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Multiracial Mixed Issues

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Like everyone, I have a sense of style all my own. Most comfortable in a pair of jeans / a jean skirt and a T-shirt, dressing up for me means swapping out the T-shirt with an Inc. or DKNY top. I never did learn how to use clothes to complement my hair and makeup and frankly I never did figure out how to use makeup. While some women can pull off wild colors, it’s best if I go the less is more route.

I am what one might call a fashion misfit. Indeed my husband calls me a fashion faux pas. Paul asks me on a regular basis whether I dress in the dark with a blindfold on. It’s pretty bad when a former IT professional turned goat farmer suggests I go back and rethink my choice of clothes.

Sometimes I do okay and I actually get compliments. On those days I am feel like I have a shot at being fashionable and then I do something to remind us all that Stella McCartney, Vera Wang or Stef-n-Ty aren’t calling to ask for my advice for their spring or fall collection.

And while I have my own sense of style—assuming we can really call it that—I have never given much thought to the fact that I am limited because of my beliefs.  

Funky and eclectic as I am, much as I like to use color (even when I probably should refrain), I am not stuck. I have the luxury to be put together one day and a fashion faux pas the next. I am not limited by a one-look-fits-all.  

What if I wore the same type of clothes day after day and were forced to have it be the same color or style? This is what life is like for many Muslim women around the world—that is, so I have been led to believe. Before going out in public, many Muslim women worldwide are expected to wear a hijab. A hijab typically refers to a veil that covers the head and chest.

Two women at a bizarre in Zanzibar

Two women at a bizarre in Zanzibar

With modesty the driving force behind women wearing a hijab, when I think about them, I tend to think of the hijab as black, brown, beige or otherwise lacking excitement and unlikely to be a fashion trend.

However, I came across two websites that changed the way I see the hijab. I am the first to admit that I saw the hijab as oppressive—to this ultra feminist, it seems excessive and controlling.

And perhaps it’s also possible some Muslim women are leading a movement toward modernity.

One website addresses the fact that there is no one-color-fits-all and the other turns the notion that Muslim women are oppressed and are forced to sacrifice style and individuality for the sake of tradition.


White, Black or In-Between, There’s a Hijab for You

Like all people of color (Poc) we span the rainbow, Muslims are no exception. Like Christianity, Islam isn’t limited to any one region. The heaviest concentrations of Muslims live in Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) with many living in Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Given the differences in features and complexions between Asians, Africans, South Americans and those of European descent, Muslims come in all shades you can imagine.

Now regardless what skin tone you have, there’s a hijab that will match it, thanks to Habiba Da Silva of England. 

If It Weren’t Seen As Appropriation and Fetishization, I Might Wear One of These! Who said I couldn’t match earth tones with lavender while wearing a jean jacket and Ray Ban sunglasses? I think I could pull this off—maybe. I can’t think of a better way to complement my leopard print pumps, can you?

Are the new fall colors out yet? Need I say more?

Check out these and more modern hijabs at the Be With Style website.

It looks like I need to start seeing the hijab in a different light. Again, I am obviously very ignorant because clearly there is an intersection between the hijab and haute couture. 

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My coworker David shared an article with me recently, Why Is Interracial Marriage On The Rise? via, and I thought it was extremely well-written and included a lot of great stats and analysis of those stats. The first thing I learned was the difference between the term Interracial Marriage and Intermarriage. This is an important distinction (at least in the world of Census data) because Hispanic is considered an ethnic group, not a race. So intermarriage data includes Hispanics, whereas prior to 1980 the data was only collected on Interracial Marriages. So all of the stats that will be discussed below are inclusive of the Hispanic population and therefore fall into the Intermarriage category.

One of the charts I found most interesting was this breakdown of each state and what percentage of couples under 35 years of age were in intermarriages. I was not at all surprised to see that Hawaii ranked number 1, both with the military presence on the islands and the super strong Hapa community that resides there. I was a little surprised by Oklahoma and Alaska at first until I did a little research which explained that these high percentages are due to the large populations of Native Americans in Oklahoma, and Alaska Natives in Alaska who are marrying individuals that do not identify as the same race.  

Overall the article stated that intermarriage rates in individual states are largely correlated to what percentage of its population is neither white or black. So, states with large populations of Hispanics or Asians lead to a higher rate of intermarriage. The article cites that Whites are particularly likely to intermarry with Asians and Hispanics which leads to the large numbers.

So in Maine, where 95% of the state is white, doesn’t have as much opportunity to “interdate” thus leading to a low percentage of intermarriages. West Virginia and Vermont are similar in that respect. Mississippi however is a little different, because their population is almost 38% black and 60% white. But that only leaves 2% for everyone else- so it makes sense why at 6.8% their number is so low. I have never personally been to Mississippi, but I would also be willing to throw out the notion that deep seeded segregation and racism also has a lot to do with it in many of the southern states- this list of Top 10 Most Racist States in America backs up my hunch.

Another interesting point the article is making is that the rise of Interracial Marriages can’t necessarily be attributed to changing beliefs or attitudes about race.

Our “no-demographic change” estimate suggests that intermarriage would have only risen to 6.7% if demographics had not changed – a 1.9% increase, dramatically smaller than the 8.6% increase actually observed.

So in other words, it is the demographic changes that have happened in our country since the 1980s that have largely increased the rate of interracial marriage or intermarriage, not because everyone is suddenly totally down with a Swirl Nation (shameless plug:).

Hispanics, Asians, and those who identify as Other are leading that demographic change. In 1980 that group accounted for 10% of the population, but today it is 29%. This also explains why there is more opportunity to intermarry today. As the article states:

Almost surely, some of the Whites who were not intermarried in 1980 would have been more likely to marry a person from different race or ethnicity had the population been more diverse. If you grow up in a town with only one non-White family, the intermarriage rate doesn’t really reflect your beliefs. That’s partially why White people were three times less likely to intermarry in 1980 than in 2014: there were half as many opportunities. Only about 17% of young married people were not White in 1980, compared to 35% today.

The percentage of intermarried Whites more than tripled from 2.7% in 1980 to 8.5% 2014. A big increase but no where near as dramatic as the numbers for the black population. In 1980, less than 4% of all married Black people under the age of 35 were not married to other black people, today the rate is 18.7%!

Interestingly enough the rate of Asians and Hispanics intermarrying has actually decreased since 1980, which you can see represented in the chart above. An article in the NY Times offered the following insight on the decline within the Asian-American community:

From 2008 to 2010, the percentage of Asian-American newlyweds who were born in the United States and who married someone of a different race dipped by nearly 10 percent, according to a recent analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Asians are increasingly marrying other Asians, a separate study shows, with matches between the American-born and foreign-born jumping to 21 percent in 2008, up from 7 percent in 1980.
Asian-Americans still have one of the highest interracial marriage rates in the country, with 28 percent of newlyweds choosing a non-Asian spouse in 2010 (About 36 percent of Asian-American women married someone of another race in 2010, compared with about 17 percent of Asian-American men), according to census data. But a surge in immigration from Asia over the last three decades has greatly increased the number of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, giving young people many more options among Asian-Americans. It has also inspired a resurgence of interest in language and ancestral traditions among some newlyweds.

A similar story can be told for the Hispanic community, as studied by Zhenchao Qin, a professor at Ohio State University who found that education level also played a large role in intermarriage when it came to the Asian and Hispanic communities in particular. 

Studies show the number of native-born Hispanic men in intermarriages with whites declined by nearly 4 percentage points between 1990 and 2000 – from 35.3 percent to 31.9 percent.

The study found that education played a key role in defining who participated in interracial marriages. For example, native-born Hispanic women with a college education were more than three times more likely to be in a marriage with whites compared to their counterparts with less than high school education. The differences in intermarriage as a function of education were even larger for foreign-born minorities.

Qian said,

“The melting pot is clearly bubbling, but mostly along class lines, with the highly educated most likely to cross racial and ethnic lines to marry.”

It will be interesting to see how these numbers continue to evolve over time with the continued influx of immigrants from Asia and Latin America, as well as the growing multiracial population. Qian did note that a change U.S. Census forms in 2000 plays a key role. This was the first time respondents were able to choose more than 1 race on their form. This change has made it more difficult to “understand marital assimilation” according to Qian. But his study did reveal that bi-racial American Indian-white or Asian American-white individuals were more likely to be married to whites rather than American Indians or Asian Americans. It was also mentioned that historically individuals who are mixed African-American and white have traditionally identified as black for the purpose of these studies. If our blog is any indication, then I think this will be changing as more and more individuals identify as multiracial.

Does this data surprise you? I know for me it was surprising to see that if demographics had not shifted at all, then the percentage of intermarriages would still be VERY low (about 7%). I had really never put that much thought to the impact of the demographics, I guess because I have lived in fairly diverse urban areas my entire adult life (except for college- Boulder, CO is not exactly the poster child for diversity), and have always been around a lot of "intercouples". But now that I think about it, it makes sense. As much as I would like to think America has had this huge shift when it comes to race, we all clearly know that is not the case. Never has that been more clear than in recent months.

All of us who are passionate about the multiracial community will play a large role in shaping the future state of this data. While it might mean less clear-cut data for the analysts to interpret, with the wide variations of multiracial people, it should also mean a fresh perspective on demographics. As Pew Social Trends reports: 

Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole.
As America becomes more racially diverse and social taboos against interracial marriage fade, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that majorities of multiracial adults are proud of their mixed-race background (60%) and feel their racial heritage has made them more open to other cultures (59%).

That point of "being open to other cultures" being key I think as we look at the future of race and marriage. Today, nearly half (46%) of all multiracial Americans are younger than 18 and as the data suggests, it is quite likely that they may grow up to marry other multiracial individuals. 

As a group, mixed-race adults are much more likely than all married adults to have a spouse or partner who is also multiracial,the survey finds. Among all mixed-race adults who are married or living with a partner, about one-in-eight (12%) say their spouse or partner is two or more races. By comparison, only 2% of adults among the general public who are married or living with a partner say the same.

So the story continues to unfold! Let us know your thoughts on these stats and studies! 


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I can’t remember the last time I watched anything on MTV. I don’t have cable anymore, so it’s not really even an option and I kind of forgot that the channel even existed (do they even have music videos anymore?!). Oddly enough, I came across an MTV produced video on Facebook a few days ago with an interesting title. “Are cracker, redneck, and white trash racist?” I was immediately intrigued and watched the 5-minute video. The video is part of MTV’s Decoded series, which is a weekly series on MTV News, hosted by Franchesca Ramsey. Franchesca covers topics such as, race, pop culture and “other uncomfortable things” according to the shows YouTube page.


After I watched the first video, I was left wondering what this series was about and if they had more videos. I then spent the better part of my afternoon watching them all. Oops! Although I didn’t exactly get much done that afternoon, I do think I learned a few things, so it definitely wasn’t a waste of time. Of all the videos I watched, “7 Myths About Cultural Appropriation Debunked” stood out to me the most. This is likely because this topic has been a hot button issue as of late and also because it’s a topic that has intrigued me for a long time. I’ve had many conversations with friends and family about it and have done my best to try to explain why dressing in Native American garb or as a rapper and painting your face brown for Halloween was inappropriate and disrespectful. While I’ve always stuck to my guns, I haven’t always been able to precisely articulate why doing these things is disrespectful.


After watching the MTV video though, I came away with a little better understanding of cultural appropriation and I feel that I can better explain to others. It seems as though the issue comes up at least once a week in the media and, based on the conversations the media coverage causes, there is still a lot of misunderstanding. If you’re anything like me, you like to be able to articulate yourself well and be knowledgeable about topics before you enter into conversation or debate about said topics. As far as cultural appropriation goes, this video is a really great one to use to bolster your confidence and to show others who might actually believe some or all of the myths they discuss.


Cultural appropriation is really only part of the overall conversation about race in the United States. If we can find better ways to explain and understand these pieces of the puzzle though, I think we can eventually affect true change.


I encourage anyone and everyone to watch this video as well as the others MTV has created. I’m not sure what else you can watch on MTV these days, but I’m glad that someone over there thought these videos were a good idea.  


After all, knowledge is power.


Here’s the Cultural Appropriation Video. Enjoy!




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If you don’t pay much attention to sports, chances are, over these past two weeks, you have been bombarded from the news, social media, and possible conversation over San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick. Ringing any bells? Perhaps you’ve seen as many messages of support such as #VeteransforKapernick and memes with the outline of his silhouette now proudly sporting a FRO. Maybe you’ve even seen his now best-selling NFL jersey flying off the shelves. It could be the latter in which you’ve seen posts, tweets, and comments calling him everything from un-American and un-Patriotic, traitor, and my favorite “not really being Black,” (since he is biracial) regarding his current stance in choosing to sit down/take a knee during the national anthem. If you scroll through some of the tamer social media posts, this doesn’t even rock the tip of the iceberg regarding how vicious people have been in their judgement of his protest.


The act of defiance has sparked national conversation regarding the history of the anthem and what it means to be an American in the 21rst century. The question many sports fans are wondering is…  How should our athletes behave regarding political statements? Is it too far? Is the flag so sacred that Kaepernick’s act is toting a dangerous line? It’s been pointed out that Kaepernick is not the first athlete to make a stance in times of social justice with revered athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson immortalized for their bravery in times of adversity. Athletes using their platform to make a statement has been one that many sports fans have been calling for in light of increased brutality and victimization of minorities in the past few years.

Kaepernick states: “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he said late last month. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”


Despite pointing out several times that he has no mal intent or disrespect towards military members, many fans have pointed out the flag represents universal freedoms, beliefs, and ideals that reflect who we are as Americans. His jersey is being worn in support as much as people are buying it to stomp on it, burn it, and trash it to show their distaste for his stance. Celebrities, fellow athletes, musicians and politicians have even contributed thoughts on the statement that has caused an interesting ripple of effect of actions we’re now seeing at football games. J. Cole, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Steph Curry, Kareem Abdul Jabar and Tina Knowles are just a few who have been in support of the athlete by wearing his jersey or offering thoughtful insight into the conversation at hand.

Kaepernick’s choice in taking a knee has caused unwavering doubt and conversation regarding those inherent liberties extended to all Americans-yet is not reflected in the current way our political and socioeconomic community has been. When prompted with questions regarding Kaepernick’s choice, President Obama stated: “He’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so.”

Coming from a firm and long standing history of military members in my family as well as residing in Fort Hood, Texas (the largest army base in the world)- I do understand the perspective that Kaepernick’s actions could be perceived as disrespectful. However; if he had completed the action without context or regard for his choice outside of social justice endeavors, I would be upset. That’s not the case. He has stated on many occasions this specific choice is not because he doesn’t respect or acknowledge the ongoing sacrifice of our military servicemen, but does want the sacrifices that are made in regards to our liberties and freedoms extended to everyone. Regardless of what your personal opinion is on the matter, we can all agree that living in the United States alone does not ensure those inalienable rights are granted to all, not in the least. If you don’t agree with me, I’d suggest looking to the left and right of you, turning on the TV, listening to the conversations we have on justice and race. Do the freedoms, liberties, and justice you hold close to you and think of regarding the flag ring true for everyone? If you have to think twice…you may want to reconsider how valid Kaepernick’s platform is right now and how to engage the true heart of that conversation.






Atlanta chronicles the everyday life of its characters. Glover’s character, “Earn”, has a child and is not married to the mother, his cousin, “Paper Boi” is a rapper who commits an act of violence, and there are talks of drugs, however, in the world of Atlanta those are not stereotypes; it is reality. What is the line between stereotype and reality?


Stereotypes in television are often caricatures. They are over the top. When people say someone is being a stereotype, it’s usually extreme.


Atlanta is not extreme. It is a slow, easy paced show, often taking place in real time. Yes, they are showing rappers. But guess what, people in the “hood”, actually do try to rap. People actually do have guns. This is reality. What I found interesting when I was watching the show is that it showed the emotional response the characters were having to the situations around them. For example, as Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry), is becoming popular (once his song is on the radio), we see him moving through society and being treated differently. We see his interaction with the man at the wing shop who gives him extra perks. We see on his face, the way that he is affected by the things that this man is saying to him. We see his interaction with a woman who starts off angry and then changes her tune when she realizes who he is. We watch his reaction to little children playing violently as they imitate him. To me, that’s real. That’s realistic. It’s not a stereotype. And it begs the question of whether or not we should preserve the culture of our ghettos or be ashamed of it. The truth is, ghettos exist. And certain cultural aspects come out of those ghettos. If we are to be ashamed of the ghetto and get rid of all things associated with it, that would require us to get rid of some of the things we like, such as jazz, hip hop and street culture. Those are things that have been accepted into popular culture. But other things are not, such as, talking loudly, speaking with heavy colloquialisms, and aspiring to be a rapper or ball player. We look down on these things. But why? We can’t pick and choose what parts of people we like. And by doing so, we are buying into the stereotypes.

“I chose these characters because they represent every type of person. We based these characters off of our friends. I don’t think a lot of people understand how someone like Donald Glover is friends with a drug dealer and that’s what I’m trying to get at. It just happens, it’s not crazy at all.” – Donald Glover

I find it interesting when I hear people of color refer to stereotypical portrayals in TV and film. While I do agree, that sometimes people of color are reduced to stereotypes, I do think there is a difference between reducing someone to just a stereotyped caricature, and having a multi-dimensional character that fits a description of a certain type of person. These people are real. These people actually exist. And they deserve voices. Everyone is a stereotype in one-way or another. People who are against loud speaking, lip smacking girls, are a stereotype. They are a stereotype of  “uppity. Someone who speaks “white” is a stereotype. There are positives and negatives to each one. But at the end of the day, these are people who exist. Stereotypes come from somewhere. The negative connotations are really attached to the caricature of such stereotypes.

“Stereotypes come from somewhere. People just don’t know people. I just tried to show a real person. With everybody on the show, it’s like, let’s make sure they’re real people. The second they don’t feel like real people, it feels more like a sitcom to people, which we didn’t want to do. I was like, I don’t want to make it a sitcom. I don’t want it to feel like what people think about when they say, "sitcom." Let’s make sure these characters feel like people and you’re surprised and interested when they make a decision based on their experiences. So, with Earn and Paper Boi and [Paper Boi's friend] Darius, I was like, let’s make sure that their friendship feels honest and then after that they can do whatever they need to do. I feel like people forget how much they’re different from their friends, how often people’s friends are very different and have different ideas and they come together to smoke or chill, but you live completely different lives and sometimes your philosophies cross and sometimes they don’t. And that's what makes for an interesting relationship.” – Donald Glover

Atlanta airs Tuesdays | 10PM ET/PT









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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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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.



Bi-Racial, Black, Mexican. Me.




“My People.”- “You mean OUR People.” Five conversations you have being Mixed.


Throughout the course of a Mixed person’s life there is a standard blueprint of questions, comments and conversations you have in some form or fashion. Whether it’s explaining your ethnic origins or your hair texture, it’s an inevitable swirl of information that at times feel like an interrogation. Occasionally, it can be micro-aggressions with no malicious intent and other times it feels like you’re set up to be on the defensive, especially with brand new people.  Below are five conversation topics or points a current mixed millennial has to deal with.



“Which side do you identify more with?”

I love this question. NOT. It’s very hard to explain what I identify more with because that makes me feel like I have to pick a side. Picking that side in my opinion means I’m not embodying the sum whole of me which is blended with more than one race. Does it really matter if I identify with either culture more than the other? Perhaps I’m doing my best to represent them both, and if I’m not, is that going to make you look at me differently? Can you just see me as a whole? I don’t ask who do you identify more with let’s say Justin Timberlake vs. Eminem, Beyoncé or Kelly Rowland, Selena Gomez vs. Demi Lovato, get the picture?


“I mean you're (ethnicity), but you’re not really (ethnicity)”

In conversation whether it be politics, pop culture, language or food, negating my culture because I’m mixed is wrong. Just because I’m mixed doesn’t mean I don’t understand the trials, triumphs, and struggles of each side of me. In choosing to immediately shelve my opinion or thoughts because I’m not 100% of anything means your invalidating my opinion before I even give it. My experience as a Mixed person could be just as reflective of both cultures regardless of my skin color, hair type, or vernacular.


“There’s no way you're (ethnicity)”

Yes I’m joking just to throw you off the trail. If you ask what I’m mixed with and I tell you, why because I don’t fit whatever racial mold you attribute with that culture, do you think I’m lying? If I tell you I’m half Mexican, that should be the end of it. I shouldn’t be challenged to speak Spanish (this proves nothing when this is the second language in the US) or tell you which parent is what to make that a solid claim. Why would anyone lie about their ethnic heritage? And no we’re not including Rachel Dolezal in this conversation. There’s nothing I could do to prove otherwise to you if you already have your mind made up I don’t meet the racial profile you’re accustomed to.


“Wow. You don’t look (ethnicity)”

Well I’m mixed, multiracial, or biracial. Just because my skin is lighter or darker doesn’t mean I’m not my ethnicity. My genetic make-up is not up for debate or discussion. I’m sorry I don’t look reflective of my culture in your eyes, but I am mixed, there’s no way to explain that. You can look at a smoothie that’s blue and not know all the ingredients that were compiled to make it that way, but it doesn’t change that the smoothie is a smoothie. What I look like to you will never change what I am and I cannot apologize for that.

In a world plagued by hate and racial divide, let’s practice kind words and conversations that allow us to learn about each other. Not every mixed person is open to educating every stranger on the different attributes that make up their mixed identity, but most are willing to engage thoughtful questions and conversation. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it and that is key when asking anyone about their cultural history and background.





Be prepared to be in tears just watching the trailer for Loving. The movie tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. This was the couple at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that overturned laws against interracial marriage.

The film debuted in Cannes a couple months ago and won't be in theaters until early November. Actors Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the Lovings and both have some really poignet lines that are shared in the trailer. 

The Lovings' lawyer asks Richard: 

“Is there anything you’d like me to say to the Supreme Court justices of the United States?” and Richard replies: “Yeah. Tell the judge I love my wife.”

I also love the when Mildred says:

“I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends too.”

While researching the actors I discovered that Ruth Negga is biracial herself, she was born to an Ethiopian father and an Irish mother. So I would have to imagine this was an especially powerful experience for her. She said in an interview with The Guardian

“Partly my feelings of difference were down to having parents of different races. I had quite a scattered childhood. I was Irish in London, because I had my secondary school education there. I never really fitted anywhere. I didn’t feel it was a negative thing and I was never made to feel different – I just knew I was.”

In the same interview she sites Mildred Loving as a one of her heroes, 

“Mildred shied away from the spotlight completely, but she changed the course of American legal history. All she wanted to do was marry the man she loved. It took nine years. Can you imagine taking on the might of the American legal system? They were poor and fairly uneducated, but they just wanted to be with one another.” 

Even though I know it to be true, it is amazing to me that this is such recent history in our country. This is definitely a movie I will be going to and I will be bringing my 12 year old daughter as well so she can understand the difficult path many multiracial individuals and interracial couples have had. I hope that everyone who has any connection to the multiracial community goes out and supports this movie. The movie will be rated PG-13. 





I woke up to a flood of Facebook and Instagram posts captioned with #AltonSterling. I was soon barraged with an incoming of group text notifications. It had happened again. A Black man was killed by police and it had been caught on video. Again.

As I scrolled through the posts, strategically avoiding watching the video of the murder, another hashtag kept catching my eye. #GoodCops.

Usually in times like this people are quick to say, #backtheblue, #alllivesmatter, #coplivesmatter, and “not all cops are bad”. However, today’s #GoodCops hashtag had a different message attached to it.

#GoodCops is a call to action. Many people are calling out the “good cops”, to show everyone they are good, and take a stand against cops who do a bad job.

Radio personality Rosenberg from NYC’s Hot97 joined the debate with his passionate response to a caller who, self identifying as a member of law enforcement, refused to admit that the known footage and public evidence in the police-involved Alton Sterling shooting, looked bad.  Rosenberg, visibly emotional, posed the following suggestion to the caller and all police across the country.
 “Can you say the words ‘it looks bad’?
... This is the problem I have with cops…Y’all don’t ever want to point at someone else and say ‘you can't do your job well’….Until you guys start taking responsibility for your own, people in the street are going to be upset instead. So how about y’all lead the movement instead. How about instead of people rioting, police officers get out in front of it themselves.”

Less than 24 hours later another man, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a cop near Minneapolis while his girlfriend caught it all in a Facebook livestream video. According to Fusion, cops have killed more than 550 people in 2016.  With Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being added to the list, we need to start looking for a way to change the trend.

Is police reform the best move towards putting an end to police-involved civilian fatalities?

What are your thoughts?





So by now we’ve all seen, heard, possibly reposted, retweeted and bared witness to the glory that was Jesse Williams accepting his BET Humanitarian award last weekend. Unlike most trending topics, this speech is still wagging on the tips of people’s tongues. Whether you understood the context of the speech (I’m side-eyeing you Tomi Lahren), or don’t agree with it (really you 316 petitioners trying to get him fired) it made waves. Many are familiar with Williams from his long standing acting career on Grey’s Anatomy, but what many people didn’t know is that he is a black/white, a biracial man. Why is this important? Does it really matter? For those of us who have struggled to make arguments for political stances for either of the many cultures we may represent, it does.

You don’t understand. You’re not really black. You are privileged. You are white-washed. You are capable of “passing,” (when a person classified as a member of one racial group is also accepted as a member of a different racial group.) These are a few of many micro-aggressions I have been told in my life when it comes to making a stance on the politics concerning my ethnic background. It may sound absurd and you may think who cares, but when a multiracial person is bullied or challenged in their beliefs because they physically or ethnically don’t fully represent that culture 100%, it is. I was moved by Williams’ speech, and I know regardless of race it would have happened either way because he spoke with intellect, truth, vigor, and conviction that had me literally clapping in my living room.

In the heat of the twitter moment people were too busy quoting and praising for me to see any real harping on the fact he’s not 100% black. Then again, once the trolling finally stopped towards Mr. Timberlake, it didn’t take too long for the articles to start emerging about Jesse’s background. Some of the most telling articles thankfully showcased him owning his biracial identity and recognizing the privilege it has afforded him. In a past article with The Guardian he stated “I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks. I know I am there and everyone speaks honestly around me.” There’s even been a video circulating on Facebook in which he discusses his European features and that he doesn’t ignore his privilege but instead uses it to bring awareness to racism and social injustice.

When I saw Jesse standing proudly and using his platform to speak towards the oppression of Black people, his people, who cheered and praised his eloquence, I knew it is indeed possible to speak about the injustices of my cultures without meeting constant strife. I admired him because he was bold, brave and relentless in empowering those around him to stand for a cause, and nobody questioned him, nobody booed him, nobody said “You’re not ____ enough.” I’m hoping despite the naysayers that will always feel the need to tower over multiracial people for not being 100% anything that this will at least give pause to the comments and allow us the space to speak our truth first. You won’t know what we have to say if you don’t let us say it. You won’t be able to hear our empathy and understanding if you can’t see past our skin tone. You won’t know that we want to help provide support and equality for every culture we may represent if you can’t move out of our way and allow us to walk with you.





What’s in a name? The concepts of nicknames and name-calling have been recurring themes for me over the last few weeks. Most people would say that nicknames and name-calling are two different things. However, my emotional response to each is pretty similar.

As a mixed race woman of color, I have encountered both blatant name-calling and it’s slightly sweeter cousin, nicknames. Both have left me feeling awkward and singled out.

While, I’ve mostly been able to ignore names like “white girl”, “proper”, “prissy”, “saditty”, “bougie”, “mocha”, “Milano” “mutt”, “caramel”, and “confused”, there have been a couple of instances of name-calling that deeply affected me.

One name in particular has stuck with me. And the moment, in which I first heard this term, is burned into my memory. OREO.

It was summer. I had to have been about 10. I was living with my grandmother and her church decided to send two kids off to a special Christian retreat. They selected an older boy and me. I knew him fairly well. He’d always been a member of my grandmother’s church and I saw him every time I stayed with her. I thought he was one of the coolest kids around and I liked his whole family.

But this retreat would shake that up completely. We were two of the few children of color present that week.

On the last day of the retreat he and I stood on the curb waiting for our bus to come and take us back home. I was talking about something mindless, when it happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, he called me an “Oreo”. I stopped mid-sentence, utterly confused, because I had never heard that term before. And I asked him what it meant.

“You’re Black on the outside, White on the inside.”

::cue ton of bricks::

I was absolutely stunned! But more than that I was hurt. For the first time, name-calling felt personal. Here I was, standing with the only other Black kid I had spoken to all week and he just told me I was White. I didn’t know how to process this. It could have been because during that same retreat a conversation with my White roommate made me realize that I didn’t identify with her White experience. And now in this moment, I was realizing that I didn’t identify with his experience either.

Imagine, going through life just being who you are, and suddenly, one day, all of these differences become clear. You start to realize you are different. You start to realize that people see you a certain way. You start to notice how brown your skin really is. And then a moment later, someone calls you a name. A name that aligns you with the two things you just realized you can’t identify with. You realize that a person you thought was a friend has secretly been categorizing you. You’ve been shoved into a box against your will and now you’re trapped. All because of a name.

So what’s in a name? For a young girl trying to navigate through the minefields of people’s expectations…EVERYTHING.




WHITE WASH THIS - HAPA HOUR via Swirl Nation Blog
WHITE WASH THIS - HAPA HOUR via Swirl Nation Blog

I am so sick of all the whitewashing that is being allowed to continue in the entertainment industry. Enough is enough! Between the upcoming movies “Ghost in the Shell” and “Dr. Strange” using white women to portray Asian characters, I could scream. And I have. I am not alone in my frustration. All I can say is shame on Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, they should have known better and have said no, no I will not yellow-face a character.

My amazing friend Rebecca Lerman had an idea. With Diane Phelan as our director, she brought Rebecca’s concept to life and I am so proud to have been part of this project!

Together with some amazing diva Asian actresses, we are voicing our unhappiness. We are no longer keeping quiet, afraid of repercussions in the entertainment industry. We are daring you to “White Wash This”.

Please like, share, tweet, and tell Hollywood to #WhiteWashThis

Shot and Directed by Diane Phelan
Concept and Editing by Rebecca Lee Lerman
Choreography Karen Ng
Costume Consultant Jonelle Margallo
Costume Consultant JP Moraga
Assistant to Director Viet Vo
Assistant to Director Kevin Schuering

Alison Lea Bender
Alex Chester
Kathleen Choe
Lynn Craig
Natsuko Hirano
Yuko Kudo
Loresa Lanceta
Rebecca Lee Lerman
Jonelle Margallo
Karen Ng
Lora Nicolas
Kiyo Takami
Jessica Wu

Viet Vo





I was just reading the New York Times online and came across Aziz Ansari’s essay, Aziz Ansari: Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family.


I’ve been trying to stay away from writing about current politics on Swirl Nation, but after so much xenophobic rhetoric being used in the presidential campaign, I feel it is appropriate to finally address it.  We live in an increasingly multicultural world, and an even more increasing multicultural country.  America was founded on immigration.  People came to this country to escape religious persecution, economic and social troubles, and the pursuit of happiness.  So when a presidential candidate feeds off of fear, condones violence, and comes from a place of negativity to advance his agenda, especially when he is utilizing negative racial, ethnic, and even female stereotypes to do so, it truly worries me.


In Ansari’s essay, he expresses his fear for his family in this country.  Aziz Ansari’s family are practicing Muslims.  He cautions his mother to stay away from mosques and partake in prayer at home.  He knows that many Americans, when thinking about Muslims, do not see Nobel prize-winning teenager Malala Yousafzai, but a bomb-wielding Jihadist.  And this is what is so troubling when you have a presidential candidate, or anyone, lump a group of people in to one category and perpetuate these negative stereotypes.  Ansari writes, “According to reporting my Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males.  I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities ‘who the bad ones are’, or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.”  Think about that for a moment.


Ansari isn’t the first celebrity to express concerns regarding Donald Trump’s speeches.  Louis C.K. wrote a letter voicing fear of having a bully for a president. He compared him to Hitler, writing “Please stop it with voting for Trump. It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the 30s. Do you think they saw the shit coming? Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb over who would say anything at all.”  Jenn sent me a particularly moving clip of Brandon Stanton, curator of the popular website Humans of New York , reading a letter he wrote decrying Trump:

I’ve previously written about language and the words we choose; and how words can be dangerous.  Please listen to the words Donald Trump is using.  He chooses the words he uses, so when he says:

"Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!" –Donald Trump, tweeting a humble brag about the Orlando shooting massacre, June 12, 2016
The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" –Donald Trump on Twitter, Cinco de Mayo, May 5, 2016
"I think the only card she has is the women's card. She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she would get 5% of the vote. And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, ok?" –Donald Trump, victory press conference, New York, April 26, 2016
"Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know. I don't know -- did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists." –Donald Trump, refusing to condemn former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and noted white supremacist David Duke, who endorsed Trump for president, February 28, 2016


"It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” –Donald Trump in a tweet quoting fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, February 28, 2016

"We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." –Donald Trump on his performance with poorly educated voters who helped him win the Nevada Caucus, Feb. 23, 2016


"There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees." –Donald Trump, encouraging violence at his rallies, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016
"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian. … If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened." –Donald Trump, in response to remarks by Pope Francis saying that "a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian." (February 18, 2016)
"That was so great. Who was the person who did that? Put up your hand, put up your hand. Bring that person up here. I love that." –Donald Trump, praising two audience members who tackled a protester at his rally in South Carolina, Feb. 16, 2016
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible." –Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa as the audience laughed, January 23, 2016

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." –Donald Trump campaign statement

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever." –Donald Trump, insulting Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly over questions she asked during the first Republican primary debate
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists." –Donald Trump
"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" –Donald Trump on Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina


I could have posted many more insane quotes he’s made, from dating his own daughter to confusing 7/11 with 9/11 and denouncing John McCain as a war hero because he was caught; but his appeal boils down to fear-mongering, racism, and sexism.


I’ve tried to write this whole post being as civilized and level-headed as possible, but this is where I need to stop, or the remainder would be expletives…  However, on a funny note, this is what I imagine a state of the union would be like if Trump was president:

“South Carolina, wassup?”



Celebrate and acknowledge millions of multiracial Americans and families by making Loving Day a federal observance

Celebrate and acknowledge millions of multiracial Americans and families by making Loving Day a federal observance via Swirl Nation Blog

There are 22 million multiracial Americans (6.9% from Pew Research), comparable to the Asian American population (5.6%), and growing 3 times faster than the U.S. as a whole.

There are 32 million interracial or interethnic married couple households (10% from the U.S. Census). Those numbers have grown 28% over a decade.

Despite those numbers, we have struggled with racial discrimination from all sides. We have been underrepresented in public policy, health care issues, media, and more. We ask the federal government to lead the change by acknowledging us.

We honor Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that ended laws against multiracial families. Please join our community, government leaders, and organizations by celebrating its June 12th anniversary as Loving Day.

Click HERE to sign the petition! 

It takes 2 seconds, just enter your name and email! You must sign before June 30th, 2016! They still need 97k signatures, so share, share, share! 




I am tired. I hope you are too. I am tried of no action being taken by our senate on gun reform. The time is now people! How many more lives must be lost? My friend Timothy Ware nails it on the head in this jaw dropping, inspiring video. 

Timothy Ware (Book, Music & Lyrics) is currently on Broadway in the Tony Winning Musical KINKY BOOTS as the standby for Lola. He is a native of Montgomery, AL where he received a BA in Theater Arts from Alabama State University, under the direction of TV/Film actress, Dr.Tommie "Tonea" Stewart (In the Heat of the Night). He later studied at UCLA in the MFA Acting Program under Broadway's playwright/director Tony Winner, Mel Shapiro (Two Gentlemen of Verona). Some of his credits as a director includes, Ain't Misbehavin' & Jelly's Last Jam (Kuntu Rep./Pittsburg, PA); Dutchman & SHOUT! (Lelia Barlow Theatre/Montgomery, AL). Associate Choreographer for Godspell, Beehive, Guys & Dolls (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and Ain't Misbehavin (South Bay Musical Theatre/ San Jose, CA). He worked as a dance instructor and choreographer in Los Angeles, CA at the Amazing Grace Conservatory with founder and TV/Film Star, Wendy Raquel-Robinson (The Steve Harvey Show & The Game). 





“I represent the ‘Others.’”

So if you haven’t gotten a chance to binge watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix-don’t worry there are no spoilers here. If you are like me, you might have been hesitant or even pessimistic about this new season-because let’s be frank, it’s been a long journey since season one. Season one was explosive and pretty much revolutionized Netflix and the art of binge watching as we have come to know it. Seasons two and three were ‘bleh’ in my opinion, hard to get through and leaving me less enthused for the following summer’s season premiere. However; season four delivered in every possible. Finally, despite the very dark subject matter that the story explores ranging from racism, over-crowding, women’s rights, prisoner’s rights, and power dynamics, I was given a character I was able to connect to on a cultural level of understanding.

Being bi-racial I of course can identify with the differing struggles that both the blacks and Latino’s deal with throughout each season. It wasn’t until episode 12 of this new season when Piper’s roommate ‘Hapakuka’ states she is representing the “Other,” during a meeting headed by the respective leaders of the divided racial groups that I connected to it as a mixed individual. The groups are separated between their leaders reflecting their racial groups: Whites, Dominican’s (representing all Hispanic’s), and Blacks and this character happens to be as they state the “browns who are not brown,” or “the yellow’s.” I thought this was especially poignant given this season explore racial dynamics and conversations that mirror that of prison life which we hadn’t seen before. While Hapakuka’s specific heritage is never given it is alluded to when she refers to her previous prison in Honolulu.

To me, she represents the underrepresented demographics that either aren’t large enough to be key players in Litchfield’s fictional prison world or in fact the “Others,” of blended cultural backgrounds. The “Others,” that cannot check a specific box of racial ethnicity because there is more than one, cannot be easily identified by their genetic make-up, or don’t represent the cultural status-quo. Orange is the New Black will always get numerous praise for its progress in diverse casting and giving women of all backgrounds varying platforms in the prison world they created. Hapakuka was a reflection of a reality that we as multiracial people know all too well, especially when we combat finding our own voice or place amongst racial groups that don’t have blended backgrounds.

 It made me reflect on where biracial/multiracial people fit in clearly established sectors like prison where being a part of a group can be your saving grace. Her character played a small, but significant role in the mounting tensions growing amongst the inmates. I anticipate if they will be able to use her ethnic background to create more conversation on specific racial groups outside of the clear cut cultural backgrounds we are used to seeing as opposed to the “Others.”





So in one of my first posts with Swirl Nation Blog I discussed how within my graduate program I felt very stifled in terms of how to use my Spanish. While I am still finding different ways to combat that in the short time I have left in the program, I received an olive branch elsewhere. When I started working as a fine dining hostess at here in Chicago, I was surprised to see a primarily male staff that was Hispanic. A majority Hispanic kitchen staff was familiar from my previous dining experience, but the lack of women was not. Outside of a few cooks and hostesses, we were unable to hire a waitress, which made for an interesting dynamic.

Now being with an eighty percent male staff has its perks and downsides depending on how you want to look at it, but it ended up being a very rewarding experience. Almost all of the back waiter staff spoke Spanish primarily as their first language so I was once again revisited with the old notion of getting an educational exchange. As a child I got to learn Spanish from my grandmother who in turn learned English from my sister and me so with my co-workers I encountered the same experience. I was extremely deprived of speaking Spanish on a regular basis here in Chicago so I relished going to work and getting to practice, learn, and get insight into the Latino culture in Chicago.

The guys talked to me about where to find authentic food in the city around the various neighborhoods and even brought in home cooked dishes we shared during break time. I got to eat carne asada, corn tortillas fresh off our kitchen grill, mole, and queso fresco that was sprinkled on everything we ate. During pre-shift time we played Selena, danced Bachata, I learned the musical genre of Corrido and felt invigorated by being able to be immersed in my culture once again.  I developed and formed friendships with each of them that ranged from platonic friendships to a real familial kinship that I revered in the workplace. My one co-worker Miguel was never sufficed until he knew I ate a good meal before our shift and made sure I had a full plate of food in front of me.  In various discussions we had, I learned about what their views were on women, family, and they in turn got to be rattled by my non-traditional opinion on marriage and children.

It was most interesting because unlike when I was sixteen and still trying to figure out what type of woman I wanted to be in a relationship, at twenty-five I could articulate my views in a confident manner. They didn’t always agree with me just as I didn’t agree with their patriarchal opinions on a women’s place in the home, but we educated and respected each other.  I loved getting to practice my Spanish and they were more than happy to correct me or answer my questions when I had a brain lapse on pronunciation or verbiage.  I remember picking up some slang words and telling them to my own mother who reminded me I was a lady and shouldn’t repeat everything the men told me. Being exposed to my culture here in Chicago through an intimate environment like work has helped me with my writing and overall appreciation for the language as a whole that I was in desperate need of.





An online definition describes representation as: 

The action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone or the state of being represented. The description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.

Ok cool. Big whoop. Well, let’s examine the first part of that definition, “the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone”. Doesn’t seem too bad, right? Why are people always harping about this? Imagine, for a second that you have an overbearing mom who must speak for you at all times. Someone asks you if you’d like another slice of cake and your mother chimes in, “No, she doesn’t really like cake. And she’s watching her figure. You know how girls are about their bodies.”. WAIT, WHAT?! NOOOO!!! That’s not how you feel, AT ALL! 

Now on to the second part of the definition, “the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.”. This time let’s use an example that pertains a little more to race. Someone offers you a taco with guacamole, you politely decline because you are allergic and they respond, “What? You can't be allergic to guacamole, you’re Mexican!” Or, you’re at a party and someone looks to you and asks you to demonstrate the latest dance craze, but when you tell them you don’t know it and you’re not a very good dancer they say, “But, you’re Black.”. 

These my friends are what we call stereotypes. And they are why representation matters! Stereotypes are perpetuated through media. 

We often get information and form our opinions based on things that we see on television, in movies, and in other media. When we see the same sort of things represented over and over, we start to believe that to be the only way things can be. It’s not to say that people do not exist who do indeed fit the stereotype. Yes, a lot of Mexican people DO like guacamole, and a lot of Black people CAN dance. However, the truth is, real people are so much more diverse than a couple of stereotypes and portrayls seen on the screen. A person is not any less of something, simply because they can’t check off all of the stereotype boxes on your survey. 

Today I saw a video featuring actors Kerry Washington and Aziz Ansari. In the video they were discussing diversity in Hollywood and how minorities (people of color, women, LGBT, etc) are often pigeon-holed into certain ideals. Aziz summed it up when he said “ end up with other people’s perceptions of what certain people are like. “. 

Kerry Washington, who is a great actress and has held the lead role on one of television's most successful series, for several seasons, has found herself on the losing end as well. She was recast in two different pilot series because she was not “hood” (a.k.a. Black) enough. Of course, not everyone sees the point or even believes that this is a valid example of racism and misrepresentation. If you look at the comments the video received on Variety’s Facebook page, you will see that people felt Kerry was crying wolf and being a spoiled actor. 

But is she just reading too much into it? Maybe. But chances are, no. I personally have experienced this, and know a lot of other actors who have as well. I’ve been told I wasn’t “Black” enough for a role, asked if I could be more “urban” and also told that I couldn’t play a Latina, because no one would believe it. :: insert infinite side eye:: 

It’s a common phenomenon. People basically being told they are not Black enough, Asian enough, Latino enough, gay enough. Even when they in fact, are literally members of those groups. 

This is why proper representation matters. Because, we are told that Americans won’t believe that people are actually, WHAT THEY ARE! 

Check out the video below and the article in Variety