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PODCAST WITH AFRO-LATINA ACTRESS CHANEL BOSH


PODCAST WITH AFRO-LATINA ACTRESS CHANEL BOSH via Swirl Nation Blog

Swirl Nation contributing blogger, Chanel Bosh, was recently interviewed by Alex of Multiracial Media for his podcast where they discussed the unique experience of growing up Afro-Latina and growing up around the world in a military family.

Please take some time to listen to the podcast here and get to know Chanel and her story better! 


Ep. 95: Chanel Bosh is African-American and Puerto Rican.  She is a proud Afro-Latina. She’s also a military brat, who grew up in various parts of the United States and the World, experiencing how different it was to be multiracial domestically and internationally.  Hers is a fascinating story of exploring and discovering identity at a young age.
Chanel also is an actress and writer, known for The Colonies (2015), Back to School Blues(2015) and Tomorrow (2014) who has much to say about the challenges faced by multiracial actors and actresses during the casting process.
You don’t want to miss this conversation!
And, for more on Chanel, please check out her iMDb page and her Instagram page.

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#ItsMineToDefine Giveaway


#ItsMineToDefine Giveaway via Swirl Nation Blog

Happy Holidays! I’m so excited to announce the last big GIVEAWAY Mixed Chicks will be hosting for 2016 that has something for everyone. If you have any social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) you are eligible to participate!

Give us your favorite holiday hairstyle selfie and #Itsminetodefine by Dec 25th. Winners will be selected and notified shortly after.


You Must TAG

@mixedchickshair
@mixedchicksuk
@yourhairstoryseries

in your post or we won't see your entry, only 1 entry per participant

  • Any social media platform can be used, but you must tag us so we can see it!!
  • 3 winners will receive the kids product set w/spring bands
  • 2 winners will receive the full men's line w/spring bands
  • 1 winner will receive the leave-in conditioner w/redefining foam and spring bands
  • 1 winner will receive deep conditioner w/replenishing oil, hair silk and spring bands 

I am excited to see your beautiful faces and encourage you to participate even if you have never used the products before. I look forward to seeing all the submissions.

Make sure to TAG and use the HASHTAG!

And follow on social media! Facebook  / Instagram / Twitter

#ItsMineToDefine Giveaway via Swirl Nation Blog

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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF


Sarah Ratliff, age 49

I am just shy of turning 50 years old (on December 22).

 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

I am Black and Japanese on my mother’s side and German, Dutch and Irish on my father’s.

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Utuado, Puerto Rico.

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

Not in the way you probably imagine. Puerto Ricans are like most in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Comprising West African, Taino Indian and Spanish, Puerto Ricans are mixed but unless they’ve mixed with something other than another Puerto Rican, most don’t consider themselves mixed.

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I grew up in New York City in an extremely diverse area. All racial and ethnic makeups you can imagine--both monoracial and multiracial--as well as various religions. It was great! Back then I wasn’t raise to identify as mixed, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable having ambiguous looks. My first boyfriend was half Japanese and half Russian Jewish. I was raised to identify as Black. I hung out with kids who were every race and ethnicity, but I tended to align myself with Blacks and Puerto Ricans.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

Over the phone. It was 1958 and my mother was working for a prestigious company (still pretty shocking they hired a woman, let alone an “other” woman for the position. She was supposed to write an article about W. Eugene Smith (photographer who’d been with Time / Life for a long time). My father represented Smith. They talked for months over the phone and eventually the conversations turned personal. They fell in love and met and my father got the shock of his life when he realized she was Black. They broke up once or twice over it.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

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

The biggest two were the fact that while it was legal in New York State for them to be married, society hadn’t accepted interracial marriage. Imagine this was nearly a decade before the Loving vs. the state of Virginia, the outcome of which overturned anti-miscegenation laws on a federal level. The other was that my father’s father had been a Nazi sympathizer. He disowned my father for marrying my mother. My brothers and I never met him.

 
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

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

Ah well that’s an interesting question. I am not sure. My mother was an only child. My father had one brother who had two kids. I am not sure how my cousins felt about my brothers and me while we were growing up. They’re both about a decade older than I am, maybe more. My cousin Karen got married when she was 20 and I was 7, so she’s 13 years older. We were in different worlds because of age. I never knew if she was racist when I was growing up. I doubt it. I really do. Now she is very supportive. Her sister? She was always weird, but I don’t think she was racist. Her evidence is that she married an Argentine man but they’re mostly White, so that’s not an indication. I don’t think she was, but as I said, she was always weird. First she was into Scientology and then she became born again and said homophobic things so I don’t have a relationship with her.

 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

No, my parents raised us in a Black home but only kind of. It’s complicated but has a lot to do with the fact that my maternal grandfather had been living in the US illegally. So while Japanese would have been the ethnicity with different traditions to celebrate, we didn’t because my mother didn’t grow up with anyone of them. In fact, she didn’t really admit to being Japanese until long after my grandfather died. She feared being deported (my maternal grandmother was born and raised in the US and the Black side of our family goes back to at least the late 1700s).  

The notion of being raised with the traditions and cultures of Black vs. White is an interesting one in the US because try as I might, apart from distinguishing between foods and history, I am not sure what the differences are. Privilege doesn’t count as a culture. I’ve thought about this a lot over my lifetime and I am not sure what the differences in culture are. Unless we’re talking about where the respective peoples emanate from--Nigeria, Germany, etc. I am not sure what the differences are.

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

My mother spoke German (unrelated to marrying my father), French and Latin. She made sure we were raised to speak French.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Because I have never allowed my races and ethnicities to define my tastes, nothing. I love music, food, culture, clothing, etc. from various countries in the world. I was raised to be a Catholic / Episcopalian and I am an atheist today. I can listen to music from everywhere, figure out how to dance to it, etc. I love food from every corner of the globe. I can fit in with every group of people. You could plop me down in the middle of the Congo, Japan, Uraguay, Australia, Egypt, you name it and I could figure out how to adapt.

 

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

To be respectful and open-minded. They also taught us to have healthy skepticism, bordering on paranoia. I question everyone’s motives, but in particular White people’s. I do operate off the assumption that most White people are even a little racist--even if they’re unaware of it. Although the majority aren’t KKK card carrying members, in my 50 years of living, I have seen that most have bias toward PoC in some form or another. Being the complexion I am allows me to see people for who they really are because most White people don’t realize I am not White or that I don’t identify that way. They let their hair down with me because they think I am one of them. Their reactions when they realize I was one of them--you know, those people--well, then it’s my fault they said those things. LOL

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

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

Constantly just as I do now.

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

Since the summer of 2015 I have been identifying as multiracial. Prior to that, meaning for 48 years I identified as Black. I am still struggling with the Japanese because two reasons: I wasn’t raised that way and because I have found many Japanese people to be racist toward Blacks and other PoC. It wasn’t only my experience with my first boyfriend, but it’s happened enough times in my life that I have seen a pattern. Responses to Ariana Miyamoto’s capturing the Miss Japan Universe are accurate or similar to my experiences with Japanese people.

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

My first three boyfriends were Japanese and Russian Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican. From there I only dated Black men but this is also a little problematic because there’s an elephant in the room in the Black community that emanates from slave days. Because of so much mixing (slaves owners raping slaves) thus producing lighter and lighter complected Blacks, the slave owners gave preferential treatment to them and made the darker ones work in the fields. The field workers were treated like holy hell. I don’t think this resentment was ever truly forgotten.

I have had many Black men fetishize me because of my light complexion while Black women sometimes took up deep resentment before I even opened my mouth. I can’t stand that kind of man, and with the women I have historically been very patient and won most of them over. At some point I stopped dating altogether. I met my husband and he transcends race. He was raised similarly to me in the sense that he doesn’t allow his race and ethnicity (he’s Black) to define his tastes in anything.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET SARAH RATLIFF via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

I am still a work in progress. Ask me in ten years. It’s still very new to me. By and large it’s a good thing. I can see things from multiple perspectives but unfortunately I haven’t moved past the judging of White people and their privilege stage yet. I can on an individual basis, but not over all. I am working on that.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

I have never really thought about it. In the same way that I don’t allow race and ethnicity to define my tastes, I don’t allow either to define who I seek out as friends. Admittedly since I have been more active in the multiracial community I have made more multiracial friends, but I still don’t allow myself to seek people out based on race. I learn from everyone--even the White people I keep at arm’s length because I am certain they have some kind of bias in them.

 

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

Exotic. If I hear that one again, I may go insane. Generalizations about race are annoying. I also can’t stand it when people (mostly White) tell me there’s only one race--the human race. Yeah, that’s nice but until White people are being used as target practice by the police and always assumed to be stealing, killing, raping or taking drugs, then we can talk about that one race crap.

 

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

Because I live outside the US (which by the way I left because of the racism), I think globally not just in terms of the US. I live for a day when race, gender and sexual orientation are non-issues.

 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?

What you’re doing with this blog is great. Thank you!


Sarah Ratliff is a corporate America escapee turned eco-organic farmer, writer, activist, serial entrepreneur and the co-author of the book Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide. Much of her writing focuses on racial equality, feminism and politics. Sarah publishes a site called Multiracial Media (partnering with stand up comic and host of the Multiracial Family Man podcast, Alex Barnett). Multiracial Media is a platform of artistic expression for the multiracial community. 

For more information about Sarah and/or to see samples of her writing, please visit her website.

 

 

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SLAVERY IN 2016? AVA DUVERNAY'S DOCUMENTARY "13TH"


Ava DuVernay, Director

Ava DuVernay, Director

I don’t watch a lot of documentaries, but my two younger sisters desperately urged me to watch “13th” on Netflix, directed by Ava DuVernay. I knew she had directed Selma, so I figured the documentary would be pretty good. I truly had no idea just how good it would be.

 

The documentary is based around, and named for, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery. The amendment was ratified in 1865 and stated: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Somehow, I never really thought about the clause right in the middle of that sentence, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

 

DuVernay’s documentary focuses in on that clause and details how she, and many others, believe that it is the reason so many African American men and other people of color are currently in our nation’s prison systems. She interviews scholars, white and black, and others who substantiate this claim with very convincing evidence. They all agree that the clause has basically allowed slavery to continue under the guise of keeping “criminals” behind bars.

 

I’ve known for many years that our prison system is broken and in need of a desperate overhaul, but I truly didn’t realize the extent of it until I watched “13th”. I also didn’t realize the degree in which our prisons are systematically and calculatedly filled. Listening to the people interviewed talk about how vastly interconnected the prisons are to huge corporations and political organizations was mind blowing and also extremely disheartening; especially given our current political climate in the wake of the presidential election.  

“13th” is an incredibly powerful film and I think DuVernay excellently weaves her claim into the broader picture of current race relations in the US. It truly speaks to a lot of the issues African Americans and people of color are dealing with today and, in my opinion, is a must watch for everyone. Regardless of the opinions or conclusions you come to after watching, it assure you it will have made you think a little harder about why so many African Americans are imprisoned and why so many people of color are continually and systematically disenfranchised.


 

 

 

 

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THINGS MULTIRACIAL PEOPLE AND OUR MONORACIAL PARENTS CAN'T STAND HEARING


"She's so pretty ... where did she come from?" is one of many obnoxious questions Chris Kelly is routinely asked about her Biracial (half White and half African American) daughter.

 

It got me thinking about the questions people have asked both my parents and me about my brothers’ and my ambiguous looks. And while I don’t believe all multiracial people and our monoracial parents experience all of these questions, my bet is that many can resonate with this list.

 

And before your White fragility forces you to express how insulted you are that I am addressing this, try and remove yourselves from the equation and think about how your invasiveness, your lack of imagination, your inability to think before you speak, your insensitivity and your ability to personalize everything affects us. Please.

 

Questions and Declarations Multiracial People are Tired of Hearing

 

You’re So Exotic!

THINGS MULTIRACIAL PEOPLE AND OUR MONORACIAL PARENTS CAN'T STAND HEARING via Swirl Nation Blog

People, please! I am not a Chia Pet! While you may think this is a compliment, it’s not. My appearance may be different from yours, but that’s all it is—different. It’s not exotic. I am the product of my parents’ relationship the same way you are. We don’t need to make it more or less than it is.

 

Can I Touch Your Hair?

No! If you’re still unsure why, refer to the discussion on me not being a Chia Pet.

 

Stop Fetishizing Us!

It’s not unusual for people to have a type when looking for a partner. I like men to be of similar height, weight and build. I also like them to be on the introverted and shy side. They need to be intellectual, funny, think outside the box and nonconformists. As far as what race they are, by the time I was in my 20s I was tired of men fetishizing me—White, Black, Latino, Hispanic and Asian men did this to me.

I fell in love with my husband because he never once saw me as more beautiful because my ambiguous looks. He is monoracial and like him, we’d both previously dated people who spanned the rainbow.

 

I Have a Friend Who’s Biracial. Do You Know Her?

While you may feel it’s safe to stick to your kind, I have friends who are both monoracial and multiracial. I don’t choose or not choose my friends based on that one commonality we have. Difficult though it may be to believe, we have other things in common that bring us together and moreover, I don’t know every Biracial person out there.

 

There is Only One Race: The Human Race

 This one is tricky because on the face of it, it’s true. The difference in human beings is far tinier than one might believe looking at obvious physical differences. And race is indeed a social construct, however, as long as people are treated differently based solely on skin color, we aren’t even close to making that claim yet.

Don’t get me started on examples, but I’ll give you a hint:

·      Cops using Blacks, Latinos, Hispanics and Natives as target practice

·      People of Color (PoC) incarcerated at disproportionate rates than Whites

·      Whites crossing the street when they see a PoC

 

I Don’t See Color

This one is particularly annoying. Really? You see no difference between the blue skies, the green leaves on trees, the yellow sun and so on? No, I didn’t think so. Admitting to seeing color isn’t the same as discriminating against or making judgments about because of color.

THINGS MULTIRACIAL PEOPLE AND OUR MONORACIAL PARENTS CAN'T STAND HEARING via Swirl Nation Blog

 

What Kind of Music Do Multiracial People Listen To?

Do I really have to explain why this question is stupid and obnoxious? We listen to whatever appeals to us, the same way monoracial people do. Are we swayed one way or another because we’re more than one race? That answer is very complex and relates to bigger issues of who we are on the inside vs. what you see on the outside.

 

Like monoracial people, I like the music I do because of the way I was raised, the environment (both in my home and outside my home) I was exposed to and my personality. I can listen to folk, hard rock, hip hop, salsa, classical and jazz and this variation may or may not have anything to do with my races.

 


Questions and Declarations Monoracial Parents of Multiracial Kids are Tired of Hearing

 

Are You the Nanny?

Author Sarah Ratliff and her father

Author Sarah Ratliff and her father

My mother was half Black and half Japanese and my father was White. We all got tired of people asking that same stupid question. It is actually possible my parents fell in love and made babies. The question is racist and grounded in colonization / imperialism. Would you think of asking a White parent of a multiracial / ambiguous looking child if she were the nanny?

 

And How Did You Meet Him?

This is a subtle one because the question doesn’t appear racist but when the emphasis is on the you and the him it is. The inference being my parents were in different social stratospheres. Had the question been, “how did you two meet?” it would be far less offensive because it assumes they are both equals vs. one having superiority over the other. It works in reverse if the question is, “how did you meet her?”

 

So You’re Into (fill in the blank) Women / Men? What’s Wrong With…?

Personality traits, temperaments and whether someone is introverted or extroverted are what attracted you to your partner, no? Why would you assume it’s different for someone who fell in love with a person who’s a different race?

That you feel the need to question someone else’s choices seems like a personal problem. Get over it.

THINGS MULTIRACIAL PEOPLE AND OUR MONORACIAL PARENTS CAN'T STAND HEARING via Swirl Nation Blog

Have You Thought About How Society Will See Your Children?

That’s usually code for, “I am a well-intentioned racist and I am uncomfortable with your choice to marry outside your race and have children with this person.”

Well, that’s a personal problem, ain’t it?

 

What are some of yours? 


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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY


MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY

 Kevin Thomas Jr, age 29
African American & Belizean/Garifuna
 
Nicholette Thomas, age 29
Polish, Italian, German
 
Lillian Thomas, age 5
African American, Belizean/Garifuna, Polish, Italian, German
 
Everett Thomas, age 2
African American, Belizean/Garifuna, Polish, Italian, German
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Buffalo, NY

 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?

We went to high school together at Hutchinson Technical High School in Buffalo, NY. We were friends first and started dating at the end of our Junior year.

 

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

More so when we were younger we heard a lot of negative things when we would walk around, take the bus, or go out together. We’ve literally had old woman yell at us and call my husband “O.J” in reference to O.J. Simpson. I guess they thought he was (allegedly) going to kill me because of our skin? Who knows. We used to get stared at all the time, you know… the basics of being in an interracial relationship.

 

WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?

Something that has been important to me is that our kids learn about their cultures. My mother-in-law is from Belize and is of the Garifuna people. This is very important to her and an integral part of who she is. I’ve made sure to try to learn some of her culture to pass along to our children. One of my favorite things from her culture is this DELICIOUS dish call Hadut. She taught me the recipe and technique.  It’s a fish based dinner and it is amazing. She gave us this big wooden mortar and pestle that we use to make the plantains in…. It’s a beautiful piece to have in our home and we get to make it using the traditional methods. I’ve also tried to teach our daughter some of the words from her native language. I’ll admit they are hard for me to pronounce but I’m trying with the basics (i.e. the words for head, foot, mouth, etc).

In my family we didn’t really practice culture specific traditions. I would say I identify mostly with being Polish though as those that raised me were the Polish side. As a child we did a bit more, in regards to traditions. We live in Buffalo, NY and it’s the Dyngus Day capital. As kids we would get Pussy Willow’s and hit each other with them (sounds weird I know), wear beautiful crowns that we got from The Broadway Market, and garnish our Easter meals with our Butter Lambs (also from The Broadway Market.) My mom picks up a crown for my daughter to wear for Easter as well. I’ve been trying to teach our kids about our Polish culture though as I want them to know about all of their makeup. Recently I’ve started to tell them about Pierogis and how they are from their mommy’s culture. They look at me like I’m crazy and have no idea what I’m talking about… but it’s a start.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE'S RACE?

Oh! As I’ve said above I love my mother in law’s food! It is simply amazing. I’ve learned on dish and I want to learn more and incorporate it into our family. It’s so natural, flavorful, simple, but incredibly delicious.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?

It is but it isn’t. Buffalo, NY is very diverse, but unfortunately it’s still quite segregated by neighborhoods and towns. In our specific neighborhood we are on the border of the East Side of Buffalo and Cheektowaga. We specifically chose to live in that area so that we have access to a better school district for our children, but so our kids aren’t the only “brown” or “golden” (as my daughter says) ones in school. So far it’s been a good choice.

 

DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?

We both know some Spanish but definitely wouldn’t call ourselves bilingual. My Mother-in-Law speaks Garifuna and English so I’ve tried to learn some of the words to teach some basics to our children. I follow a facebook page that shares/teaches the language so I can learn more. I recently learned “Buiti Weyu” which means… Good Day! Part of my daughter’s middle name is from my Mother-in-laws native language. While I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband’s maternal grandmother and my younger cousin both passed. We combined a Garifuna word that means “granddaughter” and part of my cousin’s name to create her middle name. It’s very unique and special to us.

 

ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?

They are. My husband and I literally have grown up together since we were 16 years old so we are a part of each other’s families. I call his siblings my sister and brother and he calls my sister his sister. It’s all love with us.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER'S ETHNIC-CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Haha… like I’ve said above… the food!! It’s tastes amazing, it’s all natural and so flavorful.

 

DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?

The only real difference that I can think of is that my husband grew up in a two parent household. I grew up in a single mother household. This is opposite of what a lot of stereotypes would suggest.  He’s had both parents for his whole life and my dad left when I was 4 so we struggled but my mother kicked butt and gave us the best life. Even though we were low-income she worked hard to make us not feel like that.  He and I grew up in neighboring neighborhoods so we grew up similarly in regards to that so I can’t really think of too many other differences to be honest.

I would say though, that even though I am white, until high school I was the minority in school. My neighborhood was predominantly black so I feel that has had an impact on who I am for the better. This is from my perspective though… my husband might have a different viewpoint. I’m interested to ask him.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING/UNEXPECTED THING YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER'S CULTURE?  

We are more similar than different. Love is love.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

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

Ugh… I just posted about this on my fb page. There was an article titled (paraphrasing) “White parents who are the biological parents of Black kids.” That REALLY irks me. I get that society views those who have “brown” skin, and even “one drop” of black in them... As black. But! I grew my babies in my womb, I labored them, I almost died for them, I’ve breastfed them, and I’ve literally gave my blood, sweat and tears for them.  When people say things like that it makes me feel like I don’t count. I don’t like that. My children are mixed, multiracial, multicultural, biracial, etc. But they are not just ONE race/culture. They are both my husband and my children. They are unique, special, amazing, diverse little people and ALL of them counts.  

Also, my daughter has AMAZING hair. I hate when strangers think they can touch it. Just… no.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

I should’ve read ahead… Sorry! We’ve tried to teach them some of their maternal grandmother’s native language, some about foods from our cultures, and one day we want to visit Belize to show them where their grandmother is from.

 

HAVE YOUR CHILDREN ASKED ABOUT RACE?
My daughter has noticed it. I’d say she was around 3 years old. We just explained to her that some people are one color, some are another, and that we are all beautiful and special.

 

DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?  

According to my daughter, I am white, daddy is black, and she and her brother are “golden.”  :)

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?

Whenever my daughter brings something “different” up she notices in others (i.e. maybe a male with makeup on) I casually just remind her that we are all different. I try to not make it a “thing” and react. I want people being unique and different to be a normal, accepted thing for them. I try to use everyday moments as teaching opportunities.

 

WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DO YOUR CHILDREN HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?

My daughter’s hair is AMAZING. It is incredibly long (almost to her knees when wet), and curly. I had really long hair as a child, but it was/is stick straight. My kids have my cheeks and my husband’s lips. They also have my hairline. We go back and forth with who we think they look like. We can’t decide!

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILDREN?

My daughter sort of gets it. My son is definitely too young at this point but it is very important to me to teach them to be proud of who they are. I remind my daughter that she is amazing, and her differences make her unique and special. I try to teach her to love her curly hair and “golden” skin. So far I think we’ve been successful.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

My dream is for my children to grow up loving who they are and being able to just be themselves. I don’t want them to have to “choose” a side and identify with one race. I would just love for America to understand that our beautiful, unique mixed babies are the future of the world. Love is love no matter the amount of melanin in our skin.

 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD:

You can follow me, My blog is themixedmamablog.com where I share tips, tricks, and tutorials for multicultural haircare. There will also be stories of our lives and the issues/situations we face as a multicultural family.

I also just launched an online store, TheMixedShop.com!  The online store brings natural/multiracial hair care products, diverse toys & books, and other specialty items all into one spot. 

I can be found on Social Media at: Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I also have an online FB group that is sort of an online support group for multicultural families from around the world to share stories, pictures, get advice, vent, and just have a sense of community. That can be found here: The Mixed Mama Community.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

 

 

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MULTIRACIAL #WCW: ZADIE SMITH


With husband, poet Nick Laird

With husband, poet Nick Laird

This remarkable woman just came out with another novel and I’m so excited!  She was the featured guest for Fresh Air on NPR about a week ago and I sat in a parking lot for the full-hour interview. 

 

OK, so backing up…

I read White Teeth, very late, right before I became pregnant with my daughter in 2007.  I couldn’t put the book down.  Zadie Smith is so lyrical, so RAW.  Being mixed-race herself, she writes from a deep place about growing up mixed-race.  She examines immigrants and their children and the tug and pull of longing for a homeland while making a home in a new land; a new land where your neighbors are from all over, doing the same thing.  She is witty, truthful, and a great storyteller.  White Teeth, her debut novel, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, the 2000 Whitbread Book Award in category best first novel, the Guardian First Book Award, the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize, and the Betty Trask AwardTime magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

 

Can we say “baller”?

Since her debut novel, Smith has written four more novels, countless stories, and essays.  She’s brilliant.  And this is really a Woman Crush for me – I know I wrote about Rose Bertram before, but I don’t know much about Rose Bertram, except she’s very attractive, is dating a hot soccer player, and has an amazing Instagram.  Rose could be quite the erudite, I just don’t know; however, Zadie Smith finished White Teeth while in her final year at Cambridge University...

 

A little more about this woman du jour (taken from Wikipedia):

Zadie Smith was born as Sadie Smith in the north-west London borough of Brent to a Jamaican (Black) mother, Yvonne Bailey, and an English (Caucasian) father, Harvey Smith.  Her mother had grown up in Jamaica and migrated to England in 1969. Their marriage was her father's second. Zadie has a half-sister, a half-brother, and two younger brothers, one of whom is the rapper and stand-up comedian Doc Brown and the other is rapper Luc Skyz. As a child, she was fond of tap dancing; as a teenager, she considered a career as an actress in musical theatre; and as a university student she earned money as a jazz singer and wanted to become a journalist.
 

Her interview on Fresh Air made me fall in love even more – it can seriously be its own post.  She is so intelligent and insightful.  A couple excerpts:

On a poll that found that about seven in 10 Donald Trump supporters thought life in America was better in the 1950s

Zadie Smith:

This is a very interesting point for me because that kind of historical nostalgia is only available to a certain kind of person. ... I can't go back to the '50s, because life in the '50s for me is not pretty, nor is it pretty in 1320 or 1460 or 1580 or 1820 or even 1960 in this country, very frankly. So that's what interests me — the historical nostalgia that is available or not available to others.
I am also historically nostalgic, and the left is also historically nostalgic, and as tempting as it would be to apply the solutions of 1970s semi-socialist England to present problems, I don't think that's possible either. I think the idea is that you find some way to restate the things you find valuable in the past — if you find them valuable — in a way that people can live with, in a way that's livable in this contemporary moment.

On how being biracial allows her to blend in with different cultures

Zadie Smith:

I think people of my shade all over the world will have these experiences: You might go to Morocco and people will believe you Moroccan; you might go to Egypt and be confused for an Egyptian; you might find yourself in Bangladesh and people are talking Bengali to you. It's an interesting mind state, one I've always found very enjoyable, actually. ... I guess ... the movability of the identity is interesting, whereas I suppose a white person is white wherever they go. They're kind of stuck with it, whereas I find the interesting interpretive quality that my shade creates in others curious — sometimes funny, sometimes upsetting, sometimes alarming.
 

And I haven’t even mentioned her beauty and style.  I’m providing photos for that…

MULTIRACIAL #WCW: ZADIE SMITH via Swirl Nation Blog
MULTIRACIAL #WCW: ZADIE SMITH via Swirl Nation Blog
And she can hold her own standing next to a model and fashion designer

And she can hold her own standing next to a model and fashion designer


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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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PODCAST WITH MULTIRACIAL HAIR STYLIST AND ENTREPRENEUR SYLVIE VAUGHT


PODCAST WITH MULTIRACIAL HAIR STYLIST AND ENTREPRENEUR SYLVIE VAUGHT via Swirl Nation Blog

We are very excited that Alex of Multiracial Media recently interviewed hair stylist and entrepreneur Sylvie Vaught for his podcast.

Sylvie and her family were one of the first families we featured on Swirl Nation Blog back in January!

Please take some time to listen to the podcast here and get to know Sylvie better! 


More information can be found here

Ep. 94: Sylvie Vaught is is African American, Choctaw Indian, Irish, and Russian/Romanian Jewish.  She is a multiracial woman in a multiracial family who has experienced multiracial life in Canada and the United States.  Currently, she works as a hairstylist, with a particular sensitivity and affinity for multiracial hair.
Sylvie is also a a co-founder of Blow Me Hair App a Los Angeles and Orange County based on-demand beauty that connects available hair stylists with clients interested in a professional blowout or up-do in the convenience of their home, office, and hotel.

 

 

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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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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI


Kelsey Blasi, age 23 & Paul Blasi, age 26

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

Kelsey: Black & Filipina American

Paul: British & Irish American.

 

HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?

Attending School at University of Texas at San Antonio, he was my next door neighbor. He was locked outside his dorm and my roommate and I were sitting at table a few feet away, when he walked over it was the closest thing to love at first sight that I have ever experienced.

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

San Antonio

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

Yes, we live in a very diverse area. Mostly Latino and Hispanic descent.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI via Swirl Nation Blog
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI via Swirl Nation Blog

WHERE DID EACH OF YOU GROW UP? WERE THEY DIVERSE COMMUNITIES?

Kelsey: Texan born and raised grew up in Austin TX. Somewhat diverse community very & liberal.

Paul: Grew up in New York. Very diverse community

 

Paul's grandmothers on the end and Kelsey's in the middle

Paul's grandmothers on the end and Kelsey's in the middle

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS? 

I have never felt like there were any significant obstacles that we have faced do to our differing backgrounds, we have always felt that our differing background, views, and opinions are what make us a stronger couple. It allows us to step outside of what we know and what we are comfortable with in order to learn and grow. The key is to always be open minded.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER'S ETHNIC/CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Kelsey: His family is incredibly musically gifted, I love visiting his family's home because it is never quiet, there is always music playing his dad could be on piano, his mother on violin, his sisters singing or his brother on the drums each one of them a completely unique style, but all of them talented.

Paul: I enjoy the diversity of her mixed background in her family whether it be food or tradition it always seems like there is a new experience to have.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST UNEXPECTED THING YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER'S CULTURE?

I’ve learned to do away with stereotypes, no matter the culture or race the family love is the same and dad’s always get the good chair.

 

ARE BOTH OF YOUR FAMILIES SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

Yes!  We are so blessed that both of our families are so loving and happy for us.

Kelsey and her family

 

ARE THERE BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR PARTNER DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?

I wouldn’t say there were huge differences in the way we grew up. However, we did grow up differently but I’m not sure that our race played the biggest role in those differences. I was born and raised in TX an only child of divorced parents both ex-military, I had to grow up rather quickly because both of my parents worked and there was really no one else to take care of me.

Paul grew up Upstate he’s number 4 out of 6 siblings. His mom stays at home and his dad is a businessman whose job has moved them all over the world even to Japan for a short time. Family dynamic is probably the difference we have.

Paul and his family

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO YOUR INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIP?

I don’t really feel as though we hear a lot of negative comments about our relationship it's not really taboo where we live and, we are fortunate in the fact that most of our close friends are in interracial relationships as well.  But of course there’s always time for jokes in our group and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard… “Yeah Paul likes his coffee like he likes his women. “

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI via Swirl Nation Blog
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI via Swirl Nation Blog

DO YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT?

Yes, and I feel like even more so in this past year with everything happening in our country. It can be a little unsettling for an interracial couple watching the news today. The fear that our country isn’t as forward thinking as we had hoped for. It’s important to talk to each other about these things to help one another gain perspective and in turn help others gain that same insight. We’ve been given a unique privilege as an interracial couple to have the ability to reach more demographics and possibly reach people who would have otherwise felt defensive or less eager to be open-minded on topics that affect our country. I believe just being who we are as an interracial couple shows people who might not even know us that different is beautiful and despite what they may have been taught or what they believe love is love no matter its race, or religion.     

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN BEING IN AN INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIP?  

Trying to see things from the other person's perspective, it’s one of the reasons why I feel that it is important to talk about race in our relationship. We’ve been together for going on 6 years and we are still learning how to communicate our perspectives. The world we live is unfortunately not a fair one, but it is important to make the best out of any situation that you are given.  We’ve talked about starting a family soon and how we’re going to raise our children and keep them informed I don’t want my children to ever feel inadequate for being mixed I want them to feel empowered by it.  

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL COUPLE: MEET KELSEY AND PAUL BLASI via Swirl Nation Blog

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

My dream for America has already started to come to life as a child of mixed race I am happy to eventually have children of my own who are even more culturally and genetically diverse than me. I am both excited and optimistic on what kind of enlightened future they will have.

You can follow Kelsey on IG


 

 

 

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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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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE KELLY FAMILY


MEET THE KELLY FAMILY

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE KELLY FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

Chris Kelly, age 53

Caucasian of Irish and Scandinavian descent born in the US

 Alexander Rabin (biological son), age 23

Caucasian of Irish, Scandinavian and Latvian (American born, Jewish father) descent born in the US

 Asa Rabin (biological son), age 21

Caucasian of Irish, Scandinavian and Latvian (American born, Jewish father) descent born in the US

Theresa Kelly-Kimble (biological daughter), age 8

Caucasian of Irish, Scandinavian and African American descent

 

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

My daughter and I live in San Diego, CA while my sons both live in Washington state, the birthplace of all three of my children.

My daughter's father lives in the Pacific Northwest and while long distance, we co-parent as friends in a way that our daughter knows that both parents love her and contribute to who she is in every way.

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?

There is diversity in our community however the diversity leans more toward Hispanic and very little African American

 

WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?

We celebrate Christian and some Jewish holidays

 
FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE KELLY FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR FORMER PARTNER'S CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

What I have enjoyed most is being a member of a black church as my first exposure to being a church member. Albeit it was not because of or with him but had it not been for a biracial daughter I would likely not have chosen that church.

 

DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR FORMER PARTNER DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?

Yes, he grew up in Augusta, GA where there were few white people. I was the first Caucasian to set foot in his then 85+ year old grandmothers home when we took our daughter to be introduced. During that visit we were in Atlanta for almost 48 hours out and about with our infant before we saw another inter-racial couple, even at the mall. It was very weird for me. I grew up in San Diego, CA with some racial diversity although in a neighborhood and school where the majority of the diversity was bussed in.

 

HAVE YOU FACED ANY OBSTACLES AS A MIXED RACE FAMILY?

Not particularly. 

WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

I have taken college classes in African American history so I am able to understand and share as things come up. She has books about famous African Americans she reads and studies. We attend an African American church.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE KELLY FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

HAS YOUR CHILD ASKED ABOUT RACE?

Yes, she has, (this will be my first blog post for you...glad this question jogged my memory)

 

DOES YOUR CHILD IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?  

She identifies as mixed. Pink and dark brown make her.

 

HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILD TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?

By being a role model of inclusiveness and kindness while teaching we all bleed the same color.

 

WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR FORMER PARTNER?

It is not uncommon for African Americans to be born with extra digits/fingers or toes. During our first ultrasound the technician stopped with a look of concern. I asked if the baby had an extra finger (her father had been born with an extra pinky as did his son from his previous marriage) and sure enough, the tech said yes. I looked at the father said “Phew! Now I know for sure it’s yours!” which was not actually ever in question!

Characteristic from me, her intelligence of course! Physically we resemble one another to the point people call her my twin...with a good tan.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILD?  

Nothing more than mommy is light skin and daddy is dark skin and she is a combo

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

My dream for all of my children to live a life where they are pursuing and walking in their purpose with conviction and joy. That they all embrace their dreams and turn them into reality with a Can Do attitude. It is my dream that they continue to view all people as equal and capable regardless of race or religion and that they have compassionate, kind, caring and loving hearts to touch society with and be role models. For my bi-racial daughter, it is my dream that she never falls victim to the question of her identity. She is who she is, her skin is not the definition of who she is just as it is not the identifier of mine. I pray that she be a role model of confidence and courage for other young women of all ethnicities. And most of all I dream they will all live outstanding, remarkable, fun lives living out loud, loving without abandon and taking action that results in positive change for the world, big or small.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE KELLY FAMILY via Swirl Nation Blog

You can follow Chris on FB | TW and her website www.chriskellywithlove.com


 

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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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PODCAST WITH MULTIRACIAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND DIRECTOR SUZIE STRONG


PODCAST WITH MULTIRACIAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND DIRECTOR SUZIE STRONG via Swirl Nation Blog

We are very excited that Alex of Multiracial Media recently interviewed photographer and director Suzie Strong for his podcast, Multiracial Family ManSwirl Nation Blog first featured Suzie as a Featured Multiracial Individual back in May. I personally met Suzie earlier this year when she showed her art in an art show that I was lucky enough to curate. Take some time to listen to the podcast here and get to know Suzie better! 

You can take a look at her work here and on IG.


More information can be found here

Ep. 92: Suzie Strong is an award-winning, Los Angeles-based photographer and director.  In her photography work, she specializes in creative portraits and fashion.  She directs and shoots feature films, short narratives, music videos, experimental shorts, promos and fashion shorts.
Suzie also has a fascinating multiracial heritage, with Lebanese, German, Irish, English, Spanish, & Native American roots.  Interestingly, her family immigrated to the United States through New Orleans, rather than Ellis Island, and her family culture and traditions mainly reflect the culture of New Orleans which Suzie calls “a beautiful quilt of many types of people.”  She adds: “Our home was always a southern island on the west coast. We also honored our Lebanese background with lots of Lebanese cooking!“
Listen as Suzie explains her Lebanese (and other) roots and the juxtaposition of those with New Orleans culture.  And, hear how her ancestry and heritage have informed her life and work.

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MULTIRACIAL #MCM: THE ROCK AKA THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE


MULTIRACIAL #MCM: THE ROCK AKA THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE via Swirl Nation Blog

Dwayne Johnson a.k.a. The Rock, is the Sexiest Man Alive, I've known it for at least 15 years and People magazine finally decided I was right;) This title ushers him into an elite group of physically appealing men that over the years has included George Clooney, Matt Damon, David Beckham, and Denzel Washington. 

Speaking of Denzel, he was the first and only black actor to hold this title back in 1996. So that would make The Rock (I refuse to call him Dwayne- he is way too sexy for that name) the first multiracial individual to hold the title since he is 1/2 Samoan and 1/2 black. 

Former People managing editor Landon Jones, who oversaw the 1996 Denzel Washington cover, said,

I’m proud we published the first [“Sexiest Man Alive” with a person of color]. I’m not proud we published the last.” 

I imagine all of the recent backlash in Hollywood, plus The Rock's timely movie release for Moana, moved the team at People Magazine towards this decision. Regardless it is impossible to deny he is a huge force in Hollywood as he is this year's highest paid actor pulling in $64.5 million in 2016. 

As we all know, representation matters, and I hope moving forward to see men of all races gracing not only the cover of this magazine, but across all mediums and platforms to accurately portray society. 

MULTIRACIAL #MCM: THE ROCK AKA THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE via Swirl Nation Blog
MULTIRACIAL #MCM: THE ROCK AKA THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE via Swirl Nation Blog

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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ASIA WAKABAYASHI

I am so excited to introduce you to my friend, Asia! Asia and I lived next door to each other when I lived in Colorado, she became my friend and my daughter's babysitter. She is a very loving and caring person and I was so excited when she agreed to be featured on Swirl Nation. Please enjoy reading about her journey growing up black, Japanese, Native American, and white. 

xx jen 


Lukas is Wakabayashi (Asia for short). I've been 22 for a few years :)

  

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ASIA WAKABAYASHI via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

My mom is African American and Native American.

My father is Japanese, Polish, and Lithuanian.

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Greeley, CO

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

In the last year, so many people are moving here. There have been tons of Nigerians. There have always been a lot of Mexican Americans as well. I really enjoy all the ethnic stores and shops that have popped up in my neighborhood as a result. So many cute markets and grocers.

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I was born in Denver, Colorado. My mother moved us to Georgia when I was in the 5th grade, the area we lived in had a larger African American population than Denver. When I was in middle school we moved to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was very diverse and full of history. However, no matter where we moved I did not find any mixed kids that I felt like I could identify with.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ASIA WAKABAYASHI via Swirl Nation Blog

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

My parents were high school sweethearts, they met while in school. My dad lived near my mom's neighborhood and knew all of my mom's siblings.

 

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

My mom never felt accepted by my dad's family. She felt judged I think and never felt welcomed. I don't think my dad ever felt uncomfortable.

 

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

Yes, I did go through a stage in high school where I felt like I didn't belong to either family. I was too dark for my dad's side, too light for my mom's side. The older my siblings got, the more I felt out of place when we didn't look alike.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

I think my family connects through food, on both sides. My mom always makes soul food, or food her grandmother made. My dad used to take me to sushi bars and show me his grandmother's Japanese dishes and such. My mother and father split when I was very little, so I've got to experience both sides separately.

 

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

No, both of my parents spoke English. In high school I studied German and Japanese. During my junior year I had a Japanese exchange student who lived with my family for a week. It was a wonderful experience.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

I love the foods, maybe because that's how both parents connected me to my cultural background. They are polar opposites in ways, soul food compared to sushi. I love the connection I can make through preparing a dish.

 

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ASIA WAKABAYASHI via Swirl Nation Blog

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

Both parents encouraged me to spend time with family members. Through family I was able to learn first hand. Both were encouraging to me to explore each background.

 

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

No, it wasn't a huge deal that I was mixed. Both sides of the family always tried to make me feel welcome and included, I think sometimes talking about race can make people feel like outsiders when they don't fit into just one group. I was always encouraged to explore, but it was never a pressed issue.

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

I identify as mixed, because that's what I am. I haven't found a box that I fit into, and I'm fine with that.

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

No, I don't think I've ever not dated someone because of race. I go off of character. My significant other is Caucasian but I have dated a variety of races and ethnicities…

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

It means not fitting into one box, having the option to fit into a lot of boxes. I used to hate that there weren't other people like me, but I've grown to love it as I get older.

 DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

I do not, although I would love to have someone to commiserate with.

 

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

My biggest and most frequently asked pet peeve people ask me is, “Where are you from?”. This is what people say when they want to know what you're mixed with but don't want to ask it directly. Constantly, it's usually the first thing people ask. Its annoying because does it really matter?

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ASIA WAKABAYASHI via Swirl Nation Blog

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

I hope one day we can all mingle, without having to fit into ONE box. I hope everyone embraces the different cultures they might have.


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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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