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Multiracial Mixed Issues

WHY I STRIKE

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WHY I STRIKE


 My sister and I circa the late eighties

My sister and I circa the late eighties

This day is important to me. Today women are striking across the world in a display of solidarity. I recognize that not all women identify as feminists, although I don’t understand it. I also recognize that the majority of men do not identify as feminists, although I don’t understand that either.

I think back to my childhood and realize the privilege that I have always had. Part of it I was born into, my parents were both white and educated and came from families where they were loved. Growing up I was bossy (and still am) and no one ever made me feel bad about it. I was encouraged to be a leader, I was raised to be confident, and because of that support I achieved in school and in sports. I get my work ethic from my parents, they didn’t preach it, they just lived it every single day.

When it was time for college I had a couple years that I didn’t know what I wanted to be, or how to recognize my talents. I took that time to take a lot of women’s studies courses (sounds pretty Boulder-like right? ;) and then with my dad’s suggestion I found my passion in the world of marketing.

I went to art school and graduated early, I was ready to jump into the real world. I landed the job I wanted, again privilege followed me. I feel very grateful for the life I have had and I recognize that while I have worked very hard, there were so many factors that have been working in my favor ever since I was born.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the world of advertising was flawed. About a year into my career a coworker of mine got drunk and revealed his salary to me. We went to the same school, graduated at the same time, were hired at the same time, and had the same job- he made $10,000 more than me. I remember taking the information in calmly and then headed home to figure out how I was going to make this right.

So the next Monday I told my boss that I needed to talk to his boss. I gave them the facts, they came back with comments like “well, schooling and how long you have worked here all play into salary”. When I told them we were literally identical in all of those factors, they gave me the $10,000 raise. Keep in mind I was making $25,000 a year at the time so this was huge for me. But besides the bump in salary, it made me grateful that I was raised in way that made me comfortable enough to fight for what I was worth.

I moved up quickly in my career. I had a male friend tell me one time he wished he could bottle up the “cajones” I have. As I moved up I was often the only female creative in the room. It definitely has shaped the personality I have today. The environment was competitive, frat-ish at times, and has been full of uncomfortable moments with clients, coworkers and bosses.

 
 Can you see the confidence? ;)

Can you see the confidence? ;)

Now, getting close to 40 I have been in this world for almost 18 years which seems impossible, but it is true. I am a long way from that young woman fighting for her extra 10k in a lot of ways, but in many ways much has stayed the same. I became a mom to a daughter just after my 26th birthday which opened my eyes to figuring out how I wanted to raise a strong female.

I teach by doing and fighting. It has just been the 2 of us for the better part of her life. She is my teammate, at my side all the time, so she sees the fight. She sees me when I am struggling, but most importantly she always sees me get back up. She sees that I am flawed like everyone else, but that I am fiercely devoted to doing anything and everything I can to make sure she succeeds. I have become the woman, the feminist, the boss, and the mother I am to show her what she is made of.

My hope for her and the people in her life is that they realize this is what it means to be a feminist. It means that she means as much to the world as the boy who sits next to her. It means that her brown skin is as valuable as my white skin. It means that all of the men in her life- her father, her grandfathers, and everyone else who loves her- want her to succeed and believe in her success as much as they would believe in a boy’s.

I recognize my life has been full of blessings and full of privilege. I am very grateful for everything that I have been given, the love that I was raised in, and the chances I was given to prove myself. That does not mean I don’t have something to fight for. I have heard this a lot lately, women in a position of privilege who don’t understand that one woman’s fight is all of our fight.

My dream is a world where we are all feminists, because we all recognize that your son is not better than your daughter. He doesn’t deserve additional opportunities or respect simply because of his gender. When women do better, we all do better.  Please find your own way of standing in solidarity today, I am striking with the knowledge that all women do not have that luxury, so I will strike for them too. Even more important is how each of us continue to carry out the spirit of today into each day moving forward.

Why I Strike by Jen Fisch via Swirl Nation Blog

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THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD... TO THE SOUTH?


THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD... TO THE SOUTH? via Swirl Nation Blog

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m an NPR addict.  We have a local broadcast called The Texas Standard that highlights all-things-Texas.  Every day, I mostly learn about what the new presidency means for the state and I think they talk about tacos every show, with a once-a-week argument about chili or tacos being the state food.  I will admit, I don’t get as excited for this show, as I do for THINK or Fresh Air, but love their travel tidbits and random Texas History.  When the show brought up The Underground Railroad in Texas, I naturally thought slaves were making their way north, but I was wrong…

 

In the 1850s, Nathaniel Jackson, a white slave owner from Alabama, left his plantation for the Rio Grande Valley, bringing his black wife, and former slave, Matilda Hicks, their bi-racial children, and freed slaves.  Jackson Ranch was established in 1857 and served as a refuge for runaway slaves making their way down to Mexico.  The family built a church, a cemetery, and served vital roles in their little south Texas community for generations.  The Jackson’s heirs still live today, many of whom mixed with the Mexican-Americans in the town.  Lots of multi-racial goodness, but unfortunately, very little information about this revolutionary family.

 

In 2005, a lovely historical marker was dedicated to the cemetery for all to learn about this brave family.  I never heard this story, and it makes me wonder how many others are out there just like it.  If you know any, please share, and we’ll do a post on it.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD... TO THE SOUTH? via Swirl Nation Blog

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EMPATHY


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about empathy these days. It seems as though people are at each other’s throats more than ever and it’s clear that a lot of that anger is coming from what’s going on in our political world. As one Time article states, “Empathy - the ability to step imaginatively into the shoes of another person and understand their feelings and perspectives - seems to be in freefall.”

 

People are angry with one another because they can’t possibly understand why the other person voted for or against so and so, is ok with the travel ban or not, is comfortable with the President's relationship with Russia or not. And I think that’s completely normal. However, I have been thinking that all of this anger and resentment can’t be healthy. I’m not saying that having empathy for those who oppose your views will for sure make you any less angry, but it might. And it might help you to, at the very least, begin to understand why that person feels the way they do. I think from there, we can begin to move forward.

There will always be people with perspectives that we don’t understand. No matter how long or hard we try to understand, we may never fully grasp that person’s individual feelings or opinions. I would like to argue though, that in just attempting to do so, you will open up your ability to empathize. This can be true with general groups of people (think Republicans v Democrats), strangers in the store, and people you are really close with. Simply stating that you understand where the person is coming from or by showing that you are at least trying by actively listening (rather than trying to problem solve) can change the way you perceive the other person’s actions. It also shows that person that you care and that they are not alone and in turn they will likely be more open to being empathetic toward you.

 

Dr. Mohammadreza Hojat states,

“Empathy is a cognitive attribute, not a personality trait.”

That means the part of our brain that handles empathy can be exercised. The more you practice, the more empathetic you become. We are living in a very polarizing time and I’m personally finding it difficult to empathize with people who don’t share my views. It makes me angry that anyone would want to stop people from coming to our country based on their religion. However, I’m finding that the more I think about why a person might feel differently than I do and step into their shoes, I become a little less angry. In a time when there is a lot to be angry about, I’m interested in anything that will help!

 

EMPATHY via Swirl Nation Blog

Here’s a great TED Ed video that really helped me understand the difference between sympathy and empathy and check out the helpful and interesting articles below if you’re interested in exercising your empathy!

How Being More Empathetic Can Make You a Better Leader

Exercise Empathy


 

 

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SORRY OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR YOU'RE JUST NOT THE RIGHT TYPE OF "ETHNIC" FOR THE OSCARS


SORRY OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR YOU'RE JUST NOT THE RIGHT TYPE OF "ETHNIC" FOR THE OSCARS via Swirl Nation Blog

The Oscar’s have come and gone for 2017 and this year’s Oscar nominations for best/supporting actors and actresses is much more diverse than last year. Go you Hollywood.

This year we have a whopping 7 actors of color nominated for an Oscar. 8 if you count my favorite Hapa, Emma Stone. That’s 7 out of 20 people up for this award.

Out of those 7 actors, 6 are black and 1 is of Asian decent, Dev Patel. Where are the other ethnicities? Oh, that’s right, Hollywood doesn’t produce Oscar-worthy films with diversity. Hollywood thinks diversity means just black and white. Sorry other people of color you’re just not the right type of “ethnic”. We wouldn’t want a Mideastern person playing anything but a terrorist. And we certainly wouldn’t want an Asian playing an actually Asian. What will the children think? That they too can grow up and become a famous Hollywood actor? That’s what white people are for.

That is essentially what Hollywood is telling us. That if you are Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, etc you don’t get to be represented. That you are less than. Cause white people are magical and can take on anything, even race. That you, as a person of color do not matter.

It’s amazing to me that it’s 2017 and we still have so far to go.

SORRY OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR YOU'RE JUST NOT THE RIGHT TYPE OF "ETHNIC" FOR THE OSCARS via Swirl Nation Blog
SORRY OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR YOU'RE JUST NOT THE RIGHT TYPE OF "ETHNIC" FOR THE OSCARS via Swirl Nation Blog

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A LOOK AT 'LOVING'


In the last few weeks I've found myself paralyzed and heavy into my feelings. Everyone across America is dealing with a flood of emotions, but being multiracial adds and extra layer to the confusion.

I find myself gravitating toward my African American and Native American heritage even more as events unfold, but lingering in the back of my head is the fact that I'm a combination from several different worlds. What if somewhere deep in my Caucasian lineage, there are some hateful roots. Did one half of my family contribute to the history of hurt my other half endured? Even though I know my background doesn't affect my character, not all white people are on the regressive side of the issue, it still makes the matter of equality awkward at best. I have to remind myself, though, that things are not as divided and hateful as they seem on the news. Love is the majority and things are changing. 

Biracial relationships have never been a trend that people are wild about, and the children from those relationships have not always been welcome. We're here, though, and becoming more commonplace and less taboo. I think people have an easier time accepting another race than they do accepting another race commingling with their own. It's an angle of racism that doesn't make it to the forefront very often, but it's all I seem to be thinking about lately. While there are people who may hate me simply for being black, there are also people who possibly hate me even more because I'm a mixture of both black and white. Somewhere In my mental tailspin though, I realized that I need to be grateful. Right now, there is still ignorance and some people don't approve, but there was a time when it was actually against the law and a life threatening risk to love outside your race. I felt like I was missing appreciation for where we are now, because I was focused on where we need to be. I thought watching "Loving" might give me a little perspective. That and I really just needed to watch something other than the overload of current event updates on my social media feed.

A LOOK AT 'LOVING' via Swirl Nation Blog

I always want to watch historical movies, but I shy away because they upset, and stick with me. I'm an emotional lightweight, and I can only handle an occasional action movie outside of my romantic comedies. I figured this couldn't be as traumatic as some of the movies about slavery though, so I thought I'd probably be okay. I did get upset, but it wasn't anything that would give me nightmares. It was actually really inspiring to watch the story of the couple who changed the face of civil liberties with regard to interracial marriage. Despite the danger of defying the ruling by the State of Virginia,  they fought their case all the way to the Supreme Court where it was declared unconstitutional for any state to deny a couple the inherent right of marriage based on race. They were jailed, and banished from Virginia because they would not concede to the order requiring them to dissolve their union. They faced great opposition, but persisted and eventually succeeded, creating a monumental change during the Civil Rights Movement.

I loved Ruth Negga as Mildred; in part because she herself is Swirl Nation (Irish and Ethiopian). I wasn't crazy about the husband's portrayal, but then again I don't know the real figure behind the character. Also, there were parts of the movie that were a little slow. Any criticism I have, though, is completely muted by the fact that this was a true story. Their courage was pivotal to our country's history. I was born just 15 years after the ruling, and relatively speaking that's not even a full generation before me. Without the Lovings my very existence would be criminal. That realization alone gave me chills, and left me in awe of the entire movie.

"Loving" the movie, left me thirsty for more stories of people who paved the way for all the liberties I am able to enjoy present day. Recently our country may have taken a few steps back, and uncovered prejudices that hid but did not die, but we have still come such a long way. While it's possible to come across intentional obstacles, distractions, and delays, progress cannot be stopped. Rather than be consumed by what the media strategically shares, I choose to be encouraged knowing that love will prevail and change is inevitable. 

One day interracial and multiracial will be redundant terms used only in history books, because we will all realize that we are a nation full of immigrants and their descendants, and no one's heritage is linear. We all have relatives that mixed things up somewhere along the way, and that's what makes our country the beautiful melting pot that it is.

Multi cultural family.jpg

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HONORING WORLD HIJAB DAY


HONORING WORLD HIJAB DAY via Swirl Nation Blog

Today, February 1st is World Hijab Day. One of our founders, Amal, is supporting in her city of Dallas, TX. During a time when hatred and anti-immigrant sentiments are at an all-time high, the movement, now in its 5th year is more important than ever. 

The overall mission of WHD is to create a more peaceful world where global citizens respect each other. Particularly, WHD focuses on fighting bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice against Muslim women. This is most crucial in these times where Hijab is being banned in some countries while in other countries, Muslim women are being targeted and harassed verbally and physically. We must stand for Muslim women's right to cover. There are many ways to show your solidarity and it is not too late to participate!

More more information go to their website.

On social media share your photos using #Istand4Hijab #WorldHijabDay


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YOU ARE INVITED: #WHEREISBEAUTY SCREENING AT THE PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL


The short film, #WhereIsBeauty, is about an introspective visual artist dealing with the pressures of social media embarks on a journey of self-discovery capturing everyday life through hashtags which unexpectedly transforms her perspective of beauty.

YOU ARE INVITED: #WHEREISBEAUTY SCREENING AT THE PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL via Swirl Nation Blog

The countdown to the Pan African Film Festival has officially begun...  We hope to see you at one of the two screenings!

#WhereIsBeauty is screening at the 25th Annual Pan African Film Festival on Friday, Feb. 10th at 3pm and Wednesday Feb. 15th at 2pm. 

The screenings take place in Los Angeles at the Cinemark RAVE Cinemas 15 - 4020 Marlton Ave at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

The mission of the Pan African Film Festival is to:

Present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes. We believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

 

Please go HERE to purchase your tickets, festival passes and learn more about the festival.

 

Please JOIN the conversation and you can also follow the film on social media. 

IMDB / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

 

Here is a full list of films being shown at the festival.


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3 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE MULTIRACIAL


3 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE MULTIRACIAL via Swirl Nation Blog

As the world becomes more diverse, multiracial people are not quite the rare unicorns we once were. Even with more combinations of skin, eyes and culture constantly blending, though, it seems that uni-nationality people (pretending for a moment that's actually a real thing) still don't quite know how to approach or talk to "The Mixed". -That's my new term and I'm sticking with it. It sounds like the newest hit drama on NBC; already in it's second season, with rave reviews, starring yours truly.  

No matter what term you use as a description, there are definitely 3 things you should keep in mind when you meet someone who appears to be multiracial.

 

The question, "What are you?", is not welcome!

It's probably the single most frustrating question for us. I haven't taken a scientific poll, but I think I can safely say we all have an eye roll reserved for the occasion. Just don't ask, and spread the word so hopefully the question dies altogether. We are human! Whether well intended or not, the question implies that we're not. Add in the bewildered face people wear as they ask, and the feeling of being an outcast just grows. I am a woman, sister, daughter, writer, actress, mother extraordinaire if you must, but if you'd like to know my background simply ask me, "What's your background?" I am happy to unlock the mystery.

 

The touching of our hair isn't either

There seems to be a fascination with ethnic hair in general, but I've noticed an extra layer of "Oooh what's that" when it comes to hair that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It comes in a variety of textures and sometimes the color seems out of place given the corresponding shade of skin, but it is just hair, and we don't like people touching it. If my curls are calling to you and the urge becomes overwhelming, again, ask. You may get a firm and passionate, "No!", but if you're not given permission, it feels like a violation. It's kind of like the hand on the belly bump phenomenon. Apparently, there's an unspoken rule, that if a woman is pregnant and her belly is visible, she becomes public property, and it's okay to lay hands. Well uh, I can assure you this rule was not written by a pregnant woman; I literally used to slap any strange hand that got close enough. Anyone who thinks it okay to walk up and touch someone's anything, hair included, has been seriously misinformed. If you didn't know, now you do.

 

Starring makes things awkward

Now, I have to give a disclaimer. I have seen a multiracial few that are an absolutely stunning display of artistic magnificence personified, and I couldn't take my eyes off them. There are people that beautiful and visually captivating, but they are not wax figures and there is most certainly a line. Whether gorgeous and statuesque or not, The Mixed are something like a puzzle. It drives you nuts if you can't identify where all their features come from and you just can't look away until you've got it; I've been there. Starring is understandable, but anything beyond a 5 second gaze starts to become uncomfortable. Even worse, if we've made eye contact and you still haven't said anything things go from awkward to concerning. We are approachable, I assure you (most of us anyway), and we don't bite. If you find yourself taken aback by someone it's okay, and actually preferred, to say something instead of just persisting with a stare.

 

If you've been following the dots and my entire rant seems to deal with consent and respect, you're right on target. It's in our nature to explore the unfamiliar, admire unique beauty, and try to dissect anything that we don't understand. Unfortunately, it has also been a part of our history to treat differences in humans, the same way we would a new cell phone. We don't bother learning about it from the manual, we just look it over and play with it. Great for technology, not okay with people. I don't think enough of the population realizes or cares that it's not okay, though. My hope is that as people learn better, they'll do better. 

 

The differences in our cultures and traditions are what make blending them so beautiful. Admire, inquire and enjoy when you come across a way of life different from your own. I don't have a drop of Greek in me, that I know of, but Mediterranean cuisine is definitely at the top of my favorites. As you become more worldly though, just keep a sticky note, somewhere in the back of your think tank, that reminds you, there is not a person in this world that is on display for your curiosity or entertainment. Multiracial individuals are not beautiful patchwork quilts for you to run your hand over. Their feelings are no different than your own, so make sure you're "Doing unto others..."

 

I have grown into a much greater sense of confidence when it comes to my blend, but that was not always the case. As a child I felt like a bit of a sideshow. Kids always wanted to play with my hair, or come up with a creative reason why they thought I had freckles with brown hair and eyes. I no longer care much if someone turns my face into a guessing game, but I'm sure there are still children and even adults, today, who haven't yet gotten to that place of self assurance. In a world of carbon copies, unique is not an easy mountain to climb. When you do meet someone who appears multiracial, the biggest thing is to show respect. If you're sensitive in your approach, I think plenty of The Mixed wouldn't mind sharing their story. 


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VIDEO KILLED THE INTERRACIAL RADIO STAR


It all started one night when I was sitting on my couch, listening to Terence Trent D’Arby. As a 28, going on 29-year-old, I was only a kid when his music was popular, but I still remember hearing his songs throughout the house as a child and watching his videos on MTV back when MTV actually showed music videos. As I listened to “Sign Your Name” (1987), one of Terence Trent D’Arby’s famous ballads, I decided to YouTube the video to further enhance my trip down memory lane.

 

* “Sign Your Name” – Terence Trent D’Arby (1987)

As I watched, the video portrayed the story of Terence, a mixed Black/White (Scottish/Irish) man who loved and lost a White French woman; their light-skinned, curly haired, brown-eyed child caught in the crossfire between the complicated love of two complicated adults.

Screenshots from official music video for “Sign Your Name” by Terence Trent D’Arby

 

After watching the video, I immediately thought to myself…

“How many other music videos highlight multiracial love?”

 

Continuing my late 80’s, early-90’s nostalgic journey, I thought about the catchy “Jungle Fever” (1991) by Stevie Wonder from the hit Spike Lee movie Jungle Fever and its story of an interracial relationship between a Black man and a White Italian woman in 1990’s New York City.

“Jungle Fever” – Stevie Wonder (1991)

 

In the late 90’s, there was the sexy futuristic video for “If You Can’t Say No” (1998) by Lenny Kravitz, where Lenny, a mixed Afro-Black/White Jewish man professed his love and loss for Mila Jovovich, a famous Ukrainian model and actress.

 

“If You Can’t Say No” – Lenny Kravitz (1998)

 

And of course, the video for “They Don’t Know” (1998) by Jon B., who everyone said “sounded Black,” but was a White man who displayed his secret love for a Black woman.

 

“They Don’t Know” – Jon B. (1998)

 

As for music videos showcasing interracial love into the 2000’s, many of us may remember Justin Timberlake’s video for “Like I Love You” (2000), his first single as a solo artist after leaving N’SYNC. The video showed him, a White man, trying to win the affection of a Black woman.

 

“Like I Love You” – Justin Timberlake (2000)

 

There was also the ballad “Lost Without U” (2007) by Robin Thicke, which featured then wife Paula Patton, as they engaged in a sexy flirtation. This music video also recounted a love that was lost between a White man and a mixed Black/White female.

 

“Lost Without U” – Robin Thicke (2007)

 

And most recently, Adele, a White British woman pined over a love lost with Mack Wilds, a mixed Irish/Afro-Dominican man, in her video for “Hello” (2015).

 

“Hello” – Adele (2015)

 

Despite these videos showcasing love and romance between interracial couples, they are predominately just a visual that comes with generic songs about love and heartbreak. The actual topic of interracial love is not overtly sung about. There are some examples, however, as few and far between they may seem. Auburn, a Black female rapper from Minneapolis, has received negative feedback by rapping about her Asian boyfriends and using Asian men to portray love interests in many of her music videos. In her song “My Baby” (2013) Auburn states,

“I know people look at us and they wonder why we’re attached because our skin don’t match.”

 

“My Baby” – Auburn (2013)

 

Other noticeable songs from the 2000’s which explicitly discuss the intricacies of interracial love are “Long Way To Go” (2004) by No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani and member of Outkast, André 3000. The two sang about how love is love, regardless of color, but how society still has a long way to go to fully embrace the notion of colorblind love.

 

“Long Way To Go” – Gwen Stefani feat. André 3000 (2004)

 

There is Alicia Keys “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” (2009) which directly expressed what it was like to engage in an interracial relationship when such an idea was still very taboo.

 

“Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – Alicia Keys (2009)

 

And lastly, Robin Thicke’s “Dreamworld” (2009) which has Robin dreaming of a world where he states, “There would be no black or white, the world would treat just treat my wife right, we could walk down in Mississippi and no one would look at us twice.”

 

“Dreamworld” – Robin Thicke (2009)

 

It is interesting how the videos for the songs I have mentioned which feature multiracial love are stories of love that was lost, stories of heartbreak and misery. The stereotypical tragedy of mixed-race plays out even in mainstream music. How come we do not see music videos where multiracial love flourishes? How come we do not hear more music about interracial love from a variety of perspectives, not just couples who are Black and White? Why are artists not singing about multiracial love in general? And why does interracial love have to be so difficult, even within the language of music, which is supposed to heal all when other remedies do not work?

 

The acceptance of multiracial and interracial relationships are higher than ever before, yet, popular music has yet to catch up to the claim. This all may be a moot point now that music videos are not what they used to be. Maybe a resurgence of the music video in the future will help propel interracial love into a new spotlight. Thankfully, interracial couples are still being seen in the media, from TV commercials to clothing ads. But it would be great to turn on a good song knowing there is a music video somewhere out there showcasing the beauty of multiracial affection, to see that multiracial love is not to be lost, but that it can be held onto long after the music fades.


NOTES:

*The original music video is no longer available in this country. The version of the video provided is a live version of Terence Trent D’Arby performing “Sign Your Name” live at The Roxy in 1988.

**Image from Google Images.

***Image from Instagram.

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A UNITED KINGDOM


Last weekend I took my daughter to go see Hidden Figures (which was INCREDIBLE) and worthy of its own blog post, but I have to say I was already in tears before the movie even started because the trailer for A United Kingdom played...

Looks incredible right?! So I have never heard this story before, but it is the true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams. Seretse was Botswanan and an Oxford-educated student prince. Ruth was an English middle-class clerk. In 1948 they were married despite all of the obstacles and outrage it caused.  Their relationship became the focus of a crisis between Britain and Botswana’s neighbour South Africa, which was about to introduce apartheid.

  Seretse Khama with his English wife Ruth, and their two children Jacqueline and Seretse Jr in September 1956

Seretse Khama with his English wife Ruth, and their two children Jacqueline and Seretse Jr in September 1956

 Ian Khama, current President of Botswana, son of Seretse and Ruth

Ian Khama, current President of Botswana, son of Seretse and Ruth

The couple went on to have a daughter and three sons. Their son Ian is now President of Botswana. Both Seretse and Ruth have now passed, but from the trailer it certainly looks as though British acting duo David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike have done an incredible job of capturing their love story. 

Oyelowo said that he was attracted by the ‘epic nature of the love story, and the backdrop of the British empire, and what it was like to be a king in Africa just as apartheid was being signed into law in South Africa’. There is already Oscar nomination buzz about his performance. He was certainly snubbed in my opinion for portraying MLK in Selma. 

It is wonderful to see a diversity of love stories being displayed on screen, of course Loving being most recent, and now A United Kingdom slated to be released on February 10th, 2017. 

  David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are portraying the pair on screen

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are portraying the pair on screen

I hope everyone goes out and supports this movie, the multiracial community in particular! What a wondeful love story to share with the world.

A UNITED KINGDOM via Swirl Nation Blog



 

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SWIRL NATION BLOG IS 1 YEAR OLD TODAY!

SWIRL NATION BLOG IS 1 YEAR OLD TODAY! via Swirl Nation Blog

A year ago today JennKourtneyAmal and I launched Swirl Nation Blog! After many group phone calls and texts we got our baby launched and just hoped someone would want to read it! Since then we have been lucky enough to have almost 60,000 people make their way to our site. We can only hope they enjoyed reading what they found when they got there! 

Over the last 12 months we have been lucky enough to add contributing bloggers from all over the U.S. as well as the U.K and Puerto Rico. Their unique voices and perspectives have allowed the page to represent a wide variety of multiracial journeys. 

On social media we have worked hard to connect with the multiracial community, reaching out to others who are passionate about the topic and we feel so blessed at the many individuals and families who have agreed to be featured on our blog! We had fun heading to the 2016 Best Nine site to find out which of our Instagram photos got the most love, and here they are!

 Our 2016 Best Nine from our Instagram page

Our 2016 Best Nine from our Instagram page

We are so grateful for everyone who has contributed to the growth of Swirl Nation, whether through writing blog posts, or subscribing to our newsletter, or liking our social posts! All of it means so much! In 2017 we will continue to share the Multiracial Goodness! We are always looking for more stories to share and people to collaborate with. 

Peace and love in 2017 to you all. 

xx The Swirl Nation Team

 

P.S. If you are just joining us as a Swirl Nation Blog reader, welcome:) We thought it would be fun to share a few of our very first posts from last January so you can see where we started, and then explore the blog more to see where we are now. So here is a little look back, click on photos to link to the original post...


 

 

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THE SALDANA SISTERS THEIR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY LOVE


So, some people got heated over the above photo of Zoe Saldana and her sisters

From accusations of self-hate, to entitlement, people (presumably black men) were not happy with the sisters’ romantic choices:

Jen forwarded this to me because I come from a family of four girls and every last one of us married non-Black men.  With the exception of my younger sister, we ALL equal-opportunity dated – Black, White, Latino, Asian, and every mixture of all of those…

My oldest sister married her first love at 18.  He is white.  They have three beautiful children.  My brother-in-law married my sister knowing she had a terminal illness and he would have to take care of her.  He took care of her until she died, and I can assure you he still loves her very much. 

My older sister had a child with a black man.  Things did not work out and she raised my niece as a single mother until she met her current husband.  He is white.  They have two children together and he takes care of my niece from my sister’s first relationship like she was his own.

My little sister fell in love with her husband.  He is white.  They have one daughter together and his daughter from a previous marriage.  I am so happy for my little sister to be married to this man because he’s just a REALLY good guy.

They are ALL really good guys.  I totally notice they are white – they are like, white, white, super-, like “OMG” white; but I KNOW in my heart they didn’t marry these men because they are white.  They married them because they are good guys and treat them really well.  I know this because I married my non-Black husband.

I didn’t have a “type”.  I was so equal opportunity, with one exception: my dates needed to be tall – the taller the better.  When I met my husband, while wearing heels, he was shorter than me.  I did not want to like him.  I still think he did some Santeria/Voodoo on me because I can’t control my love for him.  I’m crazy for him.  Literally.  I risked having short offspring to be with him.  No one can make me laugh like him.  No one can make me as mad.  I love his short little Latino ass.  I love him to the moon and back, and I can tell you, with sincerest honesty that I didn’t go out looking for a non-black man to marry because I hate my race.  I was looking for a man to make me feel this way.  We’ve been together for twelve years, married for ten of those years, and we have two very lovely children who are being raised to be proud of both heritages.  (oh, and by the way, I’m his first black relationship… he wasn’t purposely seeking me because of my race either)

So please stop with this “they date outside their race because they hate themselves.”  I’m sure Zoe and her sisters don’t hate themselves.  Although I agree there has been a lot of messed up stuff that has gone on throughout history to make us Black people feel bad about ourselves, I am sure that is not why Zoe Saldana and her sisters are with these men. 

If you love black women, more power to you.  I have a secret, the Saldana sisters aren’t the only black women in the world.  In America, many black women are single.  Sadly, statistically, black women are least likely to marry than any other woman of another race in America.  Unfortunately, black women represent the largest percentage of single mothers in America.  Over half of black women over the age of 18 have had some college, so they are educated.  You are complaining about these THREE women… get over it.


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WHEN "THE HATE" SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE


Don't you hate when you are minding your own business, just wasting time on Instagram and then BOOM! You are slapped in the face with hate. That's what happened to me this weekend. I saw this Banana Republic Factory Store ad sponsored in my feed. Normally I would ignore this ad because I am not a Banana Republic kind of girl and I also hate Outlet stores, but the multiracial couple caught my eye. Of course my first instinct, as the founder of Swirl Nation Blog and the mother of a biracial daughter, was "awwww how cute are they?!". But that was instantly me with a feeling of "oh shit, I bet the comments are full of ignorance." Unfortunately my feeling was correct. 

Over 3,000 people of course liked this photo so I don't want to discount that, but as usual those with the most hateful voices tend to also have the loudest. I am not one to engage with people on social media, especially in an argumentative way, but I was certainly tempted. Also since this is an ad, and not a post that will remain on the company's profile, I decided to screenshot the hate to preserve it for all to see. 

 
WHEN "THE HATE" SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE INTERRACIAL COUPLE ON INSTAGRAM via Swirl Nation Blog
 
WHEN "THE HATE" SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE INTERRACIAL COUPLE ON INSTAGRAM via Swirl Nation Blog

I have been the target of some social media hate in my day. All of the messages have been from insecure white men who feel like I "wasted my white genes" by having an biracial daughter. I've been asked why I "ruined myself" by dating black or multiracial men. These are always fun DMs to get. One was by a former high school classmate of mine, or at least that is what he said, I couldn't see his face because his profile photo was him in a KKK hood. Yup, this world is a scary place. 

Recently the hate has become more vocal. People are no longer hiding their racist views and with social media they can broadcast them to the world within seconds. As a mother with a daughter who is in middle school, it worries me what she may innocently come across when she's least expecting it. That's what happened here, just scrolling along, seeing what my friends are up to and BAM! Racist assholes trying to mess up my day. 

You can go through the whole chain below: 

 

Banana Republic is owned by the same company as The Gap and Old Navy. This Spring Old Navy got a lot of attention for their use of a beautiful mixed family which got endless attention from racists. As a company these brands have always been progressive in their use of interracial couples and multiracial families. I'm happy they do not back down to the hate and continue to share a diverse sampling of the human race. 

Instances like this remind me why we started Swirl Nation Blog. Sometimes living in Los Angeles it is easy to think that everyone thinks like I do. The latest election is a giant wake up call of course. Hate is prevalent and as @mshite2you says, is "trying to rise up again". Those of us who are involved and passionate about the multiracial community need to keep spreading love.

WHEN "THE HATE" SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE INTERRACIAL COUPLE ON INSTAGRAM via Swirl Nation Blog

The idea of sheltering my 12 year old daughter from racism and hate is attractive, but wouldn't do her any good. She needs to know her history and she needs to know the current state of race relations in America. And of course I hope if "the hate" slaps her in the face one of these days I hope she can be confident and strong in the face of discrimination. I hope outlets like this site will help her and other multiracial people feel loved, accepted and supported- for we are stronger when we battle back together against those who are filled with ugliness. 

I also hope corporate America will continue to represent diverse couples and families in advertising. I recognize this often brings them backlash to the companies, but I have noticed an increase in diverse casting choices the last couple years. The Cheerios commercial with the multiracial family probably got the most press and recently we featured the new Chase Bank commercial that follows an interracial love story. I wish everyone in this world was as smart as the kids in this video: 

Some wisdom from these kids: 

"Think about those people that are of mixed races, they probably feel horrible because of messed up people like the ones commenting." 
"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
"In real life there are family of all races." 
"It definitely will get people mad, but eventually those people will just realize it doesn't really matter."

So I want to thank Banana Republic Factory Stores, and all of the other brands that realistically portray America's families, don't back down to the hate.


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WHAT?! DETAIL OVERLOOKED.


WHAT?! DETAIL OVERLOOKED.

It’s that time of year again where people dress in costumes. Some recognizable, others not so much. It is not uncommon to hear the question asked “what are you?” It’s in fact an expected question if your creative skills are not too strong and like me, you are big on homemade costumes.

 

Now let’s talk about life, not in a costume, not on a day of parties and dress up. Life on any day for a person of mixed race. As a woman who is pale and freckled, I never expect to be asked that question, but if I were and I understood what they really wanted to know, answering honestly it would be “I am a quarter drunk, a quarter bad teeth and half Viking”. You guessed it right if you thought Irish, English and Scandinavian but a stranger wouldn’t ask me that question because I don’t have a beautiful brown complexion that they feel needs an explanation.

 

People of mixed race know exactly what this question means when they hear it, little kids do not.   

I was recently informed this is a very common question asked of people who are of mixed race and have lightish brown skin.  “What are you??”

 

As mother to a child of mixed race, I am told I should expect this question being asked of my daughter. Thanks for the warning, seriously.  While I haven’t heard it asked of her yet, I did have a parent learning moment of the “what are you” kind which was way bigger than the question.

 

My daughter (who was six years old) and I were flipping through the racks at a department store when a chatty woman told me my daughter looked as if she could be part Asian. I smiled at her and her little dog that my child was ooing and awing over and simply said “no” instead of asking her if she had her non-service dog in a department store. This is San Diego not Paris. However, this lady wanted to engage further, Chatty Cathy at her finest. She persisted with the inquisition of my daughter's complexion, in front of my daughter to which I finally revealed,

“She is half African American”.

 

This is where time stands still. My daughter stands up from petting the dog, with her big round brown eyes. looks at me and exclaims rather loudly

“WHAT? I am AFRICAN AMERICAN? I am from Africa?”. 

I am frozen. No words. Awkward expression on my face.  My mind is spinning as I am nervously turning my head from my daughter to this woman and her dog and back again. I’m thinking…we do have mirrors in our home. Her father is present in her life and she sees that he has a dark complexion. How have I as a parent failed to have this conversation? How have I as a parent with fair complexion failed to educate my daughter on her ethnicity blend? How as a parent did I not see this as a piece of important information worthy of explanation? Not in a way that her blend isn’t important but important in that she knew the exact dictionary definition of her blend. I stood speechless for what seemed like eternity. When I finally spoke, to my daughter I said

“Yes darling, you are half black”

and then to the woman

“Thanks for being part of a monumental life moment”.

 

After getting over my own shock and going about our shopping I realized, as her mother I had not had this discussion because her skin color does not define “what she is”. It doesn’t define who she is. It does not define her identity. To me when she is asked this question, no matter the expected answer, I want her to stand tall and proud as she says “I am a confident, courageous, empowered, educated, talented girl who sings like an angel, what about you?”

 

My naivety of the questions children and people of mixed race are faced with has come to light. I have some learning to do. This chapter was missing from the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting! To other parents of bi-racial kids, educate yourself on what they should expect and to those of you of mixed race reading this, I apologize on behalf of the people who ask you this question. Next time reply with “why do you ask?” That’s usually a good silencer. 

 

Post was originally published on Chris Kelly With Love  


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MULTIRACIAL REDHEADS CHALLENGE THE WAY WE SEE RACE


MULTIRACIAL REDHEADS CHALLENGE THE WAY WE SEE RACE via Swirl Nation Blog

Recently I came across this Upworthy article from 2015 that shared images that photographer Michelle Marshall takes of individuals with the MC1R gene variant, which is the gene mutation that causes red hair and freckles.

Only 1-2% of the world's population boasts natural red hair, which is caused by a genetic mutation in the melanocortin-1 receptor, or MC1R. For the most part when asked to describe a redhead, we probably would imagine someone of Caucasian descent. 

However, when Marshall was working on a photography project specifically about freckles, she met an adorable redheaded girl who she was surprised to learn was mixed race which then inspired her to find other mixed race redheads. 

She explains her focus in her artist statement:

"I am currently interested in documenting the incidence of the MC1R gene variant responsible for red hair and freckles, particularly amongst black/mixed raced individuals of all ages. I want to stir the perception that most of us have of a 'ginger' person as a white caucasian individual potentially of Celtic descent.

Whilst there seems to be a strong Irish/Scottish connection to the MCR1 gene in the occurrence of red hair, does being ginger still only means being Scottish, Irish, Welsh or even a white caucasian individual?  As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows its own course, embracing society’s plurality and, in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origins, ethnicity and identity.  

Yet, statistics do not seem to reflect everyone."

 

The artist's main objective is to connect people. In an interview with Vice magazine she said, 

"A lot of [my photo subjects] have been feeling quite isolated, I got a message from one boy who said, 'I didn't realize there were so many of us' — I've not even shot 50 people. But the fact that he was able to see a cluster of people that matched his identify and could relate to that is quite positive."

And as the Upworthy article states: 

That's why it's so important that we open our eyes and celebrate the diversity in the world. Not only does it encourage us to challenge our own preconceived notions — for example, by showing us that redheads don't have to be white — but it also helps those people see themselves (or helps us see ourselves) represented in the world.

 

 

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The End of Anti-Miscegenation Laws: Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Relationships


  Little Rock, Arkansas protest to keep anti-miscegenation laws on the books. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

Little Rock, Arkansas protest to keep anti-miscegenation laws on the books. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

On November 3rd, the new movie Loving hit theaters. The film features the story of interracial couple Richard Loving, a White man, and Mildred Jeter, a Black woman, from Virginia who defied anti-miscegenation laws by getting married. The film highlights their historic Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case in 1967, which overturned anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. (It had previously been legal in all but 16 states.)

Seven months shy of the 50th anniversary of the SCOTUS decision, thinking of the film and the story of the Loving family, many may not understand the true importance of Loving v. Virginia and the extent to which the United States viewed interracial relationships at that time. Some may even take for granted how interracial relationships have become a societal norm and view the film as slightly shocking. Therefore, to better understand the historical context of the film, let us reveal the State of the Union at that time when it came to multiracial love.

Pre-Anti-Miscegenation Laws[1]

When digging deeper into the struggles of the lived mixed-race experience in the United States, it is apparent Western culture has worked hard to maintain a division of the races (Wilson, 1987). For over 300 years, more than half of the United States held strict anti-miscegenation laws to prevent different races from marrying, cohabitating, and engaging in sexual relations. Yet, prior to the creation of anti-miscegenation laws, racial divisions had already begun to take shape. Around the time of anti-miscegenation laws, elite white Americans created what is known as a “white racial frame,” where the “superior” racial group were white Americans while the “inferior” racial group were black Americans (Feagin, 2009). Since the creation of aforementioned “white racial frame,” this highly prejudiced point of view was strengthened during American social crises with immigration, slavery, and civil rights. Ultimately, the elitist “white racial frame” no longer applied solely to black Americans, but came to concern all persons of color as being inferior. Native, Asian, and Latin-Americans were all seen as being inferior to the superior white American race (p. 56).

The United States, unlike any other nation in the world, has used a black identity to create and maintain a divide between whites and non-white minorities. The one-drop rule, which delegates any person in the United States with any known African black ancestry, no matter how little or distant, is deeply rooted in American culture (Davis, 2006). The one-drop rule is truly unique because similar to anti-miscegenation laws, the one-drop rule resulted from United States experiences with slavery and racial segregation. According to anthropologists, for those who are multiracial and/or multiethnic, the one-drop rule is also known as the hypodescent rule, as mixed-race children are assigned to the status position of the lower status parent group (p. 17). Therefore, according to such racial hierarchy rules, any individual who is a person of color, yet mixed with white, will automatically be assigned the status of their parent who is of color. 

The Era of Anti-Miscegenation Laws

Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States first appeared in the mid 1600s, around the Chesapeake area of Maryland and Virginia, where many mixed-race relationships were occurring between white slave owners and black slaves (Davis, 2006). Anti-miscegenation laws proclaimed fornication between whites and Negroes was equivalent to bestiality, with 38 states adopting such laws (Brown, 2001). By the 1700s, anti-miscegenation laws, along with the one-drop/hypodescent rule, were not only meant to prevent marital unions based on race, but became the social definition of a black person in the South (p. 17). Alibhai-Brown explains how the word miscegenation [was] used to describe the products of relationships across racial barriers and [was] infused with the implication of something not quite the norm, something deviant (Alibhai-Brown, 2001).

The End of Anti-Miscegenation Laws: Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Relationships via Swirl Nation Blog

Anti-miscegenation laws were a clear way to curb a national fear of individuals and behaviors that seemed to be abnormal and deviant. In addition, anti-miscegenation laws were vital in maintaining Jim Crow segregation, allowing for racial “purity” to persevere (Davis, 2006). Despite the law and a general fear of blending races among elite white Americans in the United States during this time, sexual, romantic, and marital relationships occurred at significantly high rates between whites and blacks. The number of mixed-race children being born during this time steadily increased; however, children from mixed-unions were automatically placed outside of the existing social order (Brown, 2001).

Post-Anti-Miscegenation Laws

It was not until the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, which facilitated an end to Jim Crow laws. The well-recognized Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down in 1967, was a momentous event in United States legal and cultural history. Loving v. Virginia, which overturned anti-miscegenation laws, making them unconstitutional, created a spark that lit a charged fire of demographic change throughout the U.S. (Bratter and Zuberi, 2001; Brunsma, 2005). Elam (2011) reinforces the notion that although Loving v. Virginia and other cultural transformations shaped by immigration trends have contributed to the United States increasingly multi-hued population, people of mixed descent are not a recent phenomenon: they have existed in often distinct, self-identified communities since the colonial era in the Americas, from Black Seminoles to Melungeons (p. 6). Up until the Loving decision, it is clear race mixing occurred, but it was a strictly managed affair, driven by force and power. Yet, such a power shift in American culture following the Loving v. Virginia case helped bring mixed-race identities and struggles out of the private sphere into the public sphere (Olumide, 2002). In addition, such a socio-cultural and legal endorsement of mixed-race identities and relationships eventually produced what has come to be known as the “biracial baby boom.” In the 1970s, approximately 1% of children were products of a mixed-race union and by 2000, that number grew to more than 5% (Herman, 2004; Brunsma, 2005).

Mixedness in the New Millennium

We then come back to present day where the growing mixed-race population is observed not just in the United States, but across the world. This has created greater interest in multiracial individuals and their lived experiences. A recent example of such interest is presented through The Pew Research Center June 2015 report, Multiracial in America: Proud, Diverse, and Growing in Numbers (Pew, 2015). The 156-page report is based off findings from 1,555 multiracial Americans across the nation, aged 18 and older, who were surveyed in regards to personal attitudes, experiences, and demographic characteristics (Pew, 2015). The report describes how the multiracial population is growing at a rate three times as fast as the total population, citing 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data which shows approximately 9 million Americans chose two or more racial categories when asked about their race (Pew, 2015).

  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

As we approach the 50-year anniversary of Loving v. Virginia next year and hopefully continue to see more media stories of not just the Loving family, but other multiracial couples and families, there is trust in the multiracial community continuing to add to the history of interracial relationships in America. Yes, it has been a bumpy road. Nevertheless, it has been a road worth traveling for the sake of not being afraid to cross boundaries for love, for happiness, and for freedom.

Post was originally published on Multiracial Media


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COLOR STRUCK


Tony* was the guy all the girls wanted to be with: tall, handsome, a great smile, and very nice and friendly. With a complexion like honey, Tony was fetishized by brown-complected women and made White women feel he was just Black enough to piss off their parents, but not so Black they were forced to confront their own biases.

 

At the time we met in November 1995, I was living in Southwest Washington, D.C. in a tiny studio apartment barely big enough for my two cats, Milo and Otis, and me. I had recently lost my mother and left a boyfriend who’d been a complete nightmare—physically and emotionally abusive. After breaking up with the man I often “affectionately” refer to as Time Travel A$$hole (we’ve all met him in one form or another), I wasn’t thinking about anything serious and really had no business dating yet. I needed to reflect on what my part was in that relationship so I could be sure not to choose a guy like that again.

 

So when I met Tony in one of those hip and trendy coffee shops, I should have enjoyed the flirting and walked away. The next thing I knew, I was having dinner with him. Wait, where had I been heading when I met Mr. Tall, Not-So-Dark and Handsome? Oops!

 

Whirlwinds Never Work!

 

It wasn’t long until Tony and I were inseparable. When we weren’t spending every moment together—making everyone around us completely nauseated—we were on the phone talking for hours at a time.

 

Then one day he dropped a bomb on me. He wanted me to meet his mother.

“Oh she’ll love you!”
 

And she did. And so did his whole family. “She’s so pretty with her light skin.” His mother’s complexion was close to my own. Tony’s dad was darker and definitely very handsome. It was clear where Tony got his looks.

 

My mom used to tell me people tell you exactly who they are early on, you just need to be listening carefully. That comment of his mother’s should have been the first clue to run, but I didn’t.

 

As my friends met Tony, all asked the same question: “How did you grab a guy like him?” Not my usual kind of guy, everyone who knew me knew he wasn’t typical for me. I liked them cerebral—looks weren’t as important. I needed to be challenged intellectually. This isn’t to say Tony wasn’t capable of intellectual discussions, but maybe it wasn’t how he was raised.

 

I could bring that out of him, I thought.

 

When Tony asked me to marry him only a few months into the relationship, I was shocked but figured, “What the hell? I’m spending more time at his place than my own, his family loves me and he treats me nicely,” which I needed after years with my ex.

 

Tony’s mother couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“Oh your babies ‘gone’ look so beautiful with their light skin and pretty hair.”

Even though I hated when she did that, I was raised not to be disrespectful, and so I never addressed how icky it made me feel.

 

Six months later we were a day away from getting married (May 1996). My father had flown in from France (where he and my mom had retired to in 1988) alone, and the night before the wedding we had the obligatory rehearsal dinner. Tony’s parents, his three sisters, their husbands and his oldest sister’s kids all met my father for the first time.

 

Tony’s mom asked to speak with me privately in the ladies’ room.

“Sugah, you didn’t tell me your father was White.”
“Is that a problem?” I asked.
“Well, not really but you weren’t entirely honest with us,” she responded.
“What difference does it make whether I am light complected and both my parents are Black, or whether my parents were different races and I am the complexion I am? Why is complexion such a big deal in your family?” I paused. “And if you’re my complexion or lighter, doesn’t that mean you have a White parent or grandparent? I am not sure what it means but it definitely means there’s a lot of mixing on both sides of your family.”
“No, honey, my family has proudly maintained this light complexion by marrying other light complected people on both sides for generations.”

 

My jaw was dropping.

“What’s your mother?”

Tony’s mother asked me. Her eyes were intense and narrowed. She was genuinely angry.

 

“Black and Japanese,” I said.
“Japanese? Excuse me? You mean to tell me you’re not even half and half?” she asked me.
“How did you think I got this light complexion? If my mother was Black and my father was White, don’t you think I would be darker than I am? I can’t believe I am having this conversation with you the night before I am going to marry your son and be married into your … family.” I felt dizzy and nauseated.
“Oh sugah, imagine how we feel! This changes things. We will never truly be able to welcome you into the family. Who knows what my grandchildren will look like now?”

 

What the hell was she talking about? Changes what? Oh lawd have mercy on my precious soul, I thought. What had I gotten myself into? I grew up proud of my parents’ interracial relationship. I started thinking back to all the scrutiny and racism my parents faced when they got married. I thought about the fact that my father’s family disowned him for marrying my mother. What on earth does this change???? I wondered. I may have always self-identified as Black, but I know I am Black, Japanese and White. And I also prided myself on not giving a damn what other people’s races and ethnicities were.

 

That night I talked it over with Tony and told him that if this crazy talk continued, I’d leave and go far, far away. The only thing that could keep us together was if we both moved—away from these crazy people. Tony told me he’d have to think about all this. He too had, in his words, “been blindsided” by my disclosure.

 

Blindsided? Okay, in hindsight I probably should have pressed the issue of race. I shouldn’t have assumed it wouldn’t matter what race or races I was. Then I was mad because I knew it was an issue when they fussed over my light complexion and “pretty hair,” and I brushed it off.

 

The next morning I got up convinced I had to go through with this wedding. I committed to him and we were going to do this. And we were going to fight this insanity—as husband and wife. I dug my heels in.

 

When his family showed up to the church, they couldn’t have been more disrespectful. They sat in the front pew and all of them wore black and dark glasses during the entire ceremony. During the reception nobody in his family said more than five words to me, and whatever they did say was unpleasant.

 

There’s Only One Christmas Baby and If You Don’t Like It…

 

During the reception, I pulled Paul—Tony’s best man—aside. I asked him what this color struck crap was.

“Oh, Tony’s family has been like that since we were kids. Tony once had a girlfriend who was the complexion of Maya Angelou and they used to call her Sheronda that Black A$$ N*****er! They could never say just her name when they talked about her.”

 

I cried. What had I done? I hadn’t met anyone like this before. I knew White people who were racist against Blacks and even Blacks who had serious distrust of White people, but I had never met people of color who were so color struck to the point where my having a White father was a problem, or where my now husband’s ex was considered too dark. This was all such a new and upsetting experience for me.

 

There was never any marital bliss for Tony and me. Six months into the marriage I saw his family less and less frequently, and the few times we saw each other, things usually turned ugly quickly.

 

Not long after we were married, Paul had started having problems with his girlfriend. He called the house to talk with Tony about it, hoping he could shed some light. Or maybe Paul just needed a male shoulder to cry on.

 

As soon as Tony would see Paul’s number come up on the caller ID, he’d say, “You pick up. You’re better at this stuff than I am.”

 

Over time, Paul began to see this woman was no good for him, and the two broke up. I tried fixing him up with a few of my single girlfriends. He was a very nice guy, bright, could talk about any topic—definitely cerebral—and oh yes, very handsome.

 

And while there was no reason for Paul to continue calling me, he did and we found ourselves talking about everything under the sun—all the things I wished I could talk about with Tony: politics, philosophy, current events, anything other than how color struck his family was.

 

At one point I confided that Tony was staying out a lot and that I had suspected he was cheating. Paul hadn’t believed Tony capable of cheating and he kept encouraging us to try and work it out. Paul suggested we move out of the area—get some distance from his family.

 

The final straw came on Christmas day 1996. We were at one of his sisters’ houses. Linda* tolerated me, and I think it’s because her husband was darker complected and she couldn’t very well be a hypocrite. After dinner, Linda brought out a cake to celebrate birthdays. Mine is on the 22nd and Tony’s middle sister’s fell on Christmas day.

 

As everyone sang Happy Birthday to Jeana* and me, Jeana stopped the singing and said to me,

“There is only one Christmas baby here and if you don’t like it, you can leave, bitch!”

 

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I looked at Tony who was laughing. I had already started seeing him as a spineless jellyfish and I think that was the moment I decided enough was enough. I got up and said,

“You know what? That’s the best invitation I have ever gotten. I’ll go one step further, which ought to make your whole family happy. I want a divorce from all you racist and color struck a$$holes.”

 

It felt so good to say those words. I walked home—four miles in the freezing cold—and started packing. As I was packing, I called two people: first Paul and then my father. Paul asked if there was anything we could do to salvage things.

“Nope, I am a stubborn one but once I make up my mind, I am done.”

Paul made me promise to stay in touch.

 

When I talked with my father, he told me he was so sorry but that he’d always thought I’d married the wrong man.

“Your mother would have loved Paul! Have you ever thought about dating him?”

 

Huh!

Well, I’ll tell you this. Having gotten it horribly wrong the first time, I wasn’t going to jump into anything really fast, but I also wasn’t going to let myself be bitter. I got divorced wanting to be married. I loved marriage; I had just married the wrong man.

 

After my divorce was final—almost a year to the day Tony and I got married—two things happened.

 

First, Tony admitted he’d fathered a child with his ex-girlfriend—the one his family used to call "Sheronda that Black A$$ N*****er"! Their child was due in just a couple of weeks, which meant he’d cheated before I asked for a divorce.

 

I actually felt genuine happiness for him. I suspected he’d always loved Sheronda and maybe this would be what he needed to live his life and not his family’s life.

 

We parted on, surprisingly, good terms.

 

Second, Paul admitted he’d been in love with me since before I married Tony. This, you can imagine, was slightly awkward. Not that I wasn’t attracted to Paul. I was, but I was concerned what people would think—particularly Paul’s family.

 

On Thanksgiving Day 1997, several months after my divorce was final, I met Paul’s family. One of the first things I noticed was that their family—like mine—spanned the rainbow.

 

Both parents were Black, but like so many in the United States, due to miscegenation, his mother was even lighter in complexion than I am. His father was very dark in complexion, and Paul and his sisters’ looks reflected this mixing.

 

Paul’s family knows how I met Paul but until now, only four or five other people outside his family knew how we met. It’s not that we’re ashamed, but you know how people can be.

 

So why am I sharing this story so openly? As Paul and I are two months shy of celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary and 19 years as a couple, people can think what they want, but clearly my father was right—I had married the wrong man.

 

I have since corrected that mistake.


Any names with an asterisk have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

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6º of Hapa: Finding Resilience Post-Election


6º of Hapa: Finding Resilience Post-Election via Swirl Nation Blog

After the results of the election came in, I couldn't help but feel like giving up. It was difficult to go to work at my day job and I felt a strong impulse to close the doors on my little business.

As some of you may already know, I’m the owner and creator of an apparel line called 6 Degrees of Hapa, and my tagline is “celebrating mixed cultures, diversity, and spreading a little Hapa pride.” What has always been a fun and exciting part of my business suddenly seemed incredibly hard to do. I just couldn’t imagine going to an event, setting up my pop up shop, and selling anything to anyone. The possibility of even harder economic times and the ghost of a pinch on people’s wallets made me feel guilty about tempting shoppers to spend money.

But when I told my mom I felt like closing up shop for at least the next four years, she replied, "Closing your business is what he wants."

And she’s right.

So this Saturday I went out and with the help of my parents did my second to last pop-up of the year in San Jose Japantown. Let me tell you--it's such a compliment to have people come up, look around my pop-up and feel a connection to me, my family, and my business. I was so heartened to see people wearing safety pins and getting a chance to talk with the other vendors and shoppers. Though very few said anything outright about the election (I should have remembered my safety pin), it was obvious that there was a sense of unity and resilience. No one had to come out to support local artisans this weekend. But they did.

In the Japanese American community (sometimes called Nikkei), I feel that one of the reasons this election’s stakes were so high is because many of us have all either by two degrees or less known what it is like to be strangers in this country that we call our home. Many of us have faced discrimination, racism, and displacement in some form or another. The U.S. internment of Japanese Americans is one of the darkest examples of this and its impact is still felt and discussed today within the Nikkei community. It’s hard for me to imagine where this country is going if we do not do our part and after talking to those who came to the show this weekend, I think they feel the same.

When I look at this election, I can’t help but think of my family who immigrated to the U.S. Like many Japanese Americans, my family has a history of illegal immigration. I would not be here today if my great grandfather had not made the decision to come to the U.S. regardless of the consequences he might face for doing so illegally. My great grandfather’s name was Yoichi. He worked as a farmer all over California, and during World War II, he along with many relatives of mine were forced into internment.

Despite all that the Nikkei community has faced, we have shown resilience. Going to San Jose Japantown and participating as a vendor in a fundraising boutique for the Japanese American Museum of San Jose yesterday reminded me of that. It was also so striking to me to see just how ethnically mixed the Nikkei community has become and how inclusive it is. Just go check out JAMsj’s Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History to really understand how far we’ve come.

Opening up my pop up shop this weekend despite everything that has happened this week made me realize that my little business gives me the opportunity to put more good into this world when we really need it. One of the best parts of any pop up for me is when someone comes up and says, “Hapa? That’s me!” (Or) “That’s my daughter/son/friend/whole family!”

One of my goals in starting 6 Degrees of Hapa was to create a business that gives those who identify as mixed a way to embrace their heritages without feeling a need to pick just one. And hearing people express that my business is in fact doing that makes me both hopeful and proud. So yes, I’ll keep my little shop going strong because I know that what it stands for, diversity, family, friends, and how we are all connected is so very important right now.


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‘She’s So Pretty. Where Did You Get Her?’

Um, from my uterus?


‘She’s So Pretty. Where Did You Get Her?’ via Swirl Nation Blog

As mother to a child of mixed race (mine happens to be half Caucasian and half African American), before her birth, I never put thought into things I would hear.

The first time someone, a stranger, asked me a question at the pharmacy, I was floored. Minding my own business standing in line holding my beautiful, golden baby, a woman asked, “Where did you adopt her from?” I stood in utter dismay. What? First of all, I didn’t. But more importantly, what in the world would make you think it would be okay to ask a total stranger such a personal question? Should I ask you when the last time you had sex was? I mean, isn’t that about the same level of intrusiveness?

When I owned a salon and spa, someone thought it would be totally legit to ask me if I had “spray tanned” my baby. And she was serious! Ummmm, ya, actually I did, that was following her lip injections and her perm. She is a year old. Seriously?!

I mean I get it, it can be confusing. But that doesn’t mean your mind needs to make your mouth move. I have friends who have biracial children. One in particular is Filipino and her first child is super pale, has bright red hair and blue eyes. I can only imagine the looks and questions. The questions that are not YOUR business!

One assumption that always gets me, and I am sure makes most of my African American male friends perhaps slightly uncomfortable when we are in public together, is when someone says to one of them, “Oh, your daughter is beautiful” ― except as Jerry Springer would announce, “He is NOT the baby daddy!”

Just because a white woman is with a man of color and the child is brown does NOT make that man the father. A nervous laugh always ensues when that question is uttered by yet another stranger. Immediately, the look on the face of my friend says, What do I say?

I typically will hop in with a thank you. I am beyond the point of explanation. Although at times I want to concoct a long drawn out story of how I was just about to break the news to him that, in fact, this is his child albeit an immaculate conception.

There are times when I am not immune to wondering. Just yesterday at the beach I was chatting with a mom who was speaking what I thought was Italian. Turns out it was Portuguese. She was Asian. That was confusing enough and then her child ran up and there was no resemblance. None. But I did not ask her if he was adopted or if she was the nanny or the aunt. The next child I see wandering to the playground was blonde, blue-eyed and with a fair complexion. Mom follows slowly behind, Hispanic in appearance. I think (to myself) little one must resemble Dad, until Dad walked up and NOPE! But once again, not my business. Love is love. Genetics are weird.

In a beautiful world where children are blessed by love whether it’s adoption or genetics, I encourage you to keep your thoughts and inquisitions to yourself. Does it matter where a child came from? Because ultimately they all came from the same place.

Just ask the woman who a couple of years ago made the mistake of asking me while in the checkout line at Costco. She caught me on a day where I had had enough. With seven years of experience now under my belt, when she looked at my daughter with the usual compliment of beauty and then at me with the worn out question of “where did you get her?” I looked her in the eyes and said, “From my uterus.” I have never been checked out of Costco more quickly by a shocked cashier.

Children hear what you say and we as adults don’t need to emphasize their differences in a world where differences are not positively embraced by everyone. Do you really need to know? Keep your words kind and your nosey thoughts to yourself unless you want to risk hearing the word uterus out loud in public.

Post first published on Huffington Post 


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When the Dust Settles: Post-Election Thoughts


When the Dust Settles: Post-Election Thoughts via Swirl Nation Blog

It’s Wednesday afternoon, the day after the election. I, like many others, have yet to fully recover from the shock of the results. I went to bed last night at 10:30, hoping beyond hope, that I would hear what I wanted to hear in the morning. My dreams were dashed when my husband came in at 12:30am and woke me up. He delivered the news that I had been dreading for a year and a half; the same news that many Americans had been dreading. We spent 30 minutes crying in each other’s arms. We cried for our mothers, sisters, nieces. We cried for people of color, the LGBT community, the disability community. We cried for America. We cried for the America that we thought we knew.

 

I woke up after a fitful few hours tossing and turning, replaying the last year and a half over and over in my head. How did this happen? How did we get here? I read several articles by people who predicted this and by people who were as angry and sad as I am. I needed to know that there were others who were in as much shock, pain and bewilderment as I was. I sulked around all morning and held back tears in front of everyone who asked how I was doing. The nurse at the doctor’s office and the cashier at the gas station. It felt like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from.

 

I came home and went straight into an hour of peaceful, inward focused yoga. As tried to breathe into my side body, lengthen and lift, and “find what feels good” (shout out to all my Yoga With Adriene homies!) I realized that I, and everyone in this beautiful country, am going to be OK. The yoga video I followed was focused on being grateful. And the universe spoke to me, as it often does during my time on the mat. “Be grateful,” it said. “To be alive. To have family. For the opportunity to be a part of the democratic process. For the privilege to travel. For the opportunity to meet and know people of different races, religions, and beliefs. Be grateful for the earth beneath you, the sun above you and the people you share this amazing planet with.”

 

Many of us are angry and just downright hurt. And as Hillary said in her concession speech today, “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.” It is hard to swallow the idea that we live in a place that would want someone who is openly racist, misogynist and mean spirited to lead the country. As a mixed race woman, this has shaken me to my core. I struggle to stay hopeful for our future. But I beg of you, everyone, do not lose heart. Do not give up. Do not move away. We are Americans. We are strong. We will continue to fight the good fight. We will continue to fight for equal rights for ALL Americans and ALL people of the world.

 

I know that if we keep our minds and hearts open we can make damn sure that all of the progress we have made in the last 8 years is not destroyed. Let’s also move forward. We can’t let fear and hate drive us into complacency. I appreciate that President Obama said, “We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.” It’s true and we all know it. The bottom line is, this is reality and we have to live with the hand we’ve been dealt. So let’s do our best to make sure we play our cards right.

 

When the Dust Settles: Post-Election Thoughts via Swirl Nation Blog

My hope is that we all learn from this time and that we come together as a country. I hope that the forces that seek to divide us fail and that we can all treat each other with respect, dignity and love. I do not believe in any of the same things that our next President believes in, but I do believe in love and it’s power to triumph over evil. I also believe in the power of the human spirit. And I believe that being an American is an honor and privilege. I am proud to be an American. I don’t wear clothes emblazoned with an American flag, I hate baseball and I’m not that into apple pie. Hell, I don’t even put my hand over my heart during the national anthem. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my country. And no matter who is President, I hope that will never change.

 

For the people who are hurting, for the people who are scared, for the people who don’t understand - keep your chin up. “Don't get cynical, don't ever think you can't make a difference”, our current President said today. Ultimately, we're all on the same team.”


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