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Xavia and her daughter

Xavia and her daughter

I was always aware, growing up, that I was neither white, nor black. No one directly called me out. Although, the question, "What are you?", did always feel like a public challenge. It wasn't spoken, but it didn't need to be. I didn't quite fit in on either side; not white enough, not black enough. I wasn't sure if I would ever belong to one group or the other, but as I grew up I learned that being white was never even an option. I was half and half, but the world never views white/black mixed kids as white. I guess that made me black enough by default. Eventually, I knew that I didn't need to be enough of anything, for anyone but myself. I choose the labels I wear. It never occurred to me, though, that any issues with racial identity would follow me into motherhood.


My children don't shun me, but they don't feel like I understand their experiences, as black kids, either. I didn't even know I was that different in their eyes until my daughter said to me, "Mom, how does it feel to be the only white person in a house with all black people?" OMSheeesh, I thought, you can't ask people that. Even if they're your mother. I wasn't really offended. I actually laughed in the moment. I've got that thick "motherhood" skin you need, to maintain your self esteem while raising children. It did make me realize, though, my daughter really thinks I'm white. 

She looks at my skin color as an advantage over her own. I'm comfortable in my skin, but I am secretly obsessed with her golden brown tone. Then again, I see brown skin as a thing of beauty. I don't automatically think of the negative stereotypes that are sometimes associated with it. Even though I was a bit confused about which heritage should dominate my description, I've always had a natural pride in who I am and all the wheres I come from. I've definitely experienced prejudice, but I never internalized it. For me it was more a reflection of the person looking down on me. It exposed their character, not mine. It's different for my children. The oldest two primarily, experience our white washed world as a defective sore thumb. They think the issue lies with them. They don't see their beautiful reddish brown skin, or their African American heritage as a blessing, and that makes me incredibly sad.


I know I can't change the way some people will see them, but it's my hope that one day they'll absorb my example of how I see myself.  I also know now, that the only way I can do that is to share with them some of my own experiences. I don't bake myself in sunshine the way I used to throughout my high school and college years, so chances are I'll never not look like a bright light. I can't make us look more alike in that way, but I can help them understand that I've never experienced white privilege. That brown is brown, and my lighter shade has never exempt me from prejudice. 


I'm grateful my daughter said what she did, because it made me aware of how she sees me as different. Now the challenge, for me, is to help her see that, really, we're very much the same. 

Xavia and her children

Xavia and her children

You can also find Xavia over at Messiful Mama where she shares her humorous take on motherhood.


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I strongly identify as a mixed-race Black and Latina female. I was raised by my parents to never choose just one or the other because I am both: all day, everyday. As passionately as I hold my racial/ethnic identity to be true, I have grappled with the fact that the world sees my truth as a falsity. I, Joanna Lillian Thompson, am proud to say I am the child of a Black man, born and raised on the ghetto streets of southeast Washington D.C., and a Central American woman from Nicaragua who came to the United States with nothing but a dream for a better life.

Left: My parents during their courtship in the 1980’s; Right: My parents a few years ago during a visit to Chicago.

Left: My parents during their courtship in the 1980’s; Right: My parents a few years ago during a visit to Chicago.

As a child, being mixed was not complicated. I grew up in the rather diverse suburb of Rockville, Maryland, right outside of the nation’s capital. There, commonalities between my friends and neighbors were highlighted more so than our differences. However, as I have gotten older and moved away from home to travel nationally and internationally to pursue my academic and career goals, I have found myself in more and more situations where my mixedness becomes a topic of interrogation. These situations are fueled by constant reminders of what makes me different from those who do not identify as mixed-race. Unfortunately, I am more than used to typical questions of “What are you?” or “What are you mixed with?” and statements like, “I didn’t think being mixed was a thing.” or “You don’t even seem Black and Latina.” Nevertheless, the questioning of my racial/ethnic identity has come to a point where it is not just a question of what am I, but a discrediting of my racial/ethnic identity all together.


This discrediting of my racial/ethnic identity recently came to a highpoint when a new friend of mine, who is Black and undeniably Pro-Black in her personal beliefs, frankly informed me that I am not “ethnic,” I have been “whitewashed” because it sounds like I was “sheltered,” like my parents “kept all the Black people” away from me, and I am “not like any other Black/Latina person” she knows because “other Black girls” don’t sound like how I do. The justification for my apparent display of no ethnicity, according to my friend, are due to characteristics I embody such as I am passive and am too nice, I talk properly all the time, I like baseball and hockey, I do not listen to a lot of “Black people” music, I am not urban, I say phrases like “okie dokie,” and I simply carry myself in a way that if you did not know me, you would not necessarily think I was Black or Latina. These characteristics, from how I act, to how I speak, to even what sports and music I like, have somehow, and unbeknownst to me, stripped away my racial/ethnic background. Ultimately, it has made me a White person.

Left: Me in my Alexander Ovechkin jersey at a Washington Capitals game; Right: Me after catching a ball from a pitcher during batting practice at a Washington Nationals game.

Left: Me in my Alexander Ovechkin jersey at a Washington Capitals game; Right: Me after catching a ball from a pitcher during batting practice at a Washington Nationals game.

When thinking about these characteristics, which seem to be perfect evidence to support the claim I am not “ethnic,” I believe what I like and how I act are merely consequences of the environment I was raised in and the spaces I continue to surround myself in. I was raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, which was a well-off suburb. Compared to most youth, I had a pretty amazing childhood which included an abundance of love from friends and family who were prosperous themselves. I do not say that to be conceited, but to simply acknowledge the varying levels of privilege I have been given in my life. My childhood included being excited for my first Backstreet Boys concert at the age of 13; yearly summer vacations to the beaches of Florida with my parents; attending different professional sports events, including soccer, because my father, that Black kid from the ghetto of D.C., worked as an equipment manager for the Washington Diplomats in the 70’s and fell in love with the sport, among other sports as well. My life includes both of my parents, whom have now been married for 34 years, and have always supported me in any way they can: financially, emotionally, spiritually, and just by being my best friends. Today, I live on the north side of Chicago where I am pursuing my PhD in Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago and have been extremely fortunate to meet people from different walks of life who are just as diverse as I am. Somehow, these wonderful characteristics, which have irrefutably shaped the eclectic person I am today, have simultaneously disqualified me from being genuinely Black and Latina.

Me as a child in Maryland

Me as a child in Maryland

Left: Senior yearbook photo; Right: High school graduation

Left: Senior yearbook photo; Right: High school graduation

Left: My parents and I at a Washington Redskins v. Detroit Lions football game in Detroit, Michigan; Right: My parents and I at dinner the day I graduated from college at West Virginia University.

Left: My parents and I at a Washington Redskins v. Detroit Lions football game in Detroit, Michigan; Right: My parents and I at dinner the day I graduated from college at West Virginia University.

Several questions have since risen in my mind from this new information on my lack of minority status. First, what does it mean to be ethnic? Second, what does it mean to be “genuinely” Black and/or Latina? Third, how does having a nice personality, liking certain types of music and sports, or being well-spoken as a POC essentially make you less of a POC? Sometimes I wonder, if I were to give into stereotypes, would that make me more genuine when it comes to my racial/ethnic identity? If I grew up on the same ghetto streets as my dad, if I struggled in the shacks of Nicaragua like my mom, if I had not been afforded good opportunities in the affluent suburb I grew up in, if I had a single parent to support me and wondered why one parent left, if I carried myself with a heavier and more aggressive swagger, if I blasted ratchet music 24/7 and spoke with more street slang, if I asserted a more visible pro Black/pro Latina way about myself, would all of that somehow qualify me as ethnic, would all of that somehow make me a bonafide Black and Latina female?


Personally, I cannot deny that I have struggled with questions of, “Am I enough?” and “Will I ever be enough?” This is because I have been, and most likely always will be, reminded that as “half and half,” I will never be fully Black or fully Latina. Yes, I could feel as whole as I wanted, I could shout it from every mountaintop and be proud of the reality I hold to be true, but the world will always see me as two parts of a whole, never two whole parts. The saddest part about these reminders is they usually come from my own people: Blacks and Latinas/os. My own people, who I assume will be the first to have my back in times when I am feeling inadequate, are the first to criticize and remind me that ultimately, I am neither Black or Latina.


And so, what happens now? Where do mixed-race individuals like myself, who are constantly being reminded of what we are not rather than what we are, go from here? Do we stop believing in who we are, whether our racial/ethnic identities are perceived by others correctly or not? Do we continue to convince our own people, the ones who give us the most pushback for not being enough that yes, we are enough and we should not be stripped of our racial/ethnic identity simply because we look different, sound different, or prefer to engage in different cultural interests? Do we try and establish definite connections for what it means to be “ethnic” or “genuine” as a POC so that at least we have “rules” to abide by when claiming a minority racial/ethnic identity? Or do we just not care, let the sensitivity and emotion all slide, and just deal with being accepted by some and not by others?


At the end of the day, I know I cannot give into the negative feelings I experience from discontent and questioning by others who feel I am inaccurately portraying the racial/ethnic identity I was born into. I know I cannot change people’s opinions, especially if those opinions are not grounded in anything definitive, anything aside from personal ideals. I also know the pride I have in my claim as a Black and Latina female is my truth, my reality, and that will never falter. Despite potentially not fitting into whatever cookie-cutter mold there is for being a “genuine” POC, best believe, no one can tell me that I do not fit into the history of what it means to be Black and Latina in America, because I do, I know I do. My place in history, as a strong Black and Latina, has been written and continues to be written; backed by a soundtrack of pop and hip-hop, a wardrobe of sneakers and sun-dresses, hooping to the basket on the court and sliding into third on the field, a personality that is equally passive and aggressive, and a swagger that is undeniably a lady in the workplace and a beast in the streets. Whether this depiction of who I am is evident to others or not, I know is it there. It is in my being, it is in my blood, it what wakes me up every day and puts me to sleep every night. And you know what? That will always be enough for me.

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


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

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


Dr. Mohammadreza Hojat states,

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

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


EMPATHY via Swirl Nation Blog

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

How Being More Empathetic Can Make You a Better Leader

Exercise Empathy







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

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

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

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

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





You Never Forget Your First Time…

Swirl Nation bloggers had the opportunity to sample the Mixed Chicks Hair product line and give us feedback on how the products worked in their hair. Mixed Chicks Hair products were created by Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy whose collaboration of love developed products for multiracial men, women and children who had curly/textured hair types.

Who better to try Mixed Chicks Hair products than your favorite Swirl Nation ladies? Here is Liam's experience...

Before Leave In

Before Leave In

Name: Liam, age 3 (son of Swirl Nation founder Amal)


Social Media: IG / TW 


After Leave In

After Leave In

What was the first Mixed Chicks products you tried? Mixed Chicks Kids’ Leave-In Conditioner


Initial reaction? Yay


Why did you decide to try Mixed Chicks products out? Giveaway


Does using a culture specific beauty product impact your beauty regime? My son’s hair has never been challenging.  Being from a mixed racial background myself, I have a pretty good grasp on his type of hair; however, from my experience, to have the shine and definition for my curls and his curls, hair-wetting, every day, is almost mandatory.  Every once in awhile, we might have that lucky day where we could get away without wetting our hair and still have the brilliant, just-washed look.  With the Mixed Chicks Kid’s Leave-In Conditioner, my son can go three whole days – THREE- without me having to re-wet his hair and he still has defined curls.  This definitely saves time.  I don’t know the price-point of the products used, but if you could only buy one of the products, I would say invest in the leave-in.  Also, from a mommy standpoint, I love how you can easily “lock” all of the bottles without pushing down and turning (inadvertently dispensing product). My kids like to pour shampoo in the bath to make bubbles… whole bottles… that’s a lot of screaming and money.


Are there other Mixed Chicks products you are interested in trying out? For the 3-year-old, no.

Day Two

Day Two

Day Three

Day Three




Swirl Nation bloggers had the opportunity to sample the Mixed Chicks Hair product line and give us feedback on how the products worked in their hair. Mixed Chicks Hair products were created by Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy whose collaboration of love developed products for multiracial men, women and children who had curly/textured hair types.

Who better than to try Mixed Chicks Hair products than your favorite Swirl Nation ladies? Here is Xavia's experience...


I get a little nervous writing reviews. The way my opinion is set up, it's really hard for me to fluff and fudge, and I worry about the day when I have to review something I hated. Not today, though. Phew!


Mixed Chicks was my first. With curly hair care that is. Years ago, I was a faithful customer. With each baby, though, I lost a portion of the energy I put into my hair until, eventually, it was all messy bun, all the time. What can I say, the kids killed my curls! Since I'm all about making a mess beautiful, though, I thought it was time to direct some of that attention to my mane. I was given the opportunity to review by the Mixed Chicks crew, and I was more than happy to revisit my first love.

With the intent to help my girls embrace their locks, I’ve made the decision not to straighten my hair anymore. At least until they're old enough, and their self-image is a little less pliable. You'd think I have a stockpile of good curly girl product, but very often I don't; hence the messy bun. Thanks to Mixed Chicks, though, I now had the goodies I needed to give my curls some life.


The wash and wear process required as much energy as I remember, but there was a ginormous difference. My girls lasted longer than I expected. I attempted to cheat the system, and just run a bit of the leave in conditioner through, but my results were just "meh". I still got compliments, but once I took the time to section my hair and really work it in, I was impressed with the result. All these years I've associated Mixed Chicks with amazing definition and curls, but with a lot less softness than I prefer. I appreciated the hold when I needed my hair to turn heads, but it wasn't practical for my every day. I'm a mama of small kids, I need practical.

Once I stopped cutting corners my hair lasted an impressive 3 days, with very little effort on my part; aside from day 1 of course. To be fair, I have a whole lot of super thick hair. I'm not sure the work I had to put in is typical. Now back to the softness, let's get back to that. My hair was like clouded pillows . I remember the leave in being a little tacky which left my curls with a slight crunch. Well, either they have done their homework and stepped their game up, or my mind is playing tricks, because I had crazy definition without sacrificing the touchable factor. It itches the left side of my right cornea when someone touches my hair uninvited, but if I do give you the go, you're gonna want to linger.

Back in the day all I knew was the shampoo, conditioner combo. If there were other products I certainly wasn't aware. This time around I had their Deep Conditioner, Smoothing Serum, and Morning After Redefining Foam to play with. I felt like the deep conditioner, and serum had something to do with the luxurious outcome, but I felt a little clumsy with the foam. It wasn't difficult to use, I just was a little less than sure of how. I intended to use it day 2 to revive, but I didn't need to! I kinda liked day 2 even more.  Perfect ringlets are great, but I'm a fan of the "I woke up like this" approach to hair care. My curls had fallen just enough to make it look like I didn't try, my hair was just awesome on it's own. That was a huge score for me. Day 3 I really didn't need it either, but I was getting impatient so I went ahead anyway. It was easy to use, and brought the plum back, but I'm not sure if I used the right amount. Again, I did the work a little through with my fingers, and I have the feeling my volume and length probably needed a little more than that.

I finger combed the deep conditioner through, but followed it with the Mixed Chicks brush, which felt amazing on my scalp and gave it some much needed attention. I'm not sure why or how, but chunks of my hair were not left behind in the bristles. That was new to me, but not nearly as important as how my scalp felt, Most every other shampoo leaves it super irritated, but Mixed Chicks was scalp friendly. Huge bonus for me. If I have one gripe with co-wash, other than liking a lather clean from time to time, it's that they really irritate my scalp, as do most shampoos. Co-washes though, tend to leave it extra cakey, and even if my hair looks great my scalp is never happy. I didn't even have any scalp expectations of Mixed Chicks, but it felt and looked super healthy afterwards. That either means there's a uniquely awesome ingredient that agrees with me, or that there's the lack of an ingredient that all other shampoos have that perhaps I'm allergic to. It's a win either way. I'm not a chemist so don't ask me to explain the science, all I know is I didn't want to instantly destroy my hair with a scratch attack.

Last but not least let's sniff this stuff, because it smells sooooo good! Honestly, most of us would use even the worst product at least sometimes if it smelled amazing. Makes no sense, but then again, beauty isn't always synonymous with logic. Luckily with this brand you don't have to smell good in vein, because the products work just as wells as they smell. The styling products smell good too, but the shampoo and conditioner have a very distinct scent, that's kinda fruity, kinda floral, and leaves me smelling the bottle, just cuz.

Most curly girls know, it can be difficult to maintain a monogamous relationship with any one line. The mood of our curls swing just as much as we do with styling them. Most lines have one stand out strength and serves a specific purpose in our arsenal. For me, Mixed Chicks used to serve as my definition/smell good go to. The fact that there's also a softness now, has me considering settling down.





You Never Forget Your First Time…

Swirl Nation bloggers had the opportunity to sample the Mixed Chicks Hair product line and give us feedback on how the products worked in their hair. Mixed Chicks Hair products were created by Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy whose collaboration of love developed products for multiracial men, women and children who had curly/textured hair types.

Who better than to try Mixed Chicks Hair products than your favorite Swirl Nation ladies? Here is Theresa's experience...


Name: Theresa, age 9 (daughter of Swirl Nation contributing blogger Chris Kelly)

Social Media: TW 

What was the first Mixed Chicks products you tried? Shampoo


Initial reaction? Was concerned when reading ingredients because it contains sulfates.


Why did you decide to try Mixed Chicks products out? My daughter is 9 years old, mixed race, Caucasian and black with a head of curls. I have tried every product on her hair and have been unsuccessful in finding anything that truly works. I tried Mixed Chicks when she was about 3, the children’s line and didn’t really like it.


Does using a culture specific beauty product impact your beauty regime? Culture specific is not why I would buy or use a product, the efficacy of the product is what is important. Having tried many culture specific products, I do find there is a positive difference in products that are specifically designed for ethnically mixed hair.


Are there other Mixed Chicks products you are interested in trying out? The generosity of the products we received including the brush have really covered all of our needs. I would probably like to try the sulfate free shampoo I saw in their brochure included with products I received.






You Never Forget Your First Time…

Swirl Nation bloggers had the opportunity to sample the Mixed Chicks Hair product line and give us feedback on how the products worked in their hair. Mixed Chicks Hair products were created by Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy whose collaboration of love developed products for multiracial men, women and children who had curly/textured hair types.

Who better than to try Mixed Chicks Hair products than your favorite Swirl Nation ladies? Here is Kaia's experience...


Name: Kaia (daughter of Swirl Nation founder Jen), age 12

Social Media: IG / TW 

What was the first Mixed Chicks products you tried? The Mixed Chicks Kids Shampoo and Conditioner.

Initial reaction? The shampoo was nice and gentle. My daughter has volleyball or conditioning pretty much every day of the week and gets super sweaty so she has to wash her hair every night, which can really dry out your hair. But the combination of the Mixed Chicks Shampoo, Conditioner and Leave-In Conditioner keep it moisturized and looking great! Every night she goes to bed with wet hair and it air dries as she sleeps and in the morning we spray it with the Tangle Tamer Spray to define the curls and just scrunch it up a little.


Why did you decide to try Mixed Chicks products out? I had always been curious about the products, so I was excited when we had the opportunity to try them through the Hair Stories series!


Does using a culture specific beauty product impact your beauty regime? I think it is great to know that a product is made with mixed hair in mind. Obviously not all mixed girls’ (or guys’) hair is the same, my daughter’s hair for example is pretty fine and has looser curls. Overall her hair is low-maintenance and easy to handle, it just needs the right mix of cleansing and conditioning which I think Mixed Chicks provides.


Are there other Mixed Chicks products you are interested in trying out? The Replenishing Oil would be great to try, I usually use Moroccan Oil or Coconut Oil Spray on her hair in the mornings so it would be great to see how that compares.







You Never Forget Your First Time…

Swirl Nation bloggers had the opportunity to sample the Mixed Chicks Hair product line and give us feedback on how the products worked in their hair. Mixed Chicks Hair products were created by Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy whose collaboration of love developed products for multiracial men, women and children who had curly/textured hair types.

Who better than to try Mixed Chicks Hair products than your favorite Swirl Nation ladies? Here is Chanel's experience...


Name: Chanel Bosh

Social Media: IG / TW


What was the first Mixed Chicks products you tried? Slick Styling Tamer

Initial reaction: OH MY GOD! This is magic! Nothing works to slick my hair. NOTHING! I have never been able to really achieve a "slick" look. For whatever reason, edge control pastes never really work on my hair texture. But as soon as I tried Mixed Chicks Slick Styling Tamer, I was very pleasantly surprised. I rubbed some of the product between my palms, then smoothed it onto my hair. Before I even used my brush, I noticed that my hair was already relatively slick. 


Why did you decide to try Mixed Chicks products out?  I decided to try Mixed Chicks out because of a referral to be a product tester. I had always been on the fence about trying this product line, because I did not think that the products would work for my type of hair, which is a bit kinkier than what people usually think of as "mixed chicks" hair. I thought, my hair might be too coarse and kinky. But when I saw that Mixed Chicks has expanded their product link to include the Slick Styling Tamer and Coil, Kink, and Curl Styling Cream, I decided to give it a try. 


Does using a culture specific beauty product impact your beauty regime? Yes! Culture specific beauty products make me feel good about myself and my hair type. Also, because culture specific products are more tailored to my hair type, it is easier for me to style my hair, while using fewer products. 


Are there other Mixed Chicks products you are interested in trying out? I am interested in trying the Detangling Deep Conditioner and the Sulfate Free Shampoo



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

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


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

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


The touching of our hair isn't either

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


Starring makes things awkward

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


After watching the video, I immediately thought to myself…

“How many other music videos highlight multiracial love?”


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

“Jungle Fever” – Stevie Wonder (1991)


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


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


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


“They Don’t Know” – Jon B. (1998)


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


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


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


“Lost Without U” – Robin Thicke (2007)


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


“Hello” – Adele (2015)


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

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


“My Baby” – Auburn (2013)


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


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


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


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


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


“Dreamworld” – Robin Thicke (2009)


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


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


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

**Image from Google Images.

***Image from Instagram.




It was the moment I dreaded. Today my daughter came home recounting her day with the casual tone she adopts when talking about homework.

But instead she told me she’d created a secret club.

“Oh?”, I said, intrigued.

“Yes, and it’s for girls only. And only brown skinned and blonde girls can be part of it.” At the mention of skin colour, my head turned. But, instead of the usual defensive lioness I’ve become so used to at the mention of anyone excluding her for being brown, I had to do a double take.

“What??? Why would you?… Who??….”, my voice tailed off. Realising she’d included blonde girls, I calculated that most of her friends were actually probably included- even with this strange entry requirement.

All except one. “Were all your friends allowed to join then?”, I asked carefully. “Yes”, she said. “Except N…”

My heart dropped. Just as I feared. One of her friends who didn’t play with her that often but who was often on the periphery of her little group was unfortunate to have brown hair.

My daughter was obviously oblivious to her error. In fact, she looked at me curiously to see why I might be so concerned.

What do you do and how do you say it? My automatic anti-racist, discrimination-hating, scary-Mum instinct was about to be unleashed where I lecture my daughter about everything that’s wrong with excluding someone because of their skin colour.

And yet I knew that if I scared my daughter with my reaction, what would be the impact on any future conversations about race? Would she want to bring up any more moments where race and skin colour come up and would she feel comfortable to know that she can ask anything- even if it is offensive?

Because keeping that conversational door open is one of the most important things to me. That she knows that she can ask anything of us- her parents- even if she suspects it’s not a comfortable subject for many.

We talk about race and heritage and colour because it’s there. Not because we want to make a big deal of it but because it’s there. And we don’t have a choice.

Fortunately, the people who make up my daughter’s entire world are all of different colours so I didn’t have to travel far to get her to understand.

“You do know that your rules mean that I couldn’t join your secret club”.

Armed with this new revelation, she seemed to pause and agreed quickly to change the rules so that blonde, brown and black hair, white skin and brown skin could be included.

In Shakil Choudhury’s recent ground-breaking book on diversity, he spells it out for us that our human brain is predisposed to be empathetic to those who are most like us. But as her immediate circle is made up of multiple skin colours and features, I knew that her concept of ‘us’ was unlikely to be limited.

So I didn’t harp on about the colour aspect. The incident that happened today could have happened to any kid, of any colour. For my daughter, it could well have been glasses, no glasses, brown hair, blonde hair or black hair, as long as her chosen friends were included.

In those next few moments, I chose to talk about exclusion as it happens to us all, not about colour specifically.

“Why would you want to exclude N***?”, I asked her.

“Is she mean?”


“So, why?”

She didn’t really have an answer. Perhaps because it was easy to exclude N***.  And because her best friends were all blonde-haired or brown-skinned.

I continued. Today, you’re in control of the club but tomorrow, it may be those very same kids who exclude you because of your curly hair or your nose or your shirt or… your skin colour.

“How would you feel if…”

Pausing, she said she understood. And she felt bad, I could tell. She’s not a mean kid and I know she’s been known to stand up to bullies and other kids who turn on others. But what happened today, she was reminded of who she is and what she stands for. So proud was she of her ‘secret’ club and the fact that she’d come up with rules to make it even more exclusive (probably inspired by the recent episode of Peppa Pig), she’d forgotten how it felt to be left out.

Tomorrow she’ll go in and apologise to her friend. She’s done with secret clubs for now, she says. And she’s got a renewed incentive to be kinder and to ensure everyone gets included in her circle.  Because when encouraged to imagine themselves in the others’ shoes, children don’t need much encouragement to change their behaviour.

I hope that my daughter got the lesson. I certainly did not think I’d be having this conversation with her, especially at 5 years old. But, then again, I’m glad it happened and I can understand better when young children do make judgements and decisions based on skin colour. Later, it may become more sinister and I’m ready for those conversations. But it’s a reminder that in this racialised world, none of us are perfect and we’re learning along the way. Talking about race is not taboo, nor should we scare our children or run away from such conversations. Even when when they surprise us with the most unimaginable.

Post was originally published on Fariba's blog,




Taylor Nolan, biracial contestant on The Bachelor

Taylor Nolan, biracial contestant on The Bachelor

Happy 2017 and if you are like most of America you may have started out your week with The Bachelor on Monday night. I’m not an avid Bachelor fan, but to appease my younger sister I indulged her whim to watch it. I’ve seen a handful of seasons and we all know the process: one man dates thirty girls and cherry picks his way to the love of his life in roughly two months. We got it, not a hard concept. The older and more #woke I get, my attention to the diversity, education and background the women selected increases rather than focusing on the man.

What got my attention this first episode was a biracial, black and white contestant named Taylor Nolan. In her introduction video, she listed a few key facts: she’s an entrepreneur, mental health counselor, graduate from Johns Hopkins, and biracial. Following her statement on being biracial she states

“Connections can be somewhat difficult for me. My mom is white and my biological father is black. Being biracial is very much um… white girls didn’t like because I was black and black girls didn’t like me because I was white. But I think I’ve really learned to love myself and be comfortable with who I am.”

 To be honest I had a very complicated reaction to this reveal. One, it felt like the most cliché label associated with being mixed. It’s a very blanket statement that I know we’ve all felt- disconnect and displacement, it just felt like an odd association to make in relation to her love life. Our social position and acceptance within our own cultures is different in my opinion than our connections with a potential partner. If she had somehow tied this to being in an interracial relationship it would have made more sense, but the way it was packaged, it felt more like a label to stamp her with, which is often what mixed people receive 100% from the outside looking in. At the same time, I understand and hope that there was more context to what she said, and it was edited because well, it’s reality TV.

ABC wants us to know a few things

  1. We have a mixed person who identifies as such (yay for diversity)
  2. I’m assuming since this was part of her introduction, if she lasts that will be further explored to some degree (maybe not since this is The Bachelor and not a PBS documentary)
  3. Her background with being unable to make a connection due to being biracial may be her “Achilles heel” in developing love with our Bachelor. Not sure. We’ll see.

In a 2016-2017 that has brought many mixed race and interracial relationship conversations to the forefront of media, I look forward to seeing how her position as a biracial woman will be explored as opposed to the other women if at all.





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

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

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

Our 2016 Best Nine from our Instagram page

Our 2016 Best Nine from our Instagram page

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

Peace and love in 2017 to you all. 

xx The Swirl Nation Team


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




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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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"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!


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.



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.


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? 





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  



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




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?”



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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