are mixed you probably know exactly what my friend is talking about. Being shamed for being your unique genetic makeup.

*Just a disclaimer, I HATE slut shaming. Girls (and boys) you be you and be proud of your sexuality!

Sounds ridiculous right? People actually try and make you feel bad and less than a person because you happen to not be full (insert ethnicity here). Maybe it’s not intentional, but whatever the reason it hurts and pisses me off.

As a Hapa, I have felt like I have had to prove something. That I AM Asian enough that I AM white enough. I know for a fact I am not alone in this. I have had way too many conversations with my fellow Hapa tribe about, as Carol so perfectly put it, “Hapa Shaming”.

You’re probably gonna be surprised to learn that this comes from all sides. I grew up in a Jewish Household, so I really wasn’t in touch with my Japanese side. Especially when it came to food because let’s be real, most of that yummy goodness is considered “unclean” by orthodox Jewish standards.
When Asian friends found out I didn’t know what something was they would act horrified. “How can you not known what this is?! You’re Asian!” Or better yet they’d tell me I was a “Bad Asian” because I hold my chopsticks like a peasant, thanks, dad. To which I would always respond with “guys, I was raised by Jews”. As if I had to apologize and make up an excuse because I wasn’t Asian enough.

Over the following weeks, I want to share stories with you about my friend’s experiences. Whether it’s about how casting labels them or how people feel they can tell us exactly what we look like whether we are that ethnicity or not. How our own people have judged and deemed us not worthy to represent them.

It has taken me a long time (and I am still working on it) to accept me for me. I’m not just some “exotic” chick. I am so much more than that. My friends are more than that. We Are Human. Treat us as such.


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#NoMakeup


#NoMakeup via Swirl Nation Blog

I am a huge fan of Alicia Keys right now. Not only did she kill it at the DNC but she has also started a revolution of her own. I’m talking about her no longer wearing any makeup, the #NoMakeUp campaign.

It might sound trivial and of no importance, because I mean really who cares if a celebrity is wearing makeup or not? There’s a lot that’s going on in this world that, yes, is way more important. However, her message speaks volumes to women everywhere.

Ms. Keys is basically sticking it to the man, and she’s sticking it to him good. Her protest of sans makeup is giving women everywhere liberating freedom from hours and money spent on applying their face. Myself included. As an actor I strive for perfection, I want to look my best – and I’m not gonna lie I have always enjoyed trying out new cosmetics. It’s fun. My face is a canvas upon which I can express my inner conscious. Am I feeling edgy today? Or more playful? Depending on my mood I can create an image to fit it. Or depending upon the audition or show I can make myself appear more “Ethnic” or “White”. But this gets so tiring. Why should I have to conform to society or the entertainment industry? Why can’t I just be me?

#NoMakeup via Swirl Nation Blog

Alicia Keys recently wrote an essay on her process to get to #NoMakeup on Lenny, and I have to say it’s pretty damn brilliant. She states “I hope to God it’s a revolution”. I believe it is. You have given women the courage everywhere to say “No”. No, I will not conform. No, I do not need makeup to be considered beautiful. This is me and if you don’t like it you can suck it!

I encourage women everywhere to embrace the #NoMakeUp. I’m not saying you have to do it every day but try it out! It’s liberating and your skin will probably thank you for the break. Beauty is skin deep. You don’t need airbrushed perfection to be beautiful because you are beautiful. Embrace your inner goddess, embrace yourself.


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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ILSA LEVINE NORMAN


Ilsa Levine Norman, age 26

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL MEET ILSA LEVINE NORMAN via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

Mother’s side: 1/4 Japanese, 1/8 Irish, 1/8 Welsh

Father’s side: Jewish so Hungarian, Russian, Spanish

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Los Angeles

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

Yes

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

Until I was 14 I grew up in Marin County, a suburb of San Francisco. It was somewhat diverse – a high Jewish population. I didn’t realize Jews were a minority until moving to Texas. At 14 I moved to Dallas, TX with my family. The community there was much less diverse than Marin. I remember being told very explicitly that I wasn’t white by a boyfriend’s family member.

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

They met working a corporate job in Los Angeles.

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

Both of my parents were outsiders in their own spheres growing up. I think that’s part of the reason they connected initially. Both of them experienced a ton of prejudice in different ways. My maternal grandfather had some warming up to do to his new son-in-law but ended up really liking him.   

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL MEET ILSA LEVINE NORMAN via Swirl Nation Blog

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL/BIRACIAL?

No. When my maternal grandfather married a Japanese woman all of his kids came out looking pretty different from their cousins. They were much darker and had different features. Our little side of the family were initially considered very much the black sheep. All the grandkids now are proud of our multi-racial background. 

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

No – both of my parents lost a ton of traditions when they were growing up.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Food! Japanese food is the best. I love some of the Jewish traditions as well. We didn’t celebrate them as a family but we’d sometimes go over to extended family or friends places for Friday night Shabbat dinner. The Jewish culture is so wonderful about prioritizing family and relationships. I’m thankful for that.

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

Not really

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

Mixed brown race

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL MEET ILSA LEVINE NORMAN via Swirl Nation Blog

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

It hasn’t. I have dated men from all different backgrounds. My husband is white and I’m excited to see our mixed babies!

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL MEET ILSA LEVINE NORMAN via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

There’s no category I fit into. I think it can also mean that I’m unique and have to create celebrations for a different kind of background.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

I have friends from all different backgrounds. Celebrating people for race other unique attributes is always a good thing.

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

Ha – this happens less and less but as I kid everyone just asked me if I was Mexican. Americans have a tendency to group all brown skinned people into one race. We should probably consider other cultures with darker skin as well.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

Celebrating uniqueness and not using race as a way to group people, label people, or isolate people.

 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?

At the end of the day – we are the most judgmental of people who seem distant. I love that about this blog because we get to hear the stories of people from all different backgrounds. While there are many unique traits in all of us – I hope these kinds of platforms also show us how similar we are. We are humans and our deepest and most basic need is connection and relationship. Would we get to know the people who seem scary or different and realize the humanity in us all. My hope is that we can learn to love people and realize we are not that different.


You can learn more about Ilsa on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ELIZABETH CARROLL


FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ELIZABETH CARROLL via Swirl Nation Blog

Elizabeth Carroll, age 60

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

50% Japanese, 20% Welsh, Mixed - American Indian, Irish, Russian

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE? 

Texas

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE? 

Yes

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I grew up in Griffith, Indiana, a non-diverse (all white) south Chicago suburb. There were no other mixed kids to identify with, in fact I was bullied for my mixed race, called the N-word and actually was put in the hospital with a concussion because the bullying became physical. Being identifiably but non-specifically mixed was really hard because there wasn’t a group that organically accepted me. A lot of the white kids ostracized me, and the next closest racial connection was with the Latinas. Unfortunately, the Latinas wanted nothing to do with me and in fact threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t steer clear of them.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET? 

During the Korean war, my father was stationed in Japan and my mom worked at the military PX. Interestingly, my parents did not speak a common language when they got married. When my mom finally became fluent in English, boy was my dad surprised with what she had to say!

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

Different languages, races, countries, family hostility toward the Japanese. My dad’s mom was extremely racist against my mom and unfortunately, because my grandmother had spent all of my Dad’s military pay, he had to reenlist for six months and left my mom alone with my grandmother. She describes this as total hell and humiliation and borderline abuse.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ELIZABETH CARROLL via Swirl Nation Blog

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL? 

No. While nothing was said to me directly, my uncle, who married a Mexican woman was trash talked for having married outside the white race. My Mexican cousins were always marginalized in the family.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

No, the Asian culture values American assimilation.  So much so that my mother, Miyako Araki, changed into Judy and started smoking cigarettes as an attempt to fit in.

 

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

No. The only Japanese that was spoken in our home was some slang and some food terms. I remember asking my mom one time how to say “mikan”, (Japanese for tangerine) in Japanese and got a big laugh. I remember reading Shogun as an adult in being amazed at how little I knew about the Japanese culture.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Food, physical characteristics

 

WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS? 

None

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP? 

No, but there was a lot of race bashing in my household. I remember having a little dustup with my dad when I was in the seventh grade. He said something derogatory about a race, and I said to him,” how can you talk like that when you are in a mixed race marriage and your children all look like Mexicans?”  That didn’t go over so well.

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE? 

Mixed brown race

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ELIZABETH CARROLL via Swirl Nation Blog

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE? OR IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER WHAT RACE ARE THEY? 

No, my husband is white and before me he never dated anything other than fair skinned, blonde haired, blue-eyed women. This pushed a lot of my buttons and I brought to light my racial wounding. The good news is that we now have a Marriage Boot Camp drill called “hot buttons” to help others dig out their hidden wounds.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU? 

That I don’t fit in

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

No, but I have Black and Hispanic friends who have a beautiful sense of racial self-esteem.

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

My biggest pet peeve is the victimism that we are seeing in our culture today. Too many pity parties about racial injustice and not enough solution oriented cultural healing.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE? 

Color blind, character matters, race does not. Pretty much everything Martin Luther King said.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ELIZABETH CARROLL via Swirl Nation Blog

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE? 

We need to value our racial heritage, revel in the beauty and refuse to identify in any negative way, especially as victims. While victimization is very real, identifying as a victim- victimism, is a toxic barrier to having a fulfilling life and fulfilling relationships. Please check out a talk that I gave at Remington College, which gives a full autobiography of my story.


You can check out more information on Elizabeth's work on Marriage Boot Camp HERE and HERE.

And you can follow her on social media: Twitter  / Instagram / YouTube / Website


 

 

 

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FREDI WASHINGTON


“To prove I don’t buy white superiority I chose to be a Negro.”  -- Fredi Washington

“To prove I don’t buy white superiority I chose to be a Negro.”  -- Fredi Washington

Before I moved to Germany in first grade, I fondly remember going to my Grandma’s house after school and watching old movies with her.  The routine was always the same: walk to Grandma’s house from the bus stop, watch the afternoon movie (always a classic), change into play clothes and either pester the dog – Spike – or my Shetland Pony named Star Dust (or get in to some other shenanigans a six-year-old can get in to on a farm).  Every weekday, it was the same until we moved.  I credit my Grandma for instilling in me my love of old movies and the current romanticism I have in owning a farm.

 

Old movies – the glamour, the costumes – I love how everyone seems to break out in song and dance (tap dancing, even) at the same time in a dreamy choreographic number.  I love when people are introduced and they say, “charmed I’m sure”.  What does that even mean? I don’t know, but I love it.  What I don’t like about old movies: the shortage of minority roles and the typecasting that went to the few available roles for minorities.  At one time in my life, I seriously wanted to be an actress and I always thought, I love this period movie, but I would obviously be cast as the slave…no fancy ball gown and wig for me. Womp, womp.  I can’t deny, I love a good classic – Mildred Pierce, Gone with the Wind, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  The first two movies employed the same stereotypical black characters: slow and simple; or sassy – all servants or slaves.  The last movie employed a white person, Mickey Rooney, playing an Asian man, horribly, again, degradingly having an atrocious overbite, eating with chopsticks and complaining about Western ways.  Although I love these movies, these characters remind me of the really bad roles available for minority actors and actresses during that time. 

 

One movie I remember watching as a child was Imitation of Life, the 1934 version.  Being that the movie was made in 1934, I assumed the lead character, Peola, was a white actress portraying a light-skinned black woman trying to pass.  I mean, Mickey Rooney was portraying an Asian man in the 1960s, so why not?  It turns out, Fredi Washington, the actress, was black.  Gasp.  Now, Mrs. Washington was actually one of those unapologetically black actresses that took part in the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights movement.  After learning this, I had to dig deeper.

 

Fredericka Washington was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1903, the eldest daughter of five children.   Her mother died when she was eleven and she was forced to help take care of her younger siblings.  Her father remarried and the family moved up to New York during the Great Migration.  She began as a chorus girl in Harlem, even dating Duke Ellington and becoming friends with Josephine Baker.  She made the rounds in early Black movies before landing her most memorable role in Imitation of Life in 1934.  Fredi was born very fair with light brown hair and bluish-grey eyes, many people at the time thought she was Caucasian.  Many Hollywood executives asked her to “pass” as white to get better opportunities and roles, but she didn’t.  When asked why, she answered, “Because I’m honest, firstly, and secondly, you don’t have to be white to be good.  I’ve spent most of my life trying to prove to those who think otherwise… I am a Negro and I am proud of it.”  Imitation of Life was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture that year, but it did not win.

 

Fredi Washington went on to form the Negro Actors Guild in 1937, an organization that fought against stereotyping and advocated for broader roles for Blacks.  Fredi, herself, had trouble finding roles – too light for “black” roles; and miscegenation laws prohibiting her from being cast with a white leading man.  Fredi became a theatre writer and a film consultant on 1953’s Carmen Jones (another favorite of mine) and Porgy and Bess.  When asked again why she didn’t “pass” to get better opportunities, she replied, “You see I’m a mighty proud gal and I can’t for the life of me, find any valid reason why anyone should lie about their origin or anything else for that matter.  Frankly, I do not ascribe to the stupid theory of white supremacy and to try to hide the fact that I am a Negro for economic or any other reasons, if I do I would be agreeing to be a Negro makes me inferior and that I have swallowed whole hog all of the propaganda dished out by our fascist-minded white citizens.”

 

In 1975, Fredi Washington was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.  She died in 1994. 

Fredi Washington via Swirl Nation Blog

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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN


FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

Stacey E. Bryan, I’m in a phase where I don’t talk about age! I explain a little more at the end of this interview.

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

White: Austrian; Mediterranean: Greek. Creole black; some Native American (not sure which tribe) and white (not sure from where).

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Burbank, California

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

Much more diverse than it used to be. Burbank is where Johnny Carson had his show and Bette Davis used to live. That old-school Hollywood population has dwindled, making way for many other types.

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Oakland until I was around 5. Oakland was definitely more diverse than the San Fernando Valley where we moved to when I was 6. The new neighborhood was not diverse in the least. I think it was 95% white. My family was the only black family living there. I say black because although I’m mixed, I was adopted into a black family. That’s why the information I have about my Creole black half is spotty. Most of the kids in the L.A. neighborhood were nice, but my brother and I did not really fit in.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

I will have double answers in some of these, due to my adoption. My adoptive parents, who are black, met in San Francisco when they were teenagers, through mutual friends. My biological parents met at Berkeley while they were going to school.

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

The initial obstacle lay with my biological parents. Apart from their youth, I think the other primary reason I was given up for adoption was because I was mixed race and my biological mother didn’t receive the support from her family that she otherwise would have received. 

 

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?

I fit into my adoptive extended family seamlessly, because although they’re black, they’re also very mixed. It wouldn’t have mattered if they weren’t mixed or didn’t look mixed, like my parents; I was fully accepted and loved as if I were their blood.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

Since my adoptive family was black, what I remember most was we ate lots of soul food: greens and grits and black-eyed peas, and jambalaya, etc. I don’t remember any particular traditions or cultural events taking place.

When I met my biological mother, she introduced me to Greek food, which I had never had before. Her father was Greek and her mother was Austrian.

 

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

No foreign languages were spoken.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Since food is the most vivid memory, I have to say I enjoyed that the most. I remember a lot of smooth jazz and the blues playing during parties, so that’s a very fond memory. There were no overt religious beliefs that I can recall, although my adoptive father is a strict Catholic. Nobody in the extended family seemed to be very religious. But then again, they were all on my mother’s side from San Francisco, and my father was from Boston. It seems like the San Fran folks were all sort of Avant-garde while Dad’s Boston side were more God-fearing!

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS? 

My brother and I had a set of books as children concerning various historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King. My mother took us to see plays like A Chorus Line and Raisin In the Sun equally. I don’t remember her doing anything special to *teach* me about white people. Maybe she thought we were already surrounded by white people (in our neighborhood) had white friends, went to school with white people, and learned about mostly white people in history and other school topics already. So *being white* and what it meant to be white wasn’t a mystery.

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

Race did come up fairly often because my brother and I were often in settings where we were the only ones of our kind; he was a black kid at a Catholic school, and I was a mixed kid at the same school. Kids used to call him Oreo. Later when my hair grew longer, kids said I had “witch hair.” My parents’ overall message was that people were just people but that some people looked at skin color more than others. We were supposed to “ignore the ignorant.” But, of course, it wasn’t always easy to do. My mother thought that, in the future, when everyone “looked like me” racism would be greatly diminished.

 
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

This is a funny question for me, because I started out from childhood through my 20s saying I was black. That’s who had raised me, and that’s who I identified with. I distinctly remember being in first grade, in the Catholic school where they called my brother an Oreo, and somehow another girl and I started talking about my grandmother, and I recall proudly saying, “My grandmother is from Africa.” My grandmother wasn’t from Africa, not directly, at least, but I said it almost as if daring the girl to refute it somehow. By the time I was through my 20s, I had gotten so many confused looks and was so sick of explaining myself, I started saying I was “half black.” I realized years later that I was saying “half black,” and not “half white,” too, because of buried resentment against my white biological mother who gave me away. Nowadays I just say I’m mixed race.

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

When I was dating, the last thing I looked at was race. I’ve gone out with every color under the sun. My husband (who is very *private* and didn’t want any pictures of him included, unfortunately) is Latino. His parents are from the Dominican Republic. His skin tone is much darker than mine. In fact, when I first met him, I thought he was black. But I knew he was mixed with something. I just had no idea what.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

Being mixed to me simply means that two people whose DNA manifested in them in different ways got together and had a child. It makes it harder for people to put a label on me, but it also causes confusion. But in the end it makes me feel very connected to the world, having DNA that comes from so many different places. I think most people who have been in America for a long time are mixed, even if it isn’t readily apparent, or they don’t know it. It’s too bad that they don’t know it, or accept it, because our country would be a very different place.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

I’ve had a few mixed friends, two of whom were a half-Filipina woman and a half-Japanese man. The interesting difference between them was the half-Filipina woman was happy with who she was and how the world saw her. The half-Japanese man identified with being viewed as a minority and acknowledged the oppression and alienation that so readily can come from that. Maybe it had to do with the woman being female and pretty and not having the same concerns as an ethnic male. Ethnic women aren’t under the same pressures as ethnic men in our society. But I do think it’s a form of denial if an ethnic person believes they are completely free from those pressures.

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

I feel like people who haven’t lived on a day-to-day basis under the kind of stress that comes with being constantly judged and often treated a certain way by appearance alone usually respond with denial, rationalizations, and out-right misdirected anger. That constant, repeated response annoys me to no end, but I know it comes largely out of a lack of real, goal-oriented, educated discussion. There are old hurts and long-held angers on both sides. I also am wounded by black women who make contemptuous faces at either me or my husband when we’re out together, obviously concluding that either I’m white or my husband only likes like-skinned women.  The irony in this position is that my husband was not accepted at all by the black community he grew up in in East New York. In fact, girls that were attracted to him, upon discovering that he was Latino, would then reject him. Often kids would chant, “Rice and beans, rice and beans,” in order to get under his skin. So the black women who appear to be annoyed at what they see as a cliché of a black man with a white woman are annoyed with an illusion, because he’s not even what they traditionally go for. But all of it’s an illusion, anyway. Holding on to the same old thoughts, feelings, and ideas have gotten us nowhere and will continue to get us nowhere.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

Like I said above, my mother thought that if everyone got mixed enough and it was harder to stick labels on folks that racism would diminish greatly. But I’ve had discussions with people who believe the “paper bag rule” will just come into effect. So as the population gets more and more mixed, the new level of undesired status will become “anyone who’s darker than a paper bag” and on like that. So I’m not sure what the answer is, as long as a certain trend of thought continues. The trend has to be destroyed so that healing can begin. I guess my dream is for people to start thinking out of the box where race is concerned. Staying in the box is keeping us all prisoner.

 
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?

I’m very passionate about this topic, as you can see. I’m a writer, and I’ve addressed this issue sporadically, but probably not enough, and not in a really big way. I actually just had a book come out in June. It’s a paranormal comedy called Day for Night, and although I’m proud of it for what it is, part of me wishes I’d written the next “Invisible Man,” or something equally as weighty. However, even though it’s a comedy involving aliens and vampires, my main character, Rae, is a mixed woman (who’s also facing ageism and never says her age out loud, something I’ve adopted in real life for the time being) and I do talk about race here and there throughout the novel.

Well, the story takes place in Los Angeles, so it would be impossible not to mention race relations! I’m hopeful for the future, though. I do believe people would rather get along than war against one another. I do believe mutual understanding and compassion will come. But it’ll take time and, I think, some creativity.


You can follow Stacey on her Facebook Author Page / Goodreads / Website / Twitter

 

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